Preface of Principles of Architectural Detailing By Stephen Emmitt, John Olie and Peter Schmi Book
This is a book about architectural detailing, from the level of the conceptual design through to the physical realisation of design intent during construction. It addresses the creative act of making buildings and introduces concepts and models that we can use to achieve and retain creativity in architecture. It is a product of our collective endeavours as architects and academics striving for a better response to the ecological challenges that we face. Our focus is on the detail – the joint solution – although we have also emphasised the importance of the detail within the overall building design. This is because the act of design is not sequential in the sense of making a conceptual design for the whole building, then the details, then the specification and finally its construction. It is an iterative process in which abstract concepts are developed, tested and redeveloped continually with the aim of producing a set of information from which the building can be constructed.
On the one hand the choice of structural systems, services, materials and components is influenced by conceptual design decisions, while on the other hand the conceptual design will be influenced by the details and means of construction. So, when developing conceptual designs for the building we should also be working on conceptual designs for the details. We start with this observation because the conceptual thinking at the level of the detail is vital to the successful construction, maintenance and eventual disassembly of the building and should be included in the early design iterations. This is especially true when using a whole-life approach to our built environment. There are, to the best of our knowledge, very few books that specifically address the detailing of buildings and the detail design process from first principles. Instead, construction technology books illustrate typical details, providing familiar solutions to common problems, with little explanation as to why they are composed as they are and without much guidance as to the sequence of assembly. Likewise, literature on sustainability tends not to deal with construction details and it is also rather rare for architects to talk about their approach to the materialisation of their designs.
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As such there is little guidance available to the student of architectural design to help in the development of details from first principles. The result is that both students and practitioners tend to copy the familiar solutions offered in the books, journals and office master files with insufficient thought for the consequences of their actions. With greater awareness of ecological matters and the environmental impact of buildings on both our health and our planet, we face a challenging future. We can only guess at future climate change and its effects, perceived or otherwise, on our approach to building design, construction, use and reuse. What we do know, however, is that tried and tested approaches to construction may well be inappropriate. It is with this in mind that we have written this book, a modest attempt at encouraging a more ecological approach to architectural detailing from first principles. Our goal was simple – to write a concise book that would help students and practitioners to understand the underlying factors and principles of architectural detailing and the research still required.
The contents are deliberately generic so as to appeal to detailers wherever they happen to work, supported by practical examples, checklists and graphics. Likewise, the principles outlined and illustrated are designed to be of equal value to those working with new build, refurbishment and alteration works. Although our book is intended as an introduction to architectural detailing, we have assumed that readers already have a little knowledge of design and construction. To aid clarity we have kept references out of the text; instead we offer some recommended reading in the appendices. We hope that the book will inform, stimulate, encourage and assist those charged with designing and detailing buildings, leading to an exciting and invigorating environment that respects our health and enriches our planet.
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