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Building Construction Types

Understanding Building Construction: Types and major classifications

There are various building construction types, classified according to structural characteristics, materials used, intended use. Here are the main ones

Building construction types are classifications that group buildings and structures with certain structural, functional, dimensional, formal, distributive, etc., characteristics.
Building construction types can also refer to the methodologies and approaches used in the construction of buildings and structures and thus define the way in which a building is designed and constructed. Different construction types have emerged or been influenced over time based on various factors such as location, culture, available technologies and materials, regulations, architectural taste, practical needs.

Let’s delve into some of the main building construction types in more detail, which might be useful especially for those currently working in construction and have – or intend to acquire – the skills to manage various requests (also relying on the availability of increasingly innovative software for integrated building design).

Building Construction Types: Major Classifications

Here are the main building construction types in which buildings can be classified:

  • materials used for the load-bearing structure;
  • intended use;
  • fire resistance of various structural elements.
Building Construction Types: Major Classifications

Building Construction Types: Major Classifications

Classification of Building Construction Types Based on Materials Used

A first classification of building construction types is based on the predominant materials used for their load-bearing structure. In particular, we have:

  1. Masonry: Masonry buildings are among the most commonly used types. These buildings rely on the use of bricks or concrete blocks, which are stacked and connected by mortar to create load-bearing walls. The advantages of this type include robustness and weather resistance. Masonry buildings also offer excellent thermal insulation, helping to reduce energy costs. However, they may require a significant budget and may be slower to construct compared to other types;
  2. Wood: The use of wood as a building material is widespread in many parts of the world. This type is appreciated for its energy efficiency and natural aesthetics. Wood is a renewable material, making it a sustainable choice. However, it requires periodic maintenance to protect it from weathering and pests;
  3. Steel: Steel buildings are known for their strength and structural flexibility. This type is often used in commercial and industrial constructions. Steel can withstand heavy loads and offers greater design freedom due to its ability to create large openings without the use of load-bearing columns. However, steel requires adequate anti-corrosion treatment to prevent rust;
  4. Reinforced Concrete: Reinforced concrete is a construction type that combines the strength of concrete with the strength of steel. This material is widely used in tall buildings, bridges, and other structures that require considerable strength. Reinforced concrete is particularly suitable for handling heavy loads and resisting strong seismic forces. However, it is important to note that concrete production has a significant environmental impact, making it a less sustainable choice.

In this regard, we’d like to point out the opportunity to try out a cutting-edge structural calculation software with integrated FEM solver and modules for concrete, masonry, wood, and steel structures.

Classification of Building Construction Types Based on Intended Use of the Building

Another categorization of buildings and structures is based on the activity and primary intended use for which they are designed and built.
Below are some of the main categories of this classification:

  1. Residential Buildings: Intended for people’s housing and include houses, apartments, and private residences;
  2. Commercial Buildings: Used for commercial activities such as offices, shops, restaurants, and shopping centers;
  3. Industrial Buildings: Designed for industrial and manufacturing purposes, including plants, factories, and warehouses;
  4. Educational Buildings: Intended for education, such as schools, universities, and educational institutes;
  5. Healthcare Buildings: Medical facilities, hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes;
  6. Public Buildings: Public infrastructure such as government buildings, town halls, and libraries;
  7. Religious Buildings: Places of worship such as churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples;
  8. Recreational and Cultural Buildings: Used for recreational and cultural activities such as theaters, museums, and arenas;
  9. Transport Buildings: Airports, railway stations, ports, and transportation facilities;
  10. Agricultural Buildings: Used in agriculture, including barns, silos, and agricultural warehouses.

This classification is essential for architectural design as each category has specific requirements and considerations that must be taken into account in the design phase. With an integrated architectural design software, you can create building projects for various uses.

Classification of Building Construction Types Based on Criteria Established by the International Building Code (IBC)

Building construction types classified based on requirements established by the International Building Code (IBC) are 5 and are classified based on the fire resistance of various structural elements.
The classification starts from the analysis of the various construction project elements, including: external walls, floors and roofs, beams and columns, etc. The construction will then be classified based on the fire resistance of each building element.

Based on this criterion, the IBC recognizes and distinguishes the following 5 construction types:

  1. TYPE I: This category includes constructions whose structural elements are made of reinforced concrete and steel. We are therefore talking about buildings, such as skyscrapers, with a fire resistance ranging from 2 to 4 hours in which the entire structure is made of non-combustible materials. Within this construction type, two categories fall:
    • TYPE IA, fire-resistant: external walls and structural frame must withstand fire for at least three hours;
    • TYPE IB, modified fire-resistant: external walls and structural frame must withstand fire for at least two hours;
  2. TYPE II: Similar to type I buildings, type II buildings are made entirely of non-combustible or fire-resistant materials. Although their building materials are labeled as non-combustible, they offer less fire protection than type I buildings because they usually do not have a fireproof coating, so a spreading fire could cause more damage. Within this type, two categories are also distinguished:
    • TYPE IIA, non-combustible masonry: external walls, structural frame, floors, and roofs must have 1-hour protection against fire damage;
    • TYPE IIB, lightweight non-combustible: constructions in lightweight non-combustible material are constructions with external walls in lightweight metal or other non-combustible materials with non-combustible floors and roofs;
  3. TYPE III: Buildings falling into this category have external walls made of bricks, masonry, concrete blocks, prefabricated panels, or other non-combustible materials. But the internal structures and the roof can have a wooden structure. The main objective of type III construction in case of fire is to contain the fire within the external walls of the building and prevent the spread of fire to neighboring buildings;
  4. TYPE IV: Grain-bearing constructions with heavy timber, i.e., with wooden components wider than normal frame constructions. The dimensions of the wooden elements used make the structure more resistant to collapse, more fire-resistant (such large elements take longer to burn), but also more expensive than a normal frame construction of type V;
  5. TYPE V: Buildings in which the roof, floors, and frame are made of combustible materials, generally wood. Unlike the wood used in type 4 buildings, type 5 structures use light or processed wood. This material is certainly cheaper and more efficient but is not fire-resistant, so type V buildings can collapse quickly after a fire starts.
The 5 types of construction according to International Building Code (IBC)

The 5 types of construction according to International Building Code (IBC)

Why Properly Classifying a Building is Important?

Properly classifying a building is crucial for a number of crucial reasons including safety, regulatory compliance, and architectural design.
Proper classification helps ensure that the building is designed, constructed, and used safely for its specific intended purpose. For example, residential buildings must comply with different regulations than industrial or healthcare buildings to ensure the safety of occupants. Additionally, building laws and regulations vary depending on the construction type.

Similarly, proper classification guides architectural design, allowing architects to tailor the design to the specific needs of the intended use. For example, a hospital requires a different design than a shopping center.

Properly classifying a building based on the fire resistance of its construction elements is equally crucial to ensure safety. In the event of a fire, it is absolutely important that the building is constructed in compliance with the requirements of the category it belongs to. This will help understand how the fire spreads in the building and make crucial decisions about ventilation, water usage, and escape routes.