Building Science
Fight Club

Practical, approachable, and immediately applicable building science education for practicing architects, architects-in-training, and builders.

Learn more
12.25 LU|HSW - THE SIGNATURE COURSE ($750)

Building Science for Architects

Building science is where architectural design meets the practical realities of intelligent construction. Learning the fundamentals will provide you with a solid technical foundation to help you design buildings that are as durable, efficient, and comfortable as they are beautiful.

Building Science for Architects is offered as a series of five on-demand video lectures (about ten hours in total length) each with an accompanying course packet that includes a written summary of the course content and all of the referenced drawings and illustrations. The course covers residential and commercial construction and the photos, drawings, and examples referenced are from both types.

We will cover:
SESSION 1 (1LU|HSW): Introduction and Fundamentals
SESSION 2 (4LU|HSW): Walls
SESSION 3 (2.5 LU|HSW): Roofs and Parapets
SESSION 4 (2.25 LU|HSW): Foundation Systems, Basements, and Below-Grade Waterproofing
SESSION 5 (2.5 LU|HSW): Windows and Doors
2.5 AIA HSW LEARNING UNITS ($250)

Fundamentals of Residential Ventilation for Architects and Builders

This course is under two hours, and it requires no prior knowledge of mechanical systems. It is appropriate for both new graduates and experienced professionals. The course clearly and concisely presents the fundamental concepts and applications that are absolutely critical for designers who wish to prioritize indoor air quality and environmental responsibility.

After attending this presentation, participants should be able to:
Describe typical ideal interior conditions and explain why they are ideal, including constraints related to comfort, health, and building durability.
Distinguish between mechanical conditioning and mechanical ventilation and describe the most common approach to residential ventilation (“exhaust-only ventilation”).
Articulate the most common problems associated with exhaust-only ventilation.
Describe specific incremental changes to standard residential mechanical systems design that would improve indoor air quality, durability, and comfort.
1.5 HSW LEARNING UNITS ($200)

Quit Worrying about Dew Point!

In this one-hour presentation, Christine Williamson provides architects and architects in training with a more useful framework for evaluating condensation risk in walls and roofs, giving them the tools to understand the risk level of a proposed wall or roof assembly without ever having to run a dew-point calculation or hygrothermal model.

After attending this presentation, participants should be able to:
Describe the two primary concerns in building-enclosure design
Describe the three approaches to condensation control in wall and roof design
Articulate the connection between condensation control and the vapor permeance of building materials
Identify specific commonly proposed design changes to a standard cavity-insulated residential wall that would make it more risky or less risky from a condensation-control perspective
2.5 HSW LEARNING UNITS ($250)

Insulation, Energy and Durability: Myths, Misconceptions and Reality

This course is about one and a half hours long and it is perhaps the most fun of all the BSFC courses. (I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a good debunking every now and then?!) I think the context this course provides for energy-efficient design is essential for every architect and designer, not just to inform our daily professional practice, but also to articulate clearly to colleagues and clients as we explain our design priorities.

(COMING SOON)

After attending this presentation, participants should be able to:
Rank the three most important factors related to the energy efficiency of the building enclosure, and describe why they’re ranked in that (surprising) order.
Describe the four approaches to condensation control in wall design and the most common ways those four approaches are applied in typical residential and commercial construction.
Describe the concept of convective looping in cavity insulated walls, and explain why the addition of exterior insulation reduces its effect.
Identify the specific commonly proposed design changes to standard cavity-insulated walls that would make them more risky or less risky from a condensation-control perspective
Meet Your Instructor

Christine Williamson

Christine Williamson’s professional experience includes building-science consulting for the restoration of Belvedere Castle in New York City’s Central Park, forensic investigations of building failures at the air-traffic control tower of LAX, and the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, among other projects. She offers new-construction risk-mitigation consulting for residential towers, mid-rise mixed-use buildings, and production homes, as well as some of the most extraordinary private residences in the world. She has worked across North America from the Canadian Arctic to the Caribbean.

In existing buildings, she investigates failures related to enclosure design and mechanical systems as well as material and installation defects. Failures include leaks, corrosion, rot, mold, odors, poor indoor air quality, and discomfort due to poor temperature or humidity control. Her experience in new construction and her understanding of the division of labor among the trades, sequencing, and construction practices informs not only her analysis in forensic cases but also her repair and retrofit recommendations, which are designed to minimize disruption in occupied buildings.

Christine Williamson is a member and former chair of ASHRAE Technical Committee 1.12, Moisture Management in Buildings. She is an associate member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and a member of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA). She is the founder of @buildingsciencefightclub (BSFC), an Instagram community dedicated to teaching building science and construction to architects and other building professionals.

She received her bachelor of arts from Princeton University and her master of architecture from New School of Architecture + Design.

That's the official biography. Here’s the unofficial one...
We all learn this stuff (architecture, building science, and construction) through apprenticeship. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have practiced with the very best of our industry. This has been by accident of birth, pure chance, and a few very good decisions. I made it through architecture school by the skin of my teeth, and with the help of many classmates and one particularly excellent teacher. My master’s thesis adviser graduated from the GSD and spent the next ten years working for Turner Construction. She was smart and tough, and she loved construction. My thesis studio was the only class she ever taught. My first real job in architecture was working for the great Chris Benedict in New York City. She is one badass architect in one terrific city. Chris gave me my first hard hat, and it was working for her that I really fell in love with construction. I got that job by approaching her after a presentation she gave on energy-efficient design at a conference in Boston. (NESEA—it’s a good conference. Go!) I was still a student and had no portfolio and no experience, but she hired me on the spot. (“I trust my instincts,” she later told me.) It was the best job I’ve ever had. A couple years later, I moved over to the consulting side of the business, taking a job at WJE in Dallas, where I worked under the direction of Fiona Aldous, an excellent teacher and building scientist. Throughout all of this I had the ultimate privilege of being mentored by the father of building science in the United States, who also happens to be my own father, Joseph Lstiburek. A few years later when I joined his firm, Building Science Corporation, I got to work alongside two of the country’s foremost experts in building science, Kohta Ueno and Peter Baker. So, while everything I listed in my formal biography is technically accurate, that story is, like a lot of things in life, not the whole story. Apprenticeship is the heart of our profession and mine continues to be a joy.

Why I am telling you all this? Because architects are supposed to be tastemakers; they’re supposed to be effortlessly cool, with clean, white desks, and MacBooks, and cashmere turtlenecks, and pocket sketchbooks filled with hand-drawn renderings of all the beautiful old buildings they saw on their last trip to Paris. Our profession cultivates an air of mystery and exclusivity.

And that’s probably pretty good for business.But it’s terrible for learning, and it’s terrible for teaching.

In teaching, my goal is not to intimidate but to demystify and to explain, and I don’t mind starting with my own résumé. I learned exactly the way everyone else does: one thing at a time.

People just like you helped me get through studio. Let me help you with this one little part of professional practice that you weren’t taught in school and can’t reasonably expect to learn on the job. Building science is hard, yes, but it’s not impossible, and you don’t have to be awesome at it—you just have to get the basics and to know when to ask for help.

You’ve got this.

M. Arch., Assoc. AIA

Frequently Asked Questions

How hard is are these courses, and are there any prerequisites?
The subject matter itself is challenging and certainly requires an engaged mind! But the only prerequisites are a general familiarity with the way architectural firms are organized and an understanding of standard architectural conventions of representation: how to make sense of plans, sections, and elevations.
What if I’m not an architect or architect-in-training?
You are of course very welcome to take the classes anyway and will certainly benefit from it! That said, these classes really have been designed specifically for practicing architects and architects-in-training. It presumes that participants have a basic understanding of how architectural firms are organized and that they are able to read architectural drawings. Most builders would also be very comfortable with the material covered and the way it is presented.
Are these classes appropriate for architects practicing outside of North America?
Physics is the same everywhere, but building practices are not. These classes are tailored for a North American audience.
Can I watch the videos when I'm not connected to the Internet?
No. The videos can only be streamed with an Internet connection. However, each video is accompanied by a downloadable PDF course packet that includes a written summary of the technical material as well as all of the drawings and illustrations from the video. These can be used offline for reference and reinforcement.
Do you offer group discounts?
Yes! If you sign up for Building Science for Architects with a friend or colleague, you'll both (or all) receive $150 off. You do not need to be at the same firm, and you can pay separately, but you will need to enroll within the same week. Email buildingsciencefightclub@gmail.com to enroll as a group. (Pro tip: you might consider finding a colleague to take the course with you on the NCARB Community Forum or through the EntreArchitect Facebook Group). There are no group discounts for the other courses.
But what if I really prefer to learn in a group setting?
I would be very happy to prepare a custom course just for you! My rates start at $5,000 for a day-long course. Email me at buildingsciencefightclub@gmail.com for more information.
How do I get AIA credit for the classes?
Your information will be submitted to the AIA after you complete a short series of multiple choice “summative assessment questions” after each session. You must answer 70 percent of the questions correctly to pass. (But don’t stress about this: The classes and the handouts prepare you very well for the quizzes, and there’s no limit on taking or retaking them).
Are the classes suitable for both residential and commercial designers?
Yes, the principles of building science apply equally to residential and commercial architecture, and the examples and details presented draw from both. The only exception is the ventilation course, which is specifically residential (single-family).
Is there a time limit to taking the classes?
The videos are on-demand, so you can take them on your own schedule, and you may take them as many times as you want. They are approved for AIA continuing education credit through October 2023.
Do you offer student discounts?
No. Building Science Fight Club courses are an investment... and they're a good one! The courses are designed not just to help you now, but also to serve as a resource and a reference throughout your career. (And anyway we're all students!)
Is it okay if I share my login credentials with a friend so that we can take the course together?
No. Each course cost covers a single user. Sharing your login credentials is stealing.
Can I purchase a multiple-user license so that a group can take the course at the same time?
Building Science for Architects is designed for individual learning. And it’s designed to be a reference that you return to throughout your career as particular concepts become newly relevant with new projects. Your login credentials are for you, and you alone. That said, lots of small groups take the course “together” on the same schedule and meet offline to discuss each section. Kind of like a book club. Each of the five sections has a downloadable course packet that can be used to facilitate group discussion by serving as an outline to guide the conversation. The course packets also include open-ended “review questions” that can be used as prompts for group discussion. There is no single right answer to these questions, but long-form sample answers are included to give you an idea of how you might go about answering for yourselves.