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.
The basic physics (and I promise, it really is basic) to help you understand the rest of the course. Don’t skip this!
An overview of the materials we use to separate the inside from the outside and how they ought to be arranged with respect to each other to maximize performance and minimize risk.
The water-management, air-control, thermal-control, and condensation-control considerations that can be applied to the design of both residential and commercial roof systems.
There is perhaps nothing more literally foundational than the way in which a building touches the ground — structurally supporting a building while also managing ground water, minimizing heat loss, controlling pests, and protecting interior finishes is no small task.
The principles of design that will help you detail almost any window and door. This section is heavily illustrated with marked-up photos and architectural drawings.
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.
Each session reinforces and augments the material presented in the other sessions. For deeper and more comprehensive learning, I highly recommend taking them all in sequence.