Architectural Graphic Standards for
Residential Construction, Second Edition, 2010
About a month ago I posted a question
on the Residential Knowledge Community board asking if anyone had
seen the second edition of Architectural
Graphic Standards for Residential Construction, and if so,
what they thought. Though I did not get any review comments back, I
was fortunate enough to receive a note from the AIA asking if I would
like to review the book myself and post my review as a blog on the
AIA KnowledgeNet. I accepted, and they sent a copy of the book to
me. See below for my review. I have been an architect for many
years, but most of my work has been on large scale commercial
projects, so I approached this book as someone that knows about
construction, but also as one wanting a refresher on residential
The introductory notes to Architectural
Graphic Standards for Residential Construction (AGS
Res) set high expectations. The Publisher says that the
book “captures the best practices and current standard of care in
residential construction.” The AIA's notes state that the second
edition “becomes the new authoritative source on residential
construction.” and the Editor-in-Chief says “every page is rich
with graphics to represent how residential structures are built and
text to describe why they are built that way.” Hyperbole aside,
with over 666 pages dense with information, the book is impressive.
But can you find what you need, and how easy is it to find?
Reading through the book I found a
wealth of information, but found it a challenge to coax information
from the book when searching for something specific. I found the AGS
Res Index somewhat pedantic and oddly unhelpful.
Looking for green roofs or specifications? They are not in the
index, but try “vegetated roof or project manual” and you will
find that information.
There is no bibliography. Contributors
of information and references are noted in the body of the book, but
a comprehensive bibliography would have been a nice addition. In
fact, the book would have done well to emulate the listing of website
resources and Professional and Trade Associations categorized by CSI
Divisions that are included in the 3rd edition of Building
Construction Illustrated, by Ching and Adams. A listing of
the CSI master format divisions would also be handy.
The new references to the International
Residential Code (IRC) are a great addition to the book, but are
missing a few items that would make them more useful. First, I could
not find what edition of the IRC was used until a discussion
of energy codes in the electrical section, halfway through the book.
Second, where is the fire sprinkler requirement (R313) referenced?
Finally, a note indicating that the IRC is available online
for free would be useful.
Prior to opening the book, I came up
with 3 specific construction types related to colder climates that I
wanted to know more about – a concrete/insulation sandwich
(Thermomass) wall, a wall with a majority of the insulation on the
outside of the sheathing (a REMOTE wall), and double stud walls. I
could find none of these in AGS
Res. The book does have sections on ICFs, SIPs, straw
bale construction and log construction. I also found some
information on the r-values of glass block that I had not been able
to find anywhere else.
Construction details are often vetted
by ease of construction, cost and performance over time, so change
slowly. This is reflected in AGS
Res. Most of the details in the book are very familiar,
but newer information seems under-represented and often handled by
notes rather than drawings. For example, I was concerned about the
vast number of wall section details that seemed to have no concern
for thermal bridging, insulation, air barriers and vapor barriers.
This information was not covered in the details, but rather in notes
later on in the section. As a result, unless you already know what
to do, or are very familiar with AGS
Res, you would probably be missing some key parts of a
The drawings themselves are in general
quite good, but vary in consistency. Sometimes the details are
complete and easily understood, while at other times the line weight
concept is inconsistent and does not add clarity to what is going on.
The drawing style is similar to the standard edition of
at least to the 7th edition that I own), but with lighter
In order to determine whether a wall
will work in a certain climate zone it is often helpful to do some
quick calculations. This is another area that is underrepresented in
AGS Res. I miss
the heat flow calculations that my older Architectural Graphic
Standards has. Also, the newer Climate Zones of the
International Energy Conservation Code are not to be found.
AGS Res has the
older heating degree days map. AGS Res does, however, include useful weather data
from many US and Canadian cities, with average monthly heating degree
days and winter design temperatures.
The short section on BIM versus CAD
covers the basic concepts, but one would need to do a lot more
research to be up and running with BIM
The sample project at the back of the
book is also a good addition, although a paragraph extolling the
benefits of the project manual style of material callouts would have
been good, along with some explanation of how the specifications link
to the products listed.
If I had to summarize my impressions of
the book it would be this. Architectural
Graphic Standards for Residential Construction fits
very well into the Architectural Graphic Standards
family of books. It provides one with a huge amount of helpful
information and a little knowledge. Whether it is little enough
knowledge to be dangerous depends on the user.
If you are an AIA member and want to see the book for yourself first hand, I donated my review copy to the AIA Minnesota Office, so check it out there.
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