ARE - Building Technology

September 05, 2007

Building Technology was the last graphic exam for me. The building technology exam is the longest (at 6 hours) and is made up of 6 sections including a building section, structural layout, accessibility/ramp, mechanical and electrical plan, stair design, and a roof plan. Each of these taken separately are relatively simple, but it can be confusing when moving from one design test to another. And again, the most difficult part of the test is often trying to navigate through NCARB's software.

Like the other tests, I relied heavily on Kaplan products for studying, including the book and practice tests. Just like with the site planning and building planning, the practice tests give you a problem similar to the exams, with one or two solutions in the back. Once again, I worked out 3 separate solutions on trace paper before looking at the solutions. The practice software was also very helpful for this exam. But to be completely honest, the most helpful study guide for this exam was the ARE Forum, which I found while studying for this test. I can not stress enough how helpful this forum is while you are studying... Not only can you chat with other intern architects around the country, all working towards the same goal, but there are many people on the forum willing to share insights into the exam. I'm not talking about anything that would be against NCARB policy, rather I'm talking about the intricacies of the software. For example, people on the forum will explain exactly how to pick a vertex on the roof plan, and what to do if you can not seen to select the roof. This forum proved invaluable for me, for this test as well as all of the subsequent exams.

My thoughts on the different sections of the exam are as follows:

1) The building section is extraordinarily easy. If you don't know how to draw a standard building section, then perhaps you are not ready for this test. Reading Kaplan's guidelines and the information found on the ARE Forum helped clarify any questions about the software.

2) I also found the structural layout to be fairly simple. Although, I must admit that I do structural layouts (of a similar size) regularly at work. You don't need to have any in depth knowledge about the structures, but rather a good understanding of simple framing techniques. If you keep your solution simple (try spanning in the shortest direction possible), you will be much more likely to find success.

3) Accessibility/Ramp was the most difficult portion of the exam for me. The concepts are very simple, but like the building planning section you've got to determine a solution fairly quickly in order to have time to input it into the computer. Also like building planning, I sketched my solution on the scratch paper in advance of putting it into the computer. If you don't do this sort of thing at work, then I would recommend plenty of practice. Make sure to accommodate railings and leave plenty of room for landings.

4) The mech and elec section of the test is fairly simple in concept, but can be pretty confusing due to all of the information that needs to be put in a relatively small area. Practice using the layers function of the software, as it will be extremely useful as you try to locate lights, diffusers, duct work, and more. I made a matrix of all the items required and rooms in which they are needed on the scratch paper before putting the solution in the computer. Try to keep the solutions as symmetrical as possible in order to obtain the simplest solutions.

5) The stair design exam is another more difficult portion... Again, the difficulty is in quickly laying out the solution on the first try. The key for this portion is to be sure to keep track of head room, as there is always a solution that seems obvious, but actually doesn't work due to lack of head height.

6) Lastly, the roof plan in another simple test. Keep your roof design as simple as possible and be sure to locate the equipment above appropriate areas. Its also important to locate the downspouts per the program... don't add anything unnecessarily.

Good Luck and try not to over study!

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