How Buildings Work: The Natural Order of Architecture / Edition 3

Hardcover (Print)
Rent from
(Save 75%)
Est. Return Date: 07/25/2015
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $13.98
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 68%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (17) from $13.98   
  • New (6) from $27.81   
  • Used (11) from $13.98   


Illustrated with hundreds of illuminating line drawings, this classic guide reveals virtually every secret of a building's function: how it stands up, keeps its occupants safe and comfortable, gets built, grows old, and dies—and why some buildings do this so much better than others.
Drawing on things he's learned from the many buildings he himself designed (and in some cases built with his own hands), Edward Allen explains complex phenomena such as the role of the sun in heating buildings and the range of structural devices that are used for support, from trusses and bearing walls to post-tensioned concrete beams and corbeled vaults. He stresses the importance of intelligent design in dealing with such problems as overheating and overcooling, excessive energy use, leaky roofs and windows, fire safety, and noisy interiors. He serves up some surprises: thermal insulation is generally a better investment than solar collectors; board fences are not effective noise barriers; there's one type of window that can be left open during a rainstorm. The new edition emphasizes "green" architecture and eco-conscious design and construction. It features a prologue on sustainable construction, and includes new information on topics such as the collapse of the World Trade Center, sick building syndrome, and EIFS failures and how they could have been prevented. Allen also highlights the array of amazing new building materials now available, such as self-cleaning glass, photovoltaics, transparent ceramics, cloud gel, and super-high-strength concrete and structural fibers.
Edward Allen makes it easy for everyone—from armchair architects and sidewalk superintendents to students of architecture and construction—to understand the mysteries and complexities of even the largest building, from how it recycles waste and controls the movement of air, to how it is kept alive and growing.

The first comprehensive and nonmathematical explanation of how buildings work.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In clear and lucid prose—accompanied by delightful drawings—Ed Allen explains the intricacies of building performance and construction. This new edition of a classic guide will prove of interest to both students of architecture and lay persons alike." —Witold Rybczynski, University of Pennsylvania Professor of Architecture and author of The Perfect House

Acclaim for previous editions:

"Whether you're an armchair architect or are planning to design and build your own home, this book helps you grasp the basic concepts." —Popular Science

"With its homespun drawings and offerings of architectural wisdom for lay readers, this book is like a Whole Earth Catalog building course.... By focusing primarily on housing, Allen lets readers clearly understand everything from lighting, comfort, and quiet to the basics of making a sturdy structure." —Library Journal

"Well written, attractively illustrated with line drawings, and handsomely put together." —AIA Journal

"With simple explanations and over 300 illustrations, Allen defines the true functions of buildings and gives advice on how to create a structure that will satisfy all your needs." —House Beautiful Building Manual

"Explains in clear, non-technical language and by ingenious pictures, what buildings do and how they do it." —What's New in Building

Library Journal
With its homespun drawings and offerings of architectural wisdom for lay readers, this book is like a Whole Earth Catalog building course. In this update of his 1980 edition, however, Allen (architecture, Yale) manages to explain with brevity and common sense "how buildings work." In the opening pages, he places the Earth in the solar system and defines our place on the planet. He then offers analyses of the effects of sun, wind, and cold on building design and location. By focusing primarily on housing, Allen lets readers clearly understand everything from lighting, comfort, and quiet to the basics of making a sturdy structure. He offers occasional but well-placed examples of non-Western design as well. And the illustrations, which look like 1970s instructions for macram, somehow work. Recommended for general audiences.David Bryant, New Canaan P.L., Conn.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195161984
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 692,312
  • Product dimensions: 11.10 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward Allen is an architect and teacher who enjoys explaining things through words and drawings: what makes buildings work, what makes buildings habitable and lovable, how architects' design ideas become reality. He has published nine books on these subjects. He has taught at the University of Oregon, Yale University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and lectures worldwide. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and the 2005 recipient of the Topaz Medal for Excellence in Architectural Education.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Prologue : sustainable building
1 The outdoor environment 3
2 The human environment 15
3 The concept of shelter 23
4 Building function 31
5 Providing water 33
6 Recycling wastes 41
7 Providing for thermal comfort 49
8 Thermal properties of building components 53
9 Controlling the radiation of heat 72
10 Controlling air temperature and humidity 81
11 Controlling air movement 99
12 Keeping water out 109
13 Seeing and illumination 128
14 Hearing and being heard 138
15 Providing concentrated energy 149
16 Fitting buildings to people 158
17 Providing structural support 172
18 Providing for building movement 204
19 Controlling fire 213
20 Getting a building built 227
21 Keeping a building alive and growing 239
22 Building components and building function 252
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)