BSCE Building Science: More Information

About Building Science

How does Building Science compare to standard Civil Engineering?

As can be seen from the above description, the work of the architect and civil engineer are closely linked. One cannot exist without the other. The Building Science program keeps this in mind. It attempts to educate the student in all aspects of the building process, from the architectural phase to the construction phase.

How does this program compare to a traditional civil engineering program? Building science students take all of the normal civil engineering courses that involve structures and geotechnical engineering. They skip those courses that involve water resources, environmental engineering, and transportation.

The degree is a true civil engineering degree. Students receiving this degree can even work in the nonstructural areas of civil engineering, as long as they make up the requisite courses in the chosen area.

Are you well suited for this program?

How might you know if the Building Science program is appropriate for you?

  • The typical building science student has both an interest in science and an artistic inclination.
  • They must have a good academic background in math and physics, in addition to a reasonable amount of talent in the artistic area.
  • This individual probably pictures himself as becoming the master builder - the person who builds the structures which are symbols of our civilization.
What about after graduation?

Graduates of the program in Building Science will receive the Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering with the special designation Building Science. They will find many options open to them:

  • If the student decides that a main area of interest lies in structural engineering, further study toward a Master's degree in civil engineering is a possibility.
  • If the student has a preference for architecture, qualified students may apply to graduate schools in architecture and, if accepted, may complete a master's in Architecture or Building Science.

Alternatively, the graduate may wish to obtain some practical experience:

  • Graduates of the Building Science program will find that their education has qualified them assume challenging positions in engineering and architectural companies, in the building and construction industries, in consulting firms, in government, in building materials research and development, or in architectural planning or real estate firms.
  • The variety in size and scope of employment opportunities gives the Building Science major a significant amount of freedom in seeking a work environment suited to their individual interests.

Student Views

Donna Whiteneck (Sarcoxie, Missouri)

I've always been fascinated by the structural aspects of tall towering buildings as well as their unique beauty. USC put it all together in their Building Science Program by combining two coexisting disciplines that are dependent on each other. I was delighted to hear about building science since it's the field of study that interested me. The courses are interesting, challenging, and rewarding.

My objective in joining this program is to learn the engineering technology that goes into a structure and to gain an artistic awareness of what makes that structure a good design. My goal is to get a B.S. in Civil Engineering, Building Science and then continue on a Masters Degree in Architecture.

Brian Beckman (Los Angeles, CA)

The Building Science program at USC offered me the best of two worlds. With a purely architectural curriculum, I would have, upon entering the field professionally, been left dependent upon engineers to insure the structural soundness of my work, and with a purely engineering background, on the other hand, I would have no opportunity to have my aesthetic concepts realized.

The Building Science program offered me the chance to develop most completely both the aesthetic and technical aspects of my mind, offering me the perfect combination of my interests. Also, I am offered a wide range of possibilities for graduate study after completing this program. Building Science has given me the perfect combination in the opportunity to develop most completely both the artistic and technical aspects of my intelligence, as well as the assurance of professional autonomy.

Professor Ayrapetyan "Breaking Bread" with his Arch-305b students.

Michelle M. Shackford (Anaheim, CA)

I went into the Building Science field by first applying to USC in architecture. I wasn't really sure architecture was all I wanted, so when I found out about this program, I jumped at the chance. I felt this would give me what I originally had in mind, and if I really wanted to be an architect, I would go for my masters in architecture.

Now that I'm in the program I still feel it's what I want. I've come up against a few problems, but there would be problems in any course of study. I'm glad I'm in Building Science.

Kenneth Itahare (Los Angeles, CA)

The thought of being at a prestigious institution like USC may seem imposing at first, perhaps even frightening. But this is not the case as I have found in my short time at USC. A university is not only a place of research and instruction, but it is a community of people who share a concern about how knowledge relates to human needs.

The Building Science curriculum provides the technical background required for professional practice and the cultural education necessary to work as a creative person. It concentrates on fundamentals ~o that the student obtains a clear grasp of basic principles. The curriculum brings about a harmonious relationship between man techniques, and the arts. The civil engineer specifically must be broadly and thoroughly prepared to discern the nature of the human problem in its environmental context, have control of the available technology in physically realizing solutions, and possess the intellectual and artistic skills for ordering the complex information into relevant and expressive design solutions. The wise use of technology for the benefit of society involves knowledge in areas such as law, social science, arts, and the humanities.

The problems engineers face are so complex that our educational program must be liberal and the curriculum flexible. The purpose of the Building Science curriculum is not to train us as technicians, but rather to develop our ability to analyze and solve new problems and to participate in the development of our built-environment in the future.

Information About the Building Design and Construction Profession

To better understand the importance of this program, consider the way in which a typical building design project might proceed. Suppose the project involves the design and construction of a high-rise building:

Initially, the building owner or developer makes the decision to begin the building project and commissions an architect to design the project.

The architect serves at least two roles:  1) Preparation of an architectural design for the building, which may include an exterior design, an interior design, and space planning for the project. The designs are rendered using models and digital graphics  of the building. 2) In addition to the artistic design responsibilities, the architect normally takes on project management duties for the overall building design project.  In this role the architect contracts with a structural engineering firm, as well as with other engineering specialists.

The structural engineer prepares a structural design for the superstructure of the building. The resulting structure should be capable of carrying the loadings applied to the structure. These loadings may be lateral loadings caused, for example, by wind or earthquake ground motion, or they may be vertical loadings induced by the weight of the buildings and its contents.

At least two types of individuals are employed by the structural engineering firm:

  • The first is a creative design person. This individual has an intuitive design aptitude as well as abundant experience to draw on. He can start with nothing but a blank sheet of paper and can, through his intuitive nature, develop an effective design solution. This design person must completely understand the behavior and economics of steel and reinforced concrete construction and must be familiar with the design experiences of others.
  • The second individual is the structural analyst. He must be well-versed in the principles of physics, mathematics and the theory of structures. He must be able to use computers in the design process. His role is to predict the performance of the structure in terms of the displacements, stresses and strains which are caused by the loads applied to the building. The results of the work of the structural engineer are engineering drawings of the superstructure of the building and detailed engineering drawings of all structural components.

Once the structure has been designed, the weight of the structure can be established. However, one question remains. That is, can the site support a structure of this weight?

This question is answered by another civil engineer - the geotechnical engineer. He is a specialist who deals with soil mechanics and foundations. His work is largely experimental. He goes to the building site and takes soil samples. He takes the soil samples to his lab where they are tested to determine the mechanical properties of the soil. Given these mechanical properties, the geotechnical engineer designs the foundation for the building.

Once the design phase, including the architectural, structural, and geotechnical aspects, is completed, the project moves on to the construction phase. The construction company employs at least two types of civil engineers:

  • The first type of engineer is a specialist in construction management - the business side of construction. This person is well-versed in estimating, scheduling, accounting and he must have good interpersonal relationship skills He must direct the subcontractors and interact with suppliers. He must deal with the construction staff from the building trades, as well as the building developer, the architect, and the structural engineer.
  • The second type of engineer is the construction engineering specialist. This position requires an expert on construction equipment and methods. They define the least cost construction procedures and equipment, required to turn the drawing of the architect, structural engineer, and geotechnical engineer into the final building. It should be noted that the construction activity occurs at the job site. This is an ideal activity for those who like to work outside.

As you can see the building design and construction project requires a variety of individuals with different skills. The Building Science Program is designed to deal with all of the specifications that are part of the typical building project.

Published on March 2nd, 2017

Last updated on December 9th, 2019