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Construction Materials and Methods


Construction Materials and Methods

Number: BCT 204
Credits: 3
Format: In person

Semester: Spring
Meeting Times: Tue/Thu 2:30-3:45
Room: Olver Design Building 162

LMS Link


Alexander Schreyer,
M.A.Sc., Dipl.-Ing.

Senior Lecturer and BCT Program Director

Office: Olver Design Building 318
Phone: +1 (413) 545-1976

Office Hours | Faculty Page | LinkedIn

Course Description

This course provides an introductory overview of the various materials used in construction (except wood, which is covered in BCT 304). After receiving an introduction into fundamental principles of structural, physical and long-term performance, students learn about material and product manufacturing techniques and how they relate to mechanical and non-mechanical properties of the various materials. Common construction methods are introduced and building details are explored.

Students have the opportunity to experience material capacity and behavior as well as construction methods in demonstrations and lab experiments. Furthermore, material applications and detailing in structural and non-structural building components are explored. Resulting from this course, students will gain a comparative knowledge of material properties and possible applications in construction and architecture.

Learning Goals

  • Comparative knowledge of material properties (physical, structural, durability) for most common and advanced building materials
  • Understanding of typical and potential applications of common building materials
  • Understanding of common construction systems and methods
  • Understanding of relationship between material properties and structural form
  • Ability to identify crucial problem areas in manufacture and applications of building materials
  • Awareness of importance of experimental verification of material properties
  • Introduction to Trimble SketchUp


  • Allen, Iano, “Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods, 6th Edition“, 6th Edition. Wiley, 2013. ISBN: 978-1118138915
  • If you buy a used book that doesn’t come with access to the IRC (Interactive Resource Center), then you need to purchase access for $25 here: http://goo.gl/AxXN3x

A reference copy of the textbook will be available in the UMass Library.


Sections: (sections 01 and 02 meet at the same time)

  • BCT 204 – 01 is for BCT majors only
  • BCT 204 – 02 is available for any student
  • BCT 204 – 03 is an online section that is only offered in Spring 2018

Topics & Schedule:

  1. Overview of Materials and Building/Structural Types (Historic, Current) – week 1
  2. Factors Affecting Choice of Materials and Structural Form – weeks 2 & 3
  3. Fundamentals – Mechanical Properties (strength, structural performance) – week 4
  4. Fundamentals – Non-Mechanical Properties (physical properties, durability) – week 5
  5. Individual Building Materials (Manufacturing, Properties, Comparative Behavior, Applications in Construction):
    1. Steel – weeks 6 & 7
    2. Non-ferrous metals – week 9
    3. Concrete – weeks 10 & 11
    4. Masonry – weeks 12, 13 & 14

Week 8 is Spring Break. The Midterm Exam will be in week 7.

Course Components:

  • Class Meetings: 2 weekly 75 min. meetings (Tue & Thu) will provide a platform for introducing and reviewing key concepts, case-studies, and examples as well as for discussion of related current issues.
  • Readings and Quizzes: Students are expected to have reviewed assigned readings before class and must have completed a short online review quiz (three attempts, highest grade) on the readings.
  • Assignments (individual work): 5-6 assignments in total will be handed out. These expand on the practiced work and may have “research components” where students need to gather information required to complete a task.
  • Lab Component (group work): In the second half of the semester, groups of 3 students each will be created. To get more familiar with materials and construction processes, the class will have the opportunity to do some hands-on building during three lab sessions and – if available – attend construction site visits. These labs must then be documented in a graded report.
  • Exams: Accumulated knowledge is tested in two exams: a midterm and a final exam. Both are online, open-book exams and feature multiple-choice, true-false and short essay questions.

Optional Literature:

  • Mehta, Scarborough, Armpriest, “Building Construction: Principles, Materials, and Systems, Second Edition“. Pearson, Prentice Hall – An alternative to our textbook.
  • Onouye, Kane, “Statics and Strength of Materials for Architecture and Building Construction“. Pearson Education, Prentice Hall – This will be the required text for BCT 530 “Mechanics of Building Materials for Construction”.
  • Mamlouk, Zaniewski, “Materials for Civil and Construction Engineers“. Addison Wesley – A more technical materials book.
  • Simmons, Olin, “Construction – Principles, Materials and Methods“. J. Wiley & Sons – This is less a textbook but rather a very good reference for “later in life”.
  • Ramsey, Sleeper “Architectural Graphic Standards – Student Edition“. J. Wiley & Sons – A great detail reference for any architectural planning. Get one as a desk reference!
  • Salvadori, “Why Buildings Stand Up“. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc. – An interesting $20 reader on the general subject.

Rules, Exams and Grading:

Course Pre-requisites: None
Course Co-requisites: None

Contacting Instructor: Office hours will be announced at the beginning of the term (in class and on Moodle). Aside from these times, students can arrange meetings with the instructor or simply state any questions in an e-mail (faster response).

Course Website / LMS: This course’s main communications platform will be its Moodle site. Students must make sure they can access it reliably. While the Moodle site is usable on phones and tablets, some tasks may require the use of a computer.

Computers: While there is no requirement to bring a personal computer to class, students must have access to one and be familiar with common office-type applications (e.g. Word and Excel) and email. If this course requires acquiring and installation of software, it is the student’s responsibility to make sure their computer is capable enough and then perform the installation themselves. The instructor can provide advice for common computing questions, but ultimately it is up to the student and UMass’ IT help desk to resolve any issues. On-campus computers are available in many locations, for example in Design Building 260 or 235 (printers available) or any IT classroom computers.

Students must also have a means for storing and exchanging files such as an external hard-drive, USB stick, UMass Apps (GDrive), BoxUMass U-Drive, or any other removable storage. If you use removable storage, write your name and email on those (they are frequently left behind)!

If a student has any problems with this, contact the instructor early on so that arrangements can be made.

Attendance: Regular class attendance is expected but not mandatory. Attendance is mandatory and will be recorded for labs and lab components (e.g. guest lectures and presentations) only.

Absences: Whenever possible, unavoidable absences for labs and exams need to be discussed with the instructor prior to the lab or the exam (in person or in an e-mail). Appropriate documentation will be required. After-the-fact notifications will only be accepted if no possibility of prior submittal existed. If you have to miss an exam due to a university-accepted reason, contact the instructor before the exam (if possible) to arrange for a solution to this problem. Other than for approved reasons, make-up exams will not be given.

Students are responsible for obtaining missed course material. Only portions of the full course content are available on Moodle. Students are encouraged to copy someone else’s notes and to contact the instructor only if they are still missing any material after that.

(Late) Hand-in: Due dates will be set at the time of assignment and are published on Moodle. Assignments and lab reports must be submitted to Moodle on time and (unless stated otherwise) email submissions will not be accepted. Late submittal (without priorinstructor approval) will incur the following grade adjustments: -5% per day (including weekends) until the day, when the solutions are published and the corrected work is returned. After that point, students will receive 0% (an F) for the missed hand-in. It is the responsibility of the student to make sure that work is uploaded to Moodle.


25% – Assignments
5% – Online Quizzes (three attempts, highest grade, lowest dropped)
20% – Lab Component (participation + report) (group work)
25% – Midterm Exam
25% – Final Exam

Letter Grading:

A ≥ 93.0 % | A− = 90.0-92.9 %
B+ = 87.0-89.9 % | B = 83.0-86.9 % | B− = 80.0-82.9%
C+ = 77.0-79.9 % | C = 73.0-76.9 % | C− = 70.0-72.9 %
D+ = 67.0-69.9 % | D = 60.0-66.9 %
F < 60.0 %

Grades will be calculated based on the rules set up in Moodle’s gradebook. Letter grade conversion then follows without any further numerical rounding.

Grievance Procedure: If you feel that an awarded grade is not accurate for whatever reason, you may dispute it by submitting a written explanation together with the graded material to the instructor within two weeks of receiving the graded material.

Special Needs: All reasonable efforts will be made to meet the individual needs of the student. If students have a learning disability or need special accommodation they are encouraged to make an appointment with the instructor early in the semester to discuss their needs. All discussions will be kept strictly confidential.

Academic Honesty: The University Academic Honesty Policy applies (see here: https://www.umass.edu/honesty/).  It covers plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, and facilitating dishonesty. Occurrences of any of those practices will be dealt with according to university policy. Original write-up of homework is required by each group/individual (as applicable) for a given assignment or lab report.

Classroom Behavior: As per building policy, it is not permitted to consume food in the classroom. Students must also silence all phone, text, and other communication tools during class. Any disruptive behavior will be sanctioned appropriately.

Copyright and Privacy: No component of the course (printed and online materials, lectures, labs, discussion sessions etc.) may be recorded (audio or video) except for personal use, broadcast, published, or re-published without the written consent of the instructor. Violations will be considered a copyright infringement and sanctioned appropriately.

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