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A building, or edifice, is a structure with a roof and [1] walls standing more or less permanently in one place, such as a house or factory. [1] Buildings come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and functions, and have been adapted throughout history for a wide number of factors, from building materials available, to weather conditions, land prices, ground conditions, specific uses, and aesthetic reasons. To better understand the term building compare the list of nonbuilding structures.


Buildings serve several societal needs – primarily as shelter from weather, security, living space, privacy, to store belongings, and to comfortably live and work. A building as a shelter represents a physical division of the human habitat (a place of comfort and safety) and the outside (a place that at times may be harsh and harmful).

Ever since the first cave paintings, buildings have also become objects or canvasses of much artistic expression. In recent years, interest in sustainable planning and building practices has also become an intentional part of the design process of many new buildings and other structures.


The skyscrapers under construction in Kalasatama, Helsinki, Finland (2021) Kalasatama, Helsinki.jpg
The skyscrapers under construction in Kalasatama, Helsinki, Finland (2021)

The word building is both a noun and a verb: the structure itself and the act of making it. As a noun, a building is 'a structure that has a roof and walls and stands more or less permanently in one place'; [1] "there was a three-storey building on the corner"; "it was an imposing edifice". In the broadest interpretation a fence or wall is a building. [2] However, the word structure is used more broadly than building including natural and man-made formations [3] and does not necessarily have walls. Structure is more likely to be used for a fence. Sturgis' Dictionary included that "[building] differs from architecture in excluding all idea of artistic treatment; and it differs from construction in the idea of excluding scientific or highly skilful treatment." [4] As a verb, building is the act of construction.

Structural height in technical usage is the height to the highest architectural detail on building from street-level. Depending on how they are classified, spires and masts may or may not be included in this height. Spires and masts used as antennas are not generally included. The definition of a low-rise vs. a high-rise building is a matter of debate, but generally three storeys or less is considered low-rise. [5]


There is clear evidence of homebuilding from around 18,000 BC. [6] Buildings became common during the Neolithic (see Neolithic architecture). [7]


A timber-framed house in Marburg (Germany) Marburg, Fachwerkhaus von 1321 (2).jpg
A timber-framed house in Marburg (Germany)
Belle Epoque city-house in Bucharest (Romania), transformed into a bookshop 15, Strada Arthur Verona, Bucharest (Romania) 10.jpg
Belle Époque city-house in Bucharest (Romania), transformed into a bookshop
City-house in Bucharest. In this photo its garden doesn't appear 9, Strada Spatarului, Bucharest (Romania).jpg
City-house in Bucharest. In this photo its garden doesn't appear


Single-family residential buildings are most often called houses or homes. Multi-family residential buildings containing more than one dwelling unit are called a duplex or an apartment building. A condominium is an apartment that the occupant owns rather than rents. Houses may also be built in pairs (semi-detached), in terraces where all but two of the houses have others either side; apartments may be built round courtyards or as rectangular blocks surrounded by a piece of ground of varying sizes. Houses which were built as a single dwelling may later be divided into apartments or bedsitters; they may also be converted to another use e.g. an office or a shop.

Building types may range from huts to multimillion-dollar high-rise apartment blocks able to house thousands of people. Increasing settlement density in buildings (and smaller distances between buildings) is usually a response to high ground prices resulting from many people wanting to live close to work or similar attractors. Other common building materials are brick, concrete or combinations of either of these with stone.

Residential buildings have different names for their use depending if they are seasonal include holiday cottage (vacation home) or timeshare; size such as a cottage or great house; value such as a shack or mansion; manner of construction such as a log home or mobile home; proximity to the ground such as earth sheltered house, stilt house, or tree house. Also if the residents are in need of special care such as a nursing home, orphanage or prison; or in group housing like barracks or dormitories.

Historically many people lived in communal buildings called longhouses, smaller dwellings called pit-houses and houses combined with barns sometimes called housebarns.

Buildings are defined to be substantial, permanent structures so other dwelling forms such as houseboats, yurts, and motorhomes are dwellings but not buildings.


Aluminum panel framed steel building, in Korea. Competitiveness - Korea.jpg
Aluminum panel framed steel building, in Korea.

Sometimes a group of inter-related (and possibly inter-connected) builds are referred to as a complex – for example a housing complex, [8] educational complex, [9] hospital complex, etc.


The practice of designing, constructing, and operating buildings is most usually a collective effort of different groups of professionals and trades. Depending on the size, complexity, and purpose of a particular building project, the project team may include:

Regardless of their size or intended use, all buildings in the US must comply with zoning ordinances, building codes and other regulations such as fire codes, life safety codes and related standards.

Vehicles—such as trailers, caravans, ships and passenger aircraft—are treated as "buildings" for life safety purposes.

Ownership and funding

Building services

Physical plant

The BB&T Building in Macon, Georgia is constructed of aluminum. The BB&T Building in Macon, Georgia.jpg
The BB&T Building in Macon, Georgia is constructed of aluminum.

Any building requires a certain general amount of internal infrastructure to function, which includes such elements like heating / cooling, power and telecommunications, water and wastewater etc. Especially in commercial buildings (such as offices or factories), these can be extremely intricate systems taking up large amounts of space (sometimes located in separate areas or double floors / false ceilings) and constitute a big part of the regular maintenance required.

Conveying systems

Systems for transport of people within buildings:

Systems for transport of people between interconnected buildings:

Building damage

A building in Massueville (Quebec, Canada), engulfed by fire Fire inside an abandoned convent in Massueville, Quebec, Canada.jpg
A building in Massueville (Quebec, Canada), engulfed by fire

Buildings may be damaged during the construction of the building or during maintenance. There are several other reasons behind building damage like accidents [10] such as storms, explosions, subsidence caused by mining, water withdrawal [11] or poor foundations and landslides. [12] Buildings also may suffer from fire damage [13] and flooding in special circumstances. They may also become dilapidated through lack of proper maintenance or alteration work improperly carried out.

See also

Related Research Articles

Architect Person trained to plan, design and oversee the construction of buildings

An architect is a person who plans, designs and oversees the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings that have human occupancy or use as their principal purpose. Etymologically, the term architect derives from the Latin architectus, which derives from the Greek, i.e., chief builder.

Skyscraper High-rise building

A skyscraper is a tall continuously habitable building having multiple floors. Modern sources currently define skyscrapers as being at least 100 metres or 150 metres in height, though there is no universally accepted definition. Skyscrapers are very tall high-rise buildings. Historically, the term first referred to buildings with between 10 and 20 stories when these types of buildings began to be constructed in the 1880s. Skyscrapers may host offices, hotels, residential spaces, and retail spaces.

Structural engineering Sub-discipline of civil engineering dealing with the creation of man made structures

Structural engineering is a sub-discipline of civil engineering in which structural engineers are trained to design the 'bones and muscles' that create the form and shape of man-made structures. Structural engineers also must understand and calculate the stability, strength, rigidity and earthquake-susceptibility of built structures for buildings and nonbuilding structures. The structural designs are integrated with those of other designers such as architects and building services engineer and often supervise the construction of projects by contractors on site. They can also be involved in the design of machinery, medical equipment, and vehicles where structural integrity affects functioning and safety. See glossary of structural engineering.

High-rise building Tall building; as opposed to a low-rise building

A high-rise building is a tall building, as opposed to a low-rise building and is defined differently in terms of height depending on the jurisdiction. It is used as a residential, office building, or other functions including hotel, retail, or with multiple purposes combined. Residential high-rise buildings are also known in some varieties of English, such as British English, as tower blocks and may be referred to as "MDUs", standing for "multi-dwelling unit". A very tall high-rise building is referred to as a skyscraper.


Subsidence is the sudden sinking or gradual downward settling of the ground's surface with little or no horizontal motion. The definition of subsidence is not restricted by the rate, magnitude, or area involved in the downward movement. It may be caused by natural processes or by human activities. The former include various karst phenomena, thawing of permafrost, consolidation, oxidation of organic soils, slow crustal warping, normal faulting, caldera subsidence, or withdrawal of fluid lava from beneath a solid crust. The human activities include sub-surface mining or extraction of underground fluids, e. g. petroleum, natural gas, or groundwater. Ground subsidence is of global concern to geologists, geotechnical engineers, surveyors, engineers, urban planners, landowners, and the public in general.

Construction Process of the building or assembling of a building or infrastructure

Construction is a general term meaning the art and science to form objects, systems, or organizations, and comes from Latin constructio and Old French construction. To construct is the verb: the act of building, and the noun is construction: how something is built, the nature of its structure.

Apartment Self-contained housing unit occupying part of a building

An apartment, or flat, is a self-contained housing unit that occupies only part of a building, generally on a single story. There are many names for these overall buildings, see below. The housing tenure of apartments also varies considerably, from large-scale public housing, to owner occupancy within what is legally a condominium, to tenants renting from a private landlord.

Modular building Prefabricated building or house that consists of repeated sections

A modular building is a prefabricated building that consists of repeated sections called modules. Modularity involves constructing sections away from the building site, then delivering them to the intended site. Installation of the prefabricated sections is completed on site. Prefabricated sections are sometimes placed using a crane. The modules can be placed side-by-side, end-to-end, or stacked, allowing for a variety of configurations and styles. After placement, the modules are joined together using inter-module connections, also known as inter-connections. The inter-connections tie the individual modules together to form the overall building structure.

Vernacular architecture Architecture based on local needs, materials, traditions

Vernacular architecture is building done outside any academic tradition, and without professional guidance. This category encompasses a wide range and variety of building types, with differing methods of construction, from around the world, both historical and extant, representing the majority of buildings and settlements created in pre-industrial societies. Vernacular architecture constitutes 95% of the world's built environment, as estimated in 1995 by Amos Rapoport, as measured against the small percentage of new buildings every year designed by architects and built by engineers.

Fazlur Rahman Khan Bangladeshi architect

Fazlur Rahman Khan was a Bangladeshi-American structural engineer and architect, who initiated important structural systems for skyscrapers. Considered the "father of tubular designs" for high-rises, Khan was also a pioneer in computer-aided design (CAD). He was the designer of the Sears Tower, since renamed Willis Tower, the tallest building in the world from 1973 until 1998 and the 100-story John Hancock Center.

Earthquake engineering Interdisciplinary branch of engineering

Earthquake engineering is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering that designs and analyzes structures, such as buildings and bridges, with earthquakes in mind. Its overall goal is to make such structures more resistant to earthquakes. An earthquake engineer aims to construct structures that will not be damaged in minor shaking and will avoid serious damage or collapse in a major earthquake. Earthquake engineering is the scientific field concerned with protecting society, the natural environment, and the man-made environment from earthquakes by limiting the seismic risk to socio-economically acceptable levels. Traditionally, it has been narrowly defined as the study of the behavior of structures and geo-structures subject to seismic loading; it is considered as a subset of structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, applied physics, etc. However, the tremendous costs experienced in recent earthquakes have led to an expansion of its scope to encompass disciplines from the wider field of civil engineering, mechanical engineering, nuclear engineering, and from the social sciences, especially sociology, political science, economics, and finance.

Roof pitch Measure of roof steepness

In building construction, roof pitch is the steepness of a roof quantified as a ratio or as the number of angular degrees that one 'exposure' surface deviates from horizontal level. A roof surface may be either 'functionally flat' or pitched.

Domestic roof construction

Domestic roof construction is the framing and roof covering which is found on most detached houses in cold and temperate climates. Such roofs are built with mostly timber, take a number of different shapes, and are covered with a variety of materials.

Robb House (New York City)

The Robb House, located at 23 Park Avenue on the corner of East 35th Street in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City is a townhouse built in 1888-92 and designed in the Italian Renaissance revival style by McKim, Mead & White, with Stanford White as the partner-in-charge.

Multifamily residential Type of housing development that emphasizes density and proximity of many neighbors

Multifamily residential is a classification of housing where multiple separate housing units for residential inhabitants are contained within one building or several buildings within one complex. Units can be next to each other, or stacked on top of each other. A common form is an apartment building. Many intentional communities incorporate multifamily residences, such as in cohousing projects. Sometimes units in a multifamily residential building are condominiums, where typically the units are owned individually rather than leased from a single apartment building owner.

Terrace (building)

A terrace is an external, raised, open, flat area in either a landscape near a building, or as a roof terrace on a flat roof.

Earthquake-resistant structures Structures designed to protect buildings from earthquakes

Earthquake-resistant or aseismic structures are designed to protect buildings to some or greater extent from earthquakes. While no structure can be entirely immune to damage from earthquakes, the goal of earthquake-resistant construction is to erect structures that fare better during Seismic activity than their conventional counterparts. According to building codes, earthquake-resistant structures are intended to withstand the largest earthquake of a certain probability that is likely to occur at their location. This means the loss of life should be minimized by preventing collapse of the buildings for rare earthquakes while the loss of the functionality should be limited for more frequent ones.

Architectural plan

In the field of architecture an architectural plan is a design and planning for a building, and can contain architectural drawings, specifications of the design, calculations, time planning of the building process, and other documentation.

Architectural engineering Application of engineering principles and technology to building design and construction

Architectural engineering, also known as building engineering or architecture engineering, is an engineering discipline that deals with the technological aspects and multi-disciplinary approach to planning, design, construction and operation of buildings, such as analysis and integrated design of environmental systems, structural systems, behavior and properties of building components and materials, and construction management.

Musgum mud huts

Musgum mud huts or Musgum dwelling units are traditional domestic structures built of mud by the ethnic Musgum people in the Maga sub-division, Mayo-Danay division, Far North Province in Cameroon. The dwellings were built in a variety of shapes, such as tall domed or conical dwellings or huts, some with a reverse-V shape, and others with geometric designs.


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  3. Structure. def. 2. Merriam-Webster's dictionary of synonyms: a dictionary of discriminated synonyms with antonyms and analogous and contrasted words.. Springfield, Mass: Merriam-Webster, 1984. 787. Print.
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