Course Syllabus

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.

Meetings: Spring Term – Tu, Thu 2:30-3:45, Design Building 162
Credits: 3
Sections: (all sections meet at the same time)

  • BCT 204 – 01 is for BCT majors only
  • BCT 204 – 02 is available for any student

Students will gain from this course:

  • Comparative knowledge of material properties (physical, structural, …) for most common and advanced building materials,
  • Understanding of typical and potential applications of these materials,
  • Understanding of relationship between material properties and structural form,
  • Ability to identify crucial problem areas in manufacture and applications of building materials,
  • Understanding of importance of experimental verification of material properties.


  1. Overview of Materials and Building/Structural Types (Historic, Current)
  2. Factors Affecting Choice of Materials and Structural Form
  3. Fundamentals – Mechanical Properties (strength, structural performance)
  4. Fundamentals – Non-Mechanical Properties (physical properties, durability)
  5. Individual Building Materials (Manufacturing, Properties, Comparative Behavior, Applications in Construction):
    1. Steel
    2. Non-ferrous metals
    3. Concrete
    4. Stone
    5. Brick
    6. (Glass, Plastics, Composites)
  6. Relation between Materials and their Applications in Buildings / Case Studies / Structural and Non-Structural Applications (Residential, Commercial, Special Construction)

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 & Design Component (group work): In the second half of the semester, groups of 3 students each will be created. Each group will be assigned a task to design a simple structure (e.g. a bus stop) that consists of the materials discussed in class. To get more familiar with the assigned 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, site visits and designs 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.

Required Text:

  • Allen, Iano, “Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods, 6th Edition“, 6th Edition. Wiley, 2013. ISBN: 978-1118138915 (Amazon link)
  • 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:

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

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.


Alexander C. Schreyer, M.A.Sc., Dipl.-Ing.
Senior Lecturer and Program Director BCT 

Office: Design Building 318
Office hours: Sign up at
Email: (click on dots to reveal email address)
Phone: +1 (413) 545-1976

Course Pre-requisites: None.

Course Co-requisites: None.

Computer Skills: Students should be familiar with computers (this is not tied to a particular operating system, but some familiarity with Office-type products would be advantageous – particularly Word, Excel). Students must have internet access to download some course material, communicate via e-mail and access the course website. On-campus computers are available in many locations, for example in Design Building 260 (printers available).

If students have any problems with this, contact the instructor early on so that arrangements can be made.

Course Website: This course’s main communications platform will be the course Moodle site. Students will need a username and password to access some of the content of this site. Both will be announced in one of the first classes.

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 send 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 accepted reasons, make-up exams will not be given.

Students are responsible for obtaining missed course material. Only portions of the full lecture content are available on our course website. If you can, copy someone else’s notes. Contact the instructor only if you are still missing any material after that.

Late hand-in: Due dates will be set at the time of assignment and are published on the question sheet. Assignments and lab reports must be submitted on time. Late submittal (without prior instructor 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, you will receive 0% (an F) for the missed hand-in.


25% – Assignments
5% – Online Quizzes (three attempts, highest grade)
20% – Lab & Design 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 %

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 marked material to the instructor within two weeks of receiving the marked material.

Special Needs: All reasonable efforts will be made to meet the individual needs of the student. If you have a learning disability or need special accommodation please make an appointment with the instructor to discuss your needs. I also encourage you to contact me if you are an international student (or otherwise are new to the English language) in need of help for climbing the “language barrier”.

All discussions will be kept strictly confidential.

Academic Honesty: The University Academic Honesty Policy applies. This policy can be found in the Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities (at and 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. Smoking is also prohibited. Students are strongly encouraged to turn all cell-phones or other electronic communications devices (or such software if you are using a computer) off during class time.

Any disruptive behavior will be sanctioned appropriately.

No component of the course (printed and online materials, lectures, labs, discussion sessions etc.) may be recorded (audio or video), broadcast or re-published without the written consent of the instructor.