Confidence In Decisions

With this feeling of co-operation thoroughly established between the owner, the architect, and the builder, the architect will be in a position to decide any questions of difference with an assurance that his decisions, being fair and impartial, will be respected, and being satisfied that his opinions are correct, he should announce his decisions promptly and impartially, and his answer being once given he must have the courage to maintain his position unless he be proved to be in the wrong. A lack of confidence in his own judgment, or indecision may affect the prestige of the architect, and might be taken advantage of.

Systematic Plan Of Supervision

In following the construction of a building the superintendent will find it of importance that some systematic method shall be followed in order to insure that attention is given to the various details of construction at the proper time. If this is not done many defects of construction and workmanship are liable to be concealed or built upon in such a way as to make the remedy impossible or at the least inconvenient. To guard against this, the superintendent should make a point of going all over the building at each visit and examining carefully any work which has been done since his last visit. In this way he will not only guard against concealed defects but he will be able to time his next visit so that special operations, which he will be able to foresee, will receive his personal attention and direction at the proper time.

Rejection Of Materials

One of the most important safeguards against defective building is the careful inspection of the materials as they are delivered at the building site, and the prompt rejection of any improper materials at that time. These should be marked plainly, in such a way that it will be impossible to use them in the superintendent's absence without the mark being seen. If poor materials have been brought into the building, they should be rejected at once, and if possible removed from the building site. If the contractor finds at the start that all poor materials will be surely rejected, and that all work which is not properly done must surely be rebuilt, he will be careful that both workmanship and materials arc kept up to the proper standard, and will keep on the building only workmen who prefer to do a good job rather than a bad one; for his own sake as well as for the good of the building.


These preliminary remarks upon the duties and responsibilities of the superintendent, will serve to bring before the student of Architecture the importance of a familiar knowledge of ordinary practice. The young architect or student will rarely have an opportunity of gaining this knowledge by practical experience, and it will be necessary for him to depend in a great measure upon technical books for the knowledge which he must possess. It will be the object of this paper to point out to the student some of the ordinary operations of building construction, rather than the theoretically perfect methods, in a manner that can be easily understood, and to show as well some of the ways in which defective work and materials are to be discovered and avoided.

It will be assumed that the student has become familiar with the usual methods of drawing and construction from his previous work and that he would be able, if called upon, to superintend the construction of the suburban house which has been used as a type. By this it is not to be understood that the construction of a dwelling is the easiest matter, for this is not the case, but it is chosen because there is greater opportunity for the comparison of results with practice, in the buildings which we live in, and it is also this class of building which contains a variety of structural problems.

Selection Of Site

First in importance to the owner as well as to the architect is the selection of the spot where the house is to stand. To the owner the main essential will be the outlook and convenience of approach, and at the same time the appearance which the house will present from the various approaches, with the maximum of the light and warmth of sunshine in the principal rooms, that the situation will allow. In almost all portions of our country a southern or eastern exposure is the pleasantest, and should be the choice for the principal rooms which will thus receive the morning sunshine and warmth in winter, and will avoid the intense heat of the afternoon sun in summer.

To the architect, less apparent, but no less important considerations present themselves in the practical aspects of the ground. In rocky or hilly country, besides the importance of outlook, is the importance of placing the house so that natural advantages of slope and ledge may be taken advantage of for driveways or yards; and in every location is the consideration of the character of the soil.


The soil may be rocky, or clayey, or sandy; it may be springy or well drained. The surest way to find out the actual condition, is by digging test pits to the proposed depth of the cellar, but in many cases the appearance of the surface will give sufficient indication of the nature of the soil, while the presence of ledge may be detected by driving a rod into the ground to the depth of excavation. If rocky or clayey, we may anticipate trouble from water, which in rock or clay finds a way into the excavations made (Fig. l)and, having no way of escape, gradually rises until the pressure is sufficient to force a way through the cellar wall or concrete in spite of almost any precaution which may be taken to exclude it. The only remedy is to give the water an easier way to escape than through the wall or cellar concreting; and in towns where there are sewers, this is an easy matter, as it is only necessary to secure a good connection with the sewer by means of suitable pipes, which must be started at a level lower than the cellar bottom. (Fig. 2). This will require that the house be set high enough to bring the bottom of the cellar well above the top of the sewer. If the house is in a locality where there is no sewer, a similar result can be obtained by laying drains running with a proper grade from the cellar of the house to wherever an outlet can be found at a lower level. This can usually be done in a rolling country, but a cellar in clay or rock in a level country is likely to be a continual source of trouble and should be avoided if possible. Most house-lots in the suburban towns will afford some choice in location, so that often serious trouble may be avoided by a careful examination of the soil and of surrounding conditions. In sandy or gravelly soil hardly any extra precautions will be needed as the water is free to drain away through the sand and will have no tendency to run through the wall of the cellar. Even in sandy soil, however, it will be well to give the outside of the wall a coating of cement or asphaltum, taking care to see that the whole surface is covered.