Building includes what is called construction, which is the branch of the science of architecture relating to the practical Construction. execution of the works required to produce any structure; it will therefore be necessary to explain the subject in a general manner before entering upon building in detail.
Although the styles of architecture have varied at different periods, buildings, wherever similar materials are employed, must be constructed on much the same principles. Scientific knowledge of the natures and properties of materials has, however, given to the modern workman immense advantages over his medieval brother-craftsman, and caused many changes in the details of the trade, or art of building, although stones, bricks, mortar, etc., then as now, formed the element of the more solid parts of all edifices.
The object of constructions is to adapt, combine and fit materials in such a manner that they shall retain in use the General principles. forms and dispositions assigned to them. If an upright wall be properly constructed upon a sufficient foundation, the combined mass will retain its position and bear pressure acting in the direction of gravity to any extent that the ground on which it stands, and the compound materials of the wall, can sustain. But pressure acting laterally has a necessary tendency to overthrow a wall, and therefore it will be the aim of the constructor to compel, as far as possible, all forces that can act upon an upright wall, to act in the direction of gravity, or else to give it permanent means of resistance in the direction opposite to that in which a disturbing force may act. Thus when an arch is built to bear against an upright wall, a buttress or other counterfort is applied in a direction opposed to the pressure of the arch. In like manner the inclined roof of a building spanning from wall to wall tends to thrust out the walls, and hence a tie is applied to hold the opposite sides of the roof together at its base, where alone a tie can be fully efficient, and thus the roof is made to act upon the walls wholly in the direction of gravity; or where an efficient tie is inapplicable, as in the case of a hammer beam roof, buttresses or counterforts are added to the walls, to enable them to resist the pressure outwards.
A beam laid horizontally from wall to wall, as a girder to carry a floor and its load, may sag or bend downwards, and tend thereby to force out the walls, or the beam itself may break. Both these contingencies are obviated by trussing, which renders the beam stiff enough to place its load on the walls in the direction of gravity, and strong enough to carry it safely. Or if the beam be rigid in its nature, or uncertain in its structure, or both (as cast-iron is), and will break without bending, the constructor by the smiths' art will supply a check and ensure it against the possible contingency.
Perfect stability, however, is not to be obtained with materials which are subject to influences beyond the control of man, and all matter is subject to certain influences of that nature. The Materials. influences mostly to be contended against are heat and humidity, the former of which produces movement of some kind or to some extent in all bodies, the latter, in many kinds of matter; whilst the two acting together contribute to the disintegration or decay of materials available for the purposes of construction. These pervading influences the constructor seeks to counteract, by proper selection and disposition of his materials.
Stone and brick, the principal materials in general construction, keep their places in combination by means of gravity. They may Stone. be merely packed together, but in general they are compacted by means of mortar or cement, so that although the main constituent materials are wholly incompressible, masses of either, or of both, combined in structures are compressible, until the setting medium has indurated to a like condition of hardness. That kind of stone is best fitted for the purposes of general construction which is least absorbent of moisture, and at the same time free to work. Absorbent stone exposed to the weather rapidly disintegrates, and for the most part non-absorbent stone is so hard that it cannot always be used with a due regard to economy. When, therefore, suitable stone of both qualities can be obtained, the harder stone can be exposed to the weather, or to the action which the softer stone cannot resist, and made to form the main body of the structure of the latter so protected.
The hard and the soft should be made to bear alike, and should therefore be coursed and bonded together by the mason's art, whether the work be of stone wrought into blocks and gauged to thickness, or of rough dressed or otherwise unshaped rubble compacted with mortar.
Good bricks are less absorbent of moisture than any stone of the same degree of hardness, and are better non-conductors Bricks. of heat than stone. As the basis of a stable structure, brickwork is more to be relied upon than stone in the form of rubble, when the constituents bear the relation to one another last above referred to, the setting material being the same in both; because the brick by its shaped form seats itself truly, and produces by bonding a more perfectly combined mass, whilst the imperfectly shaped and variously sized stone as dressed rubble can neither bed nor bond truly, the inequalities of the form having to be compensated for with mortar, and the irregularity of size of the main constituent accounted for by the introduction of larger and smaller stones. The most perfect stability is to be obtained, nevertheless, from truly wrought and accurately seated and bonded blocks of stone, mortar being used to no greater extent than may be necessary to exclude wind and water and prevent the disintegrating action of these agents upon even the most durable stone.
When water alone is to be dealt with, and especially when it is liable to act with force, mortar is necessary for securing to every block in the structure its own full weight, and the aid of every other collateral and superimposed stone, in order to resist the loosening effect which water in powerful action is bound to produce.