Course Exam—APST 230

APST 230 (Materials, Properties, and Applications) is a three-credit course which introduces characteristics of construction materials and discusses their appropriate application. This course has no prerequisites and it is intended for students enrolled in the BSc (Architecture) program at the RAIC (Royal Architectural Institute of Canada) Centre for Architecture at Athabasca University, though students that are not enrolled in this program are welcome to enrol as well. For students who are interested in pursuing a career as a registered architect, this course also contributes to the RAIC Syllabus Diploma.

Students should note that this course requires numerous visits to building sites and students should ensure that they can have access to those building sites before they begin the course.

Materials, Properties, and Applications is split up into four parts (The Context of Building Site and Substructure, Structural Systems and Materials, Envelope Systems and Materials, and Interior Materials and Finishing; Environmental Systems), twelve units, and eight assignments. The assignments correspond to specific units and they alternate in weight from five and twenty percent. There is no midterm or final examinations for this course. The four major assignments (the ones weighing twenty percent) consist of essays, field reports, and video and/or multimedia presentations. The four smaller assignments (the ones weighing five percent) require drawing and/or interpretation of construction details or reports. Students must achieve a sixty-seven percent to pass APST 230.

Dr. Henry Tsang has been the Technical Course Coordinator for APST 230 since April of 2018 and has been with Athabasca University since April of 2017. Aside from APST 230, he coordinates APST 240 (Introduction to Structures) which is currently closed for revisions, APST 340 (Advanced Structures), and the graduate courses ARCH 525 (Architectural Design: Lighting), ARCH 526 (Architectural Design: Acoustics), ARCH 645 (Architectural Practice in Canada), and ARCH 655 (Architectural Practice Management).

He states “I am a registered architect based in Montreal, a member of the Order of Architects of Quebec, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, and certified LEED. I studied architecture at McGill University and received my Ph.D. at the University of Tokyo in Japan. I practiced as an architect at the Japanese design firm Nihon Sekkei.  As an educator & researcher, I’m interested green building design and design for health and joined AU on April 2017 teaching the technical stream courses. In addition to teaching at AU, I’ve spoken on TEDx, UNEP, and universities worldwide; I am currently a visiting architecture professor at Keimyung U. (South Korea). In my spare time, I like to travel, and my job at AU allows me to be flexible and work anywhere in the world. I like to learn new languages, I speak English, French, Chinese, Japanese and currently learning Korean.”

To describe the course to someone who has not yet taken it, Dr. Henry Tsang states “APST 230 introduces the characteristics and applications of construction materials, examining building systems, assemblies, components, and materials. The course develops a framework for the analysis of building materials, identifying their characteristics; exploring their impact on the environment and resources, as well as on occupant health; and examining the impact on them of environmental factors.”

When asked about the structure of the course, he states “Students’ work will be evaluated on the basis of eight assignments. The four major assignments consist of essays, field reports, and video and/or multimedia presentations (approx. 2500 words); four smaller assignments require drawing and/or interpretation of construction details or reports (approx. 750 words). The assignments are not particularly difficult; however, they do require some creativity in interpretation of the course content and its real-life applications, as well as attention to detail, particularly in producing the architectural drawings of construction details.”

He also offered advice as to what’s important for students who are currently enrolled or about to enrol. “Time management: as there are eight assignments in this course (and no final exam), keeping a regular weekly pace and managing time for reading and working on assignments is the key to succeeding in this course. Also, always have a camera, sketchbook/notebook and investigative eye ready, as the assignments will ask you to analyze and try to dissect the buildings in your neighbourhood. Ask many questions of the tutor when there is something that is not well understood.”

What will students take away from this course?  Dr. Tsang notes “Students will be able to exercise critical thinking in the process of selecting and applying building materials to the design of building assemblies, with particular focus on the building envelope.”

I also asked which aspect of the course that he believes is most difficult and that students struggle with most. He explained that “For students who do not have an architectural background or working experience in an architectural office, understanding building assemblies and details may require some practice in reading architectural drawings.”

Whether APST 230 is a program or degree requirement of yours, this course will have you learning the (literal) building blocks of architecture.

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