Materials, Structures, Standards

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This book, also known as MSS, is an outstanding work of architecture reference. It is 264 pages of impeccably drafted architectural and design elements with a wonderfully accessible style. It is full of annotated scale drawings designed to convey as much information as possible using few words.

MSS has a depth of visual information broken up into six chapters: The “Measuring and Drawing” section includes information about drafting standards and techniques. “Proportion and Form” includes information on human scale, basic design and residential spaces. “Codes and Guidelines” is basically a code/accessibility primer. The “Systems and Components” chapter covers a wide range of component interactions (the sections on doors, windows and stairs have been very useful to me). “Characteristics of Materials” discusses the characteristics of wood, masonry, metals and more with lots of pictures and tables. Lastly, “Compendium” is an interesting guide to historical architecture and architectural elements.

I’ve used this book for the past two years in my side job designing theatrical scenery. Whenever I need to know how high a hand rail should be, or how deep a chair should be, this book is my first stop. If I need to know how long an average adult male’s torso is, or how high the surface of a counter should be, MSS sits right on my desk.

MSS puts an enormous amount of useful information in a small, easy to read reference book. Information is easy to find because the drawings are large and are easily spotted while skimming through its pages. I recommend it as a desktop companion for anyone who occasionally dabbles in architecture or interfaces with architects.

-- Dave Seltzer  

Materials, Standards, Structures: All the Details Architects Need to Know But Can Never Find
Julia McMorrough
2006, 264 p.
$20

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

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Seated dimensions

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Ramps: The minimum clear width of a ramp should be 36″, inside handrails, if a ramp has a rise greater than 6″ or a horizontal projection greater than 72″, then it should have handrails on both sides. Maximum slope is 1:12