ARE Resources: Building Design & Construction Systems

Preparation is essential to passing the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®). Understanding what content is assessed on the exam, and knowing how to use the vignette software, will make you more confident on test day. We’ve developed several resources to help you prepare for Building Design & Construction Systems (BDCS). Each resource is listed below, with a sneak peek at what you’ll find inside. Best of luck with your endeavors!

BDCS Exam Guide: The Big Picture

Download the Building Design & Construction Systems Exam Guide [PDF] 

  • Almost half the questions on this division cover building materials: how they’re used and how they coordinate with other materials. But don’t forget about another big section—Principles. Be sure you understand the types of decisions that are made during the schematic design and design development phases of a project, the various factors to be considered, and the many implications of such decisions.
  • BDCS includes three vignettes, the most on any one division. And there’s more than one right answer on each. How can you prepare? Review the sample passing solutions, but also look at the sample failing solutions. Notice that there’s no need to overdesign your ramp, stair, or roof. A simple solution that meets the minimum program requirements is sufficient.

Practice Program: Practice, Practice, Practice

Download the BDCS Practice Program [EXE]

  • You will not be able to correctly solve the Accessibility/Ramp vignette with one straight ramp from the exit corridor to the lobby. Be sure you know how to calculate ramp slopes and intermediate landing heights so you can complete a code-compliant solution.
  • You can complete your solution for the Stair Design vignette on just the second floor layer. But don’t forget to look at the first floor layer and the section for important information. Know how to calculate head height under the stair to ensure code compliance.
  • Spend time practicing how to set the roof elevations and slopes on the Roof Plan vignette. The software calculates the height of every corner of your roof, so take advantage of it! Check all the corners to ensure you’ve met the minimum clearance requirements and that adjacent roofs align as expected.

BDCS Prep Videos: Pulling It All Together

  • A wide range of issues are considered during schematic design and design development. These issues are both influenced by and impact: environmental requirements, engineering systems, cost, code, and other issues. Review the sample questions for insight into how these topics are covered on the test.
  • What are the most critical parts of your Accessibility/Ramp vignette solution? You must provide both a stair and a continuous ramp (with all necessary landings) from the intermediate level to the lobby. All landing elevations must be labeled. And you must provide a wall and door as required to separate the intermediate level from the lobby.
  • What are the most critical parts of your Stair Design vignette solution? You must provide one continuous stair that connects all levels. Also, all stair and landing elevations must be labeled.
  • What are the most critical parts of your Roof Plan vignette solution? Your solution must provide a complete roof over all portions of the building and any covered outdoor spaces noted in the background drawing. Your roof planes must have a defined slope—the program does not allow flat roofs. Plus, your established eave heights must accommodate the minimum ceiling height and roof-structure depth noted in the program.

ARE Community: Join the Conversation

Lots of people are studying, so why not study together? Ask questions, post comments, and learn from each other on the ARE 4.0 Community. Plus, you can rest easy knowing that the accuracy of comments will be vetted by NCARB staff. We’re there to help you, so join us!

About the Author

I joined NCARB in 2014 as a manager in examination development. My work focuses on the development of ARE 5.0 and continued support of ARE 4.0, as well as outreach events. Prior to joining NCARB, I worked as a project architect and project manager in several architecture firms in Washington, DC. My work spanned multiple project types, including institutional, mixed-use, residential, and affordable housing across all phases of design and construction. Originally from the DC area, I left town temporarily to get my architecture degree at Tulane University—Roll Wave Roll!