Essential Elements of building planning

Every family needs a building to reside. Apart from residential purposes buildings are required for educational, institutional, business, assembly and for industrial purposes. Buildings are required for the storage of materials also. In this article basic requirements of buildings are presented and then planning of the building with respect to orientation, utility of space, energy efficiency and other requirements are explained.


The following are the basic elements of a building:

  1. Foundation
  2. Plinth
  3. Walls and columns
  4. Sills, lintels and chejjas
  5. Doors and windows
  6. Floors
  7. Roofs
  8. Steps, stairs and lifts
  9. Finishing work
  10. Building services

The functions of these elements and the main requirement of them is presented in this article.

Foundation: Foundation is the most important part of the building. Building activity starts with digging the ground for foundation and then building it. It is the lower most part of the building. It transfers the load of the building to the ground. Its main functions and requirements are:

(a) Distribute the load from the structure to soil evenly and safely.

(b) To anchor the building to the ground so that under lateral loads building will not move.

(c) It prevents the building from overturning due to lateral forces.

(d) It gives level surface for the construction of super structure.

Plinth: The portion of the wall between the ground level and the ground floor level is called plinth. It is usually of stone masonry. If the foundation is on piles, a plinth beam is cast to support wall above floor level. At the top of plinth, a damp proof course is provided. It is usually 75mm

thick plain concrete course. The function of the plinth is to keep the ground floor above ground level, free of dampness. Its height is not less than 450 mm. It is required that plinth level is at least 150 mm above the road level, so that connections to underground drainage system can be made.

Walls and Columns: The function of walls and columns is to transfer the load of the structure vertically downwards to transfer it to foundation. Apart from this wall performs the following functions also:

(a) It encloses building area into different compartments and provides privacy.

(b) It provides safety from burglary and insects.

(c) It keeps the building warm in winter and cool in summer.

Sills, Lintels and Chejjas: A window frame should not be directly placed over masonry. It is placed over 50 mm to 75 mm thick plain concrete course provided over the masonry. This course is called as sill. Lintels are the R.C.C. or stone beams provided over the door and window openings to transfer the load transversely so as to see that door or window frame is not stressed unduly. The width of lintels is equal to the width of wall while thickness to be provided depends upon the opening size.

Chejja is the projection given outside the wall to protect doors and windows from the rain. They are usually made with R.C.C. In low-cost houses stone slabs are provided as chejjas. The projection of chejja varies from 600 mm to 800 mm. Sometimes drops are also provided to chejjas to improve aesthetics look and also to get additional protection from sun and rain.

Doors and Windows: The function of a door is to give access to different rooms in the building and to deny the access whenever necessary. Number of doors should be minimum possible. The size of the door should be of such dimension as will facilitate the movement of the largest object likely to use the door. Windows are provided to get light and ventilation in the building. They are located at a height of 0.75 m to 0.9 m from the floor level. In hot and humid regions, the window area should be 15 to 20 percent of the floor area. Another thumb rule used to determine the size and the number of windows is for every 30 m3 of inside volume there should be 1 m2 window opening.

Floors: Floors are the important component of a building. They give working/useful area for the occupants. The ground floor is prepared by filling brick bats, waste stones, gravel and well compacted with not less than 100 mm sand layer on its top. A lean concrete of 1: 4: 8, 100 mm thick is laid. On this a damp proof course may be provided. Then floor finishing is done as per the requirement of the owner. Cheapest floor finish for a moderate house is with 20 to 25 mm rich mortar course finished with red oxide. The costliest floor finish is mosaic or marble finishing. Other floors are usually of R.C.C. finished as per the requirements of the owner.

Roof: Roof is the top most portion of the building which provide top cover to the building. It should be leaking proof. Sloping roof like tiled and A.C. sheet give leak proof cover easily. But they do not give provision for the construction of additional floor. Tiled roof gives good thermal protection. Flat roofs give provision for additional floors. Terrace adds to the comfort of occupants. Water tanks can be easily placed over the flat roofs.

Step, Stairs and Lifts: Steps give convenient access from ground level to ground floor level. They are required at doors in the outer wall. 250 to 300 mm wide and 150 mm rise is ideal size for steps. In no case the size of two consecutive steps be different. Number of steps required depends upon the difference in the levels of the ground and the floor. Stairs give access from floor to floor.

They should consist of steps of uniform sizes. In all public buildings lifts are to be provided for the conveniences of old and disabled persons. In hostels G + 3 floors can be built without lifts, but in residential flats maximum floors permitted without lifts is only G + 2. Lift is to be located near the entrance. Size of the lift is decided by the number of users in peak hours. Lifts are available with capacity 4 to 20 persons.

Finishing: Bottom portion of slab (ceiling), walls and top of floor need smooth finishing with plaster. Then they are provided with white wash, distemper or paints or tiles. The function of

finishing work is:

(a) Give protective cover

(b) Improve aesthetic view

(c) Rectify defective workmanship

(d) Finishing work for plinth consists in pointing while for floor it consists in polishing.

Building Services: Water supply, sanitation and drainage works, electric supply work and construction of cupboards and show cases constitute major building services. For storing water from municipal supply or from tanker a sump is built in the house property near street. From the sump water is pumped to overhead tanks placed on or above roof level so as to get water all the 24 hours. Plumbing work is made so as to get water in kitchen, bathrooms, water closets, sinks and garden taps. For draining rain water from roofs, down take pipes of at least 100 mm diameters should be used.

Proper slopes should be given to roof towards down take pipe. These pipes should be fixed at 10 to 15 mm below the roof surface so that rain water is directed to the down take pipe easily. The sanitary fittings are to be connected to stone ware pipes with suitable traps and chambers. Stone ware pipes are then connected to underground drainage of municipal lines or to the septic tank. Many carpentry works are required for building service. They are in the form of showcases, cupboards, racks etc. Electric supply is essential part of building services. The building should be provided with sufficient points for supply of lights, fans and other electric gadgets.


The planning and construction of a building should be aimed at fulfilling the following requirements:

  1. Strength and stability
  2. Dimensional stability
  3. Resistance to dampness
  4. Resistance to fire
  5. Heat insulation
  6. Sound insulation
  7. Protection against termite attack
  8. Durability
  9. Security against burglary
  10. Lighting and ventilation
  11. Comforts and convenience
  12. Economy.
  13. Strength and Stability: Building should be capable of transferring the expected loads in its life period safely to the ground. Design of various structural components like slabs, beams, walls, columns and footing should ensure safety. None of the structural components should buckle, overturn and collapse.
  14. Dimensional Stability: Excessive deformation of structural components give a sense of instability and result into crack in walls, flooring etc. All structural components, should be so designed that deflections do not exceed the permissible values specified in the codes.
  15. Resistance to Dampness: Dampness in a building is a great nuisance and it may reduce the life of the building. Great care should be taken in planning and in the construction of the building to avoid dampness.
  16. Resistance to Fire: Regarding achieving resistance to fire, the basic requirements laid down in the codes are:

(a) the structure should not ignite easily.

(b) building orientation should be such that spread of fire is slow.

(c) In case of fire, there should be means of easy access to vacate building quickly.

  1. Heat Insulation: A building should be so oriented and designed that it insulates interior from heat.
  2. Sound Insulation: Buildings should be planned against outdoor and indoor noises.
  3. Protection from Termite: Buildings should be protected from termites.
  4. Durability: Each and every component of the building should be durable.
  5. Security against Burglary: This is the basic need the owner of the building expects.
  6. Lighting and Ventilation: For healthy and happy living natural light and ventilation are required. Diffused light and good cross ventilation should be available inside the building.
  7. Comforts and Conveniences: Various units in the building should be properly grouped and integrated keeping in mind the comfort and convenience of the user.
  8. Economy: Economy without sacrificing comfort, convenience and durability is another basic requirement of the building.

Hello friends, my name is Bipin Kumar, I am the Writer and Founder of this blog and share all the information related to Civil Engineering, Civil practical Knowledge, Site Execution Knowledge, latest information about construction and more through this website.

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