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A building or edifice is an enclosed structure with a roof and walls, usually standing permanently in one place,[1] such as a house or factory.[1] Buildings come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and functions, and have been adapted throughout history for numerous factors, from building materials available, to weather conditions, land prices, ground conditions, specific uses, prestige, and aesthetic reasons. To better understand the concept, see Nonbuilding structure for contrast.

Buildings serve several societal needs – occupancy, primarily as shelter from weather, security, living space, privacy, to store belongings, and to comfortably live and work. A building as a shelter represents a physical separation of the human habitat (a place of comfort and safety) from the outside (a place that may be harsh and harmful at times).

Ever since the first cave paintings, buildings have been objects or canvasses of much artistic expression. In recent years, interest in sustainable planning and building practices has become an intentional part of the design process of many new buildings and other structures, usually green buildings.


Skyscrapers under construction in Kalasatama, Helsinki, Finland (2021)

A building is 'a structure that has a roof and walls and stands more or less permanently in one place';[1] "there was a three-storey building on the corner"; "it was an imposing edifice". In the broadest interpretation a fence or wall is a building.[2] However, the word structure is used more broadly than building, to include natural and human-made formations[3] and ones that do not have walls; structure is more often used for a fence. Sturgis' Dictionary included that "[building] differs from architecture in excluding all idea of artistic treatment; and it differs from construction in the idea of excluding scientific or highly skilful treatment."[4]

Structural height in technical usage is the height to the highest architectural detail on the building from street level. Spires and masts may or may not be included in this height, depending on how they are classified. Spires and masts used as antennas are not generally included. The distinction between a low-rise and high-rise building is a matter of debate, but generally three stories or less is considered low-rise.[5]


See also: History of architecture

There is clear evidence of homebuilding from around 18,000 BC.[6] Buildings became common during the Neolithic period.[7]


Main article: List of building types

A timber-framed house in Marburg, Germany
Belle Époque city-house on Strada Arthur Verona in Bucharest, Romania, currently part of a bookshop
The Mitilineu House, a city-house in Bucharest, dating from 1898


Main article: List of house types

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Single-family residential buildings are most often called houses or homes. Multi-family residential buildings containing more than one dwelling unit are called duplexes or apartment buildings. Condominiums are apartments that occupants own rather than rent. Houses may be built in pairs (semi-detached) or in terraces, where all but two of the houses have others on either side. Apartments may be built round courtyards or as rectangular blocks surrounded by plots of ground. Houses built as single dwellings may later be divided into apartments or bedsitters, or converted to other uses (e.g., offices or shops). Hotels, especially of the extended-stay variety (apartels), can be classed as residential.

Building types may range from huts to multimillion-dollar high-rise apartment blocks able to house thousands of people. Increasing settlement density in buildings (and smaller distances between buildings) is usually a response to high ground prices resulting from the desire of many people to live close to their places of employment or similar attractors.

Terms for residential buildings reflect such characteristics as function (e.g., holiday cottage (vacation home) or timeshare if occupied seasonally); size (cottage or great house); value (shack or mansion); manner of construction (log home or mobile home); architectural style (castle or Victorian); and proximity to geographical features (earth shelter, stilt house, houseboat, or floating home). For residents in need of special care, or those society considers dangerous enough to deprive of liberty, there are institutions (nursing homes, orphanages, psychiatric hospitals, and prisons) and group housing (barracks and dormitories).

Historically, many people lived in communal buildings called longhouses, smaller dwellings called pit-houses, and houses combined with barns, sometimes called housebarns.

Common building materials include brick, concrete, stone, and combinations thereof. Buildings are defined to be substantial, permanent structures. Such forms as yurts and motorhomes are therefore considered dwellings but not buildings.


A commercial building is one in which at least one business is based and people do not live. Examples include stores, restaurant, and hotels.[citation needed]


Industrial buildings are those in which heavy industry is done, such as manufacturing. These edifices include warehouses and factories.[citation needed]


Agricultural buildings are the outbuildings, such as barns located on farms.[citation needed]

Mixed use

Some buildings incorporate several or multiple different uses, most commonly commercial and residential.[citation needed]


Aluminum panel framed steel building in Korea

Sometimes a group of inter-related (and possibly inter-connected) builds are referred to as a complex – for example a housing complex,[8] educational complex,[9] hospital complex, etc.


The practice of designing, constructing, and operating buildings is most usually a collective effort of different groups of professionals and trades. Depending on the size, complexity, and purpose of a particular building project, the project team may include:

Regardless of their size or intended use, all buildings in the US must comply with zoning ordinances, building codes and other regulations such as fire codes, life safety codes and related standards.

Vehicles—such as trailers, caravans, ships and passenger aircraft—are treated as "buildings" for life safety purposes.

Ownership and funding

Environmental impacts

Buildings represent a large part of energy, electricity, water and materials consumption. As of 2020, they account for 37% of global energy use and energy-related CO2 emissions, which the United Nations estimate contributed to 33% of overall worldwide emissions.[10][11] Including the manufacturing of building materials, the global CO2 emissions were 39%.[12] If new technologies in construction are not adopted during this time of rapid growth, emissions could double by 2050, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

Glass buildings, especially all-glass skyscrapers, contribute significantly to climate change due to their energy inefficiency. While these structures are visually appealing and allow abundant natural light, they also trap heat, necessitating increased use of air conditioning systems, which contribute to higher carbon emissions. Experts advocate for design modifications and potential restrictions on all-glass edifices to mitigate their detrimental environmental impact.[13][14]

Buildings account for a large amount of land. According to the National Resources Inventory, approximately 107 million acres (430,000 km2) of land in the United States are developed. The International Energy Agency released a publication that estimated that existing buildings are responsible for more than 40% of the world's total primary energy consumption and for 24% of global carbon dioxide emissions.[15][16]

According to Global status report from the year 2016, buildings consume more than 30% of all produced energy. The report states that "Under a below 2°C trajectory, effective action to improve building energy efficiency could limit building final energy demand to just above current levels, meaning that the average energy intensity of the global building stock would decrease by more than 80% by 2050".[17]
Hanging gardens of One Central Park, Sydney
Green building practices aim to reduce the environmental impact of building as the building sector has the greatest potential to deliver significant cuts in emissions at little or no cost. General guidelines can be summarized as follows: Every building should be as small as possible. Avoid contributing to sprawl, even if the most energy-efficient, environmentally sound methods are used in design and construction. Bioclimatic design principles are able to reduce energy expenditure and by extension, carbon emissions. Bioclimatic design is a method of building design that takes local climate into account to create comfortable conditions within the structure.[18][19] This could be as simple as constructing a different shape for the building envelope or facing the building towards the south to maximize solar exposure for energy or lighting purposes. Given the limitations of city planned construction, bioclimatic principles may be employed on a lesser scale, however it is still an effective passive method to reduce environmental impact.

See also: Green building, Low-energy house, and Zero-energy building

Building services

Physical plant

Main article: Physical plant

The BB&T Building in Macon, Georgia is constructed of aluminum.

Any building requires a certain general amount of internal infrastructure to function, which includes such elements like heating / cooling, power and telecommunications, water and wastewater etc. Especially in commercial buildings (such as offices or factories), these can be extremely intricate systems taking up large amounts of space (sometimes located in separate areas or double floors / false ceilings) and constitute a big part of the regular maintenance required.

Conveying systems

Systems for transport of people within buildings:

Systems for transport of people between interconnected buildings:

Building damage

A building in Massueville (Quebec, Canada) engulfed by fire

Buildings may be damaged during construction or during maintenance. They may be damaged by accidents[20] involving storms, explosions, subsidence caused by mining[21], water withdrawal[22] or poor foundations[23] and landslides.[24] Buildings may suffer fire damage[25][26] and flooding[27]. They may become dilapidated through lack of proper maintenance, or alteration work improperly carried out.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Max J. Egenhofer (2002). Geographic Information Science: Second International Conference, GIScience 2002, Boulder, CO, USA, September 25–28, 2002. Proceedings. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 110. ISBN 978-3-540-44253-0.
  2. ^ Building def. 2. Whitney, William Dwight, and Benjamin E. Smith. The Century dictionary and cyclopedia. vol. 1. New York: Century Co., 1901. 712. Print.
  3. ^ Structure. def. 2. Merriam-Webster's dictionary of synonyms: a dictionary of discriminated synonyms with antonyms and analogous and contrasted words.. Springfield, Mass: Merriam-Webster, 1984. 787. Print.
  4. ^ Building. def 1. Sturgis, Russell. A dictionary of architecture and building: biographical, historical, and descriptive. vol. 1. New York: The Macmillan Co.; 1901. 2236. Print.
  5. ^ Paul Francis Wendt and Alan Robert Cerf (1979), Real estate investment analysis and taxation, McGraw-Hill, p. 210
  6. ^ Rob Dunn (Aug 23, 2014). "Meet the lodgers: Wildlife in the great indoors". New Scientist: 34–37. Archived from the original on 2014-11-29.
  7. ^ Pace, Anthony (2004). "Tarxien". In Daniel Cilia (ed.). Malta before History – The World's Oldest Free Standing Stone Architecture. Miranda Publishers. ISBN 978-9990985085.
  8. ^ "plans to convert housing complex". Archived from the original on 2017-01-10. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
  9. ^ "isye building complex". Archived from the original on 2017-01-03.
  10. ^ "2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction: Towards a Zero-emissions, Efficient and Resilient Buildings and Construction Sector - Executive Summary". 2020.
  11. ^ Nord, Natasa (2017), "Building Energy Efficiency in Cold Climates", Encyclopedia of Sustainable Technologies, Elsevier, pp. 149–157, doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-409548-9.10190-3, ISBN 978-0-12-804792-7, retrieved 2022-04-04
  12. ^ Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction; International Energy Agency; United Nations Environment Programme (2019). "2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction Towards a zero-emissions, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector" (PDF). UN environment programme Document Repository. United Nations Environment Programme. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 October 2020. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  13. ^ Tapper, James (Jul 28, 2019). "Experts call for ban on glass skyscrapers to save energy in climate crisis". The Guardian. Archived from the original on July 28, 2019. Retrieved Sep 7, 2023.
  14. ^ "Wasteful steel-and-glass buildings fuel global climate injustice, says climate expert". Oct 19, 2019. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved Sep 7, 2021.
  15. ^ "Buildings – Analysis".
  16. ^ Goodhew S 2016 Sustainable Construction Processes A Resource Text. John Wiley & Son
  17. ^ Towards zero-emission efficient and resilient buildings GLOBAL STATUS REPORT 2016 (PDF). Global Alliance for Buildings and construction. 2016. p. 8. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  18. ^ Watson, Donald (2013), Loftness, Vivian; Haase, Dagmar (eds.), "Bioclimatic Designbioclimaticdesign", Sustainable Built Environments, New York, NY: Springer, pp. 1–30, doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-5828-9_225, ISBN 978-1-4614-5828-9, retrieved 2023-07-12
  19. ^ "Bioclimatic architecture, buildings that respect the environment". Iberdrola. Retrieved 2022-04-03.
  20. ^ "Building Damage". Archived from the original on 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  21. ^ Herrera, G.; Álvarez Fernández, M.I.; Tomás, R.; González-Nicieza, C.; López-Sánchez, J.M.; Álvarez Vigil, A.E. (September 2012). "Forensic analysis of buildings affected by mining subsidence based on Differential Interferometry (Part III)". Engineering Failure Analysis. 24: 67–76. doi:10.1016/j.engfailanal.2012.03.003.
  22. ^ Bru, G.; Herrera, G.; Tomás, R.; Duro, J.; Vega, R. De la; Mulas, J. (2013-02-01). "Control of deformation of buildings affected by subsidence using persistent scatterer interferometry". Structure and Infrastructure Engineering. 9 (2): 188–200. doi:10.1080/15732479.2010.519710. ISSN 1573-2479. S2CID 110521863.
  23. ^ Díaz, E.; Robles, P.; Tomás, R. (October 2018). "Multitechnical approach for damage assessment and reinforcement of buildings located on subsiding areas: Study case of a 7-story RC building in Murcia (SE Spain)". Engineering Structures. 173: 744–757. Bibcode:2018EngSt.173..744D. doi:10.1016/j.engstruct.2018.07.031. hdl:10045/77547.
  24. ^ Soldato, Matteo Del; Bianchini, Silvia; Calcaterra, Domenico; Vita, Pantaleone De; Martire, Diego Di; Tomás, Roberto; Casagli, Nicola (2017-07-12). "A new approach for landslide-induced damage assessment" (PDF). Geomatics, Natural Hazards and Risk. 8 (2): 1524–1537. Bibcode:2017GNHR....8.1524D. doi:10.1080/19475705.2017.1347896. ISSN 1947-5705. S2CID 73697187.
  25. ^ Brotóns, V.; Tomás, R.; Ivorra, S.; Alarcón, J. C. (2013-12-17). "Temperature influence on the physical and mechanical properties of a porous rock: San Julian's calcarenite". Engineering Geology. 167 (Supplement C): 117–127. Bibcode:2013EngGe.167..117B. doi:10.1016/j.enggeo.2013.10.012.
  26. ^ Tomás, R.; Cano, M.; Pulgarín, L.F.; Brotóns, V.; Benavente, D.; Miranda, T.; Vasconcelos, G. (November 2021). "Thermal effect of high temperatures on the physical and mechanical properties of a granite used in UNESCO World Heritage sites in north Portugal". Journal of Building Engineering. 43: 102823. doi:10.1016/j.jobe.2021.102823.
  27. ^ Marvi, Morteza T. (2020-07-01). "A review of flood damage analysis for a building structure and contents". Natural Hazards. 102 (3): 967–995. Bibcode:2020NatHa.102..967M. doi:10.1007/s11069-020-03941-w. ISSN 1573-0840.