Throughout the history of architecture, math and science are closely intertwined.
Imhotep, the first recorded architect in Egyptian architecture history, designed and built the step pyramid in the 27th century BCE. To do that, he had to create geometry.
In ancient Sumer, architects and engineers used science to determine the appropriate ratio of dirt-to-straw-to-water when making mud bricks to create the most robust structures possible. Some of these are still in use today.
After all, if a house collapsed and killed someone, the builder responsible for supervising its construction was sentenced to death – under ancient Sumerian law.
Today, architects develop and build more than pyramids or mudbrick homes. Yet math and science are just as important to an architect as they were in ancient times.
How Do Architects Use Math in Their Jobs?
Math is essential to an architect’s work. Not a day goes by where an architect can find themselves not using it.
That is why architecture schools require proficiency in a range of math subjects for acceptance into their professional programs.
That said, most working architects will only use basic math during the course of discharging their duty. The application of advanced math is required only in rare design instances.
Even for a simple structure today, the architect designs its form and aesthetics, and the engineer takes care of the necessary math calculations to achieve structural integrity.
1. Creating Shapes
Geometry allows the creation of strong yet aesthetically pleasing structures. Architects also use it to divide space to utilize a facility more efficiently.
Architects use triangles to increase a bridge’s weight load. They use rhombuses to create rounded dome ceilings that are capable of holding tons of pounds of glass.
The tallest building globally – the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – has triaxial geometry with a ‘Y’ shape. It was designed this way by its architects to stabilize the over 800-meter tall structure.
2. 3D Modeling
Modern architects rely on computer programming skills to create precise 3D models of structures. They can assess risks in different environments and determine the viability of a project.
After all, you would not use the same materials to build a house in Phoenix, Arizona, as you would in Nome, Alaska.
Computer programming and computer software also help an architect determine how to make a building more energy-efficient.
3. Calculating Ratio
Architects can apply different ratios to determine window size, ductwork, or even how many solar panels are needed.
Architects calculate the required window size of a project based on local safety regulations. The amount and size of ductwork that a building needs vary based on its size and HVAC unit output.
Even solar panels rely on an architect’s use of ratios. To establish the number of solar panels needed, an architect needs to know the projected energy use of a project based on its location, purpose, and total occupant load.
4. Utilizing Statistics
An architect relies on statistics to determine how a modern building should function.
For example: In today’s world, the typical family home is used differently than even just decades ago. Using statistics that researchers gathered in the 1950s, architects wholly redesigned how they lay out the modern family kitchen to be more ergonomic and functional.
Today, surveys are conducted regularly to provide architects with the most up-to-date statistics on how people use buildings and houses.
Architects design real estate to fulfill market needs.
How Do Architects Use Science in Their Daily Work?
Is architecture art or science?
In short, an architect’s work is an artistic endeavor that draws upon advances in science and technology to produce end-products that can withstand the test of reality.
Architects combine scientific techniques, advancements, and laws to create massive works of art that last for generations.
5. Innovative Building Materials
The ancient Sumerian builders and architects used rudimentary chemistry skills to create lightweight, robust, and reliable mudbricks. We have examples of this early technological achievement still visible today.
Similarly, modern architects find themselves working with chemists and other scientists to develop the latest building materials.
For example, architects and chemists collaborate to create buildings that can capture carbon molecules from the air, reducing pollution.
In other parts of the world, architects repurpose plastic bottles as a building material.
The EcoARK pavilion in Taiwan is a great example where plastic bottles were recycled and repurposed into polli-bricks. These ‘bricks’ are bullet-proof, environmentally friendly, and keep the building interiors cooler.
It is an incredible architectural feat developed by design studio Miniwiz (source).
6. Taking Advantage of a Building Location
The information on a project’s location is integral to an architect’s work.
They can maximize the cross-flow of air in hotter climates if they position a building just right. It increases the energy efficiency of the HVAC system used to cool that building.
Suppose the design is for a building located in a more vegetated area.
In that case, they can use the natural shade of native deciduous trees to keep that building cool in the summer and warm in the winter when the leaves fall.
7. Climate Control Design
Architects understand how to combat the local climate and elements when creating buildings.
In the arctic circle, architects elevate buildings to protect the permafrost environment from the building’s heat.
Meanwhile, they use several layers of insulation and vapor barriers to keep the inhabitants comfortable in sub-zero temperatures.
Meanwhile, in the deserts of the world, buildings are made to reflect sunlight and contain the cold air.
8. Landscape Design
It is now commonplace to include gardens and greenscapes in the architectural design of high-rise buildings.
It is even a building regulation in some cities to have plant space in new facilities to combat air pollution.
Architects – more specifically, landscape architects – can determine the best plants to place given a facility’s allotted vertical and horizontal space.
It is now commonplace to have sky-gardens on top of a high-rise building.
An architect would check to ensure that the roof’s concrete slab is covered with the appropriate material and can bear both the dead and live loads in consultation with a structural engineer.
An automated plant watering system is often incorporated into the building design to deliver adequate water to the garden.
9. Environmental Science
The environmental impact of an architectural project is significant. There are hundreds of federal, state, and local laws and building regulations that an architect must be familiar with.
Aside from safety, these laws and regulations also pertain to protecting the environment that design professionals must comply with.
Such compliances involve an understanding of how environmental sciences work and how best to apply them – in addition to a multitude of other considerations – to produce the most balanced design solution.
How do Architects Use their Knowledge of Energy Efficiency?
Increasingly, the question of a building’s energy efficiency is one of the most important architects face today.
We can now live and work in buildings at the same temperature year-round. We can flick a switch and use electricity to light a room, and we have running water.
Architects can reduce energy waste and the environmental impact of the buildings they design by applying the latest in insulation technology, ecological mapping, and energy-efficient appliances and systems, amongst many other techniques. More than ever, the architect’s work is a collaborative effort with other niche building specialists, environmental scientists, and energy systems innovators.
Architects are some of the most creative people in the world; they are innovators, creators, and artists – combining the best of math, science, and art to create the world that we live in.