ARE - Building Planning / by Michelle Linden

Next up for me after the Site Planning exam was the Building Planning exam. In my opinion, this exam (more than any other) is nearly impossible to study for... If you do a lot of schematic design in your work, then you are certainly at an advantage, but really this is an exam where common sense and a good design intuition prevail.

Again, I relied heavily on Kaplan products for studying, including the book and practice tests. Just like with the site planning, the practice tests give you a problem similar to the exams, with one or two solutions in the back. Once again, I worked out 3 separate solutions on trace paper before looking at the solutions. A big portion of this test relies on you having a good understanding of and inherent ability to space plan.

There are two sections for this graphic exam. I found the first in which you must do space planning for an office to be the more difficult of the two, if only because of the time constraint. You must incorporate a variety of rooms, furniture, and clearance requirements in a short amount of time. I found the best way to attack the problem was to sketch it out first (on the scratch paper they give you) before attempting to put it into the computer. I didn't personally think that there was enough time to input an incorrect solution and then correct it within the time given, so it was very important to have a clear direction when starting to draw. Also, be sure to use the practice software provided by NCARB... The software is not intuitive at all, and can be quite confusing at times. For example, you must be sure to overlap your walls exactly, rather than placing them side by side. I strongly feel that this one bizarre feature of the program accounts for more fails than actual poor designs.

I found the second section of the exam extraordinarily easy. In fact, I finished with more than an hour left in the exam, which was plenty of time for me to worry that I had missed something obvious. Again for the second section, which requires you to provide a schematic design for a two story building (including egress and adjacency requirements provided in the program), I sketched out my solution before inputting it into the computer. I also carefully drew a matrix describing adjacency requirements, and window/view requirements, egress, and room sizes. Room areas must be within 10% +/- of the given area in order to pass, which I listed on the matrix. This ensured that I did not go over or under in my design. Also, I found it much easier to make the rooms as small as possible, that way if I needed to enlarge a particular room in order to make the design work, I would likely not have to worry about the area or egress. And to reiterate, just like in the site planning... providing the most sexy and forward thinking design is not nearly as important as providing a good design that functions properly.

Good Luck and try not to over study!