The second vignette for the Schematic Design exam, administered by NCARB, is the Building Layout vignette.  For this vignette, you will need to layout spaces within a building based on the required adjacency, views and level requirements of the program.

It is fairly easy to say of all the NCARB vignettes, this is the one where you will likely find you have ample time to complete it.  That being said, make sure to still be efficient with your time so that should disaster strike you have time to recover.  Be sure to practice multiple times to make sure you are comfortable with how to use the NCARB software to satisfy the program requirements.   

5 Must Know Tips For the Building Layout Vignette

1.  Follow the program.  Since this is my last chance to harp on this topic, I will take the opportunity to do it again.  Don’t fight the program.  Take it literally, don’t try to design the building at all.  Just go with it and you should do well.

2.  Maintain views & adjacencies.  Take careful notes when reviewing the program and make sure to be clear on what spaces require a view, which must be adjacent to one another and which will require visual control over another.  These clues will start to paint the picture of what the building footprint should look like, as well as which spaces should be on which level.

3. Egress correctly.  The program requirements will be very explicit on the egress and exiting requirements of the building.  Certain spaces may require more than one exit, dead end corridors should be avoided and stairs must exit to grade.  Also be sure to check your corridor width to make sure any egress doors swinging into it are not reducing the clear width more than 50%.

4. Shape the space.  Each space will have a required area, however be careful when laying out the space that you do not make it too narrow (thus unusable) and try to avoid strange shapes.  Simple squares and rectangles work best for this vignette..

5.  Stack the building.  Make sure your stairs and elevator(s) stack between the levels of the building.  This may sound like a common sense tip but if you are only thinking about the building as two separate levels and not as a whole building, this could easily be missed.  If these elements don’t stack, the building won’t work!  Also, it would make sense to stack the restrooms as well if possible (however it is not a necessary part of this vignette).

You will have time to check, double check and triple check the program requirements to make sure your layout fits the bill.  Use this time wisely and make sure to go through every space and check off what is required in the program so you can rest easy you have solved it correctly.  If you catch an error, you will likely have time to adjust your layout, however avoid scrapping the whole thing and starting over.  You may not have time to do this vignette twice so be efficient and direct with the program.

As I’ve said before, this is NOT a design exam… it is a simple, follow the instructions exam, so make sure you don’t get caught up in making the building pretty.  You may think the program requirements are way off base from anything you would design in the real world, but make sure to put your own biases to the side for a few hours.  This isn’t the real world, this is NCARB’s world.  Embrace that fact and you will succeed!!