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'Buildings Don't Lie': A building science reference book worth your time and money

Review of "Buildings Don't Lie," by engineer Henry Gifford.

August 09, 2019 |
Rob Cassidy

We don't do a lot of "book reviewing" at BD+C and MULTIFAMILY Design+Construction, but I want to make an exception for Buildings Don't Lie, by Henry Gifford.

Gifford is a mechanical engineer in New York City and an expert in Passive House design, energy conservation, and practical building techniques, especially for smaller buildings and multifamily residential construction. He does a lot of work with Chris Benedict, RA, the pioneering Passive House multifamily architect in New York. See their video about 803 Knickerbocker, a 24-unit Passive House apartment building in Harlem.

Gifford's book is subtitled "Better Buildings by Understanding Basic Building Science," and he's very good at b.s. - building science, that is. His book is a hefty, almost encyclopedic work on the basics of indoor air quality, moisture protection, and many other practical considerations in the design and construction of the great majority of buildings that are built in the U.S. every year. He even offers advice on ecologically sound ways to deal with vermin - hey, he's a New Yorker!

The book is copiously illustrated with more than a thousand images - not just pretty pictures, but instructive photos, drawings, and illustrations that add to your understanding of the topic at hand. Although Buiildings Don't Lie might be classified as primer for less experienced AEC professionals, I would guess some veteran architects, MEP engineers, and construction professionals could learn a thing or two from it as well.

Buildings Don't Lie ain't cheap, as we say in my native Brooklyn - $75 on Amazon. But it's the kind of reference volume that would be good for a typical architecture or engineering office to share. It would even be valuable to take a chapter at a time, have the boss spring for pizza or Impossible Burgers, and have an ad hoc lunch 'n learn discussion.




Rob Cassidy

Robert Cassidy is Executive Editor of Building Design+Construction and the Editor of Multifamily Design+Construction. A city planner, he is the author of several books, including “Livable Cities,” and was a co-founder of the Friends of the Chicago River.

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