In this article, the first usage is generally intended unless otherwise specified.
Buildings come in a wide amount of shapes and functions, and have been adapted throughout history for a wide number of factors, from building materials available, to weather conditions, to land prices, ground conditions, specific uses and aesthetic reasons.
Buildings serve several needs of society - primarily as shelter from weather and as general living space, to provide privacy, to store belongings and to comfortably live and work. A building as a shelter represents a physical division of the human habitat into the inside (a place of comfort and safety) and the outside (a place that at times may be harsh and harmful). Ever since the first cave paintings, buildings have also become objects or canvasess of artistic expression. In recent years, interest in sustainable planning and building practices has also become part of the design process of many new buildings.
To differentiate buildings in the usage of this article from other buildings and other structures that are not intended for continuous human occupancy, the latter are called nonbuilding structures or simply structures.
Structural height in technical usage is the height to the highest architectural detail on building from street-level. Depending on how they are classified, spires and masts may or may not be included in this height. Spires and masts used as antennas are not generally included.
The definition of a low-rise vs. a high-rise building is a matter of debate, but generally three stories or less is considered low-rise.
See main article: List of building types.
Residential buildings are called houses/homes, though buildings containing large numbers of separate dwelling units are often called apartment buildings / blocks to differentiate them from the more 'individual' house.
Building types may range from one-room wood-framed, masonry, or adobe dwellings to multi-million dollar high-rise buildings able to house thousands of people. Increasing settlement density in buildings (and closer distances between buildings) is usually a response to high ground prices resulting from many people wanting to live close to work or similar attractors.
Multi-storey buildings aim to increase the area of the building without increasing the area of the land the building is built on, hence saving land and, in most cases, money (depending on material used and land prices in the area).
The practice of designing, constructing, and operating buildings is normally 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:
See main article: Physical plant. Any building requires a certain 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.
Systems for transport of people within buildings:
Systems for transport of people between interconnected buildings:
Buildings may be damaged during the construction of the building or during maintenance. There are several other reasons behind building damage like accident. Buildings also may suffer from fire damage in special circumstances.