This refers to the structure or skeleton of the building, together with the main infill, mainly the external walling. The fabric is what most of us regard as the actual building and comprises the following;
· Column: This refers to the vertical support members, mostly in the form of posts. The conventional column is a square member made of concrete and with steel members embedded in it for reinforcement. The main function of columns is to transfer the weight of the building to the foundation.
· Beam: This is similar to the column, only that it is a horizontal member. Most of these are used to carry floor slabs. It is however important to note that in some cases, diagonal members are used in structural frames, these are neither columns nor beams and are commonly referred to as braces or strainers.
· Slab: This is the plane surface of the building (floor) from where the activities of the building will take place. In most cases, floors directly on the ground are not refered to as structural members as the load of the said floor will be transferred to the ground directly. Raised floors are however structural members as the weight they carry is transmitted to structural members for transfer to the ground. The conventional floor consists of a concrete surface with embedded steel members for reinforcement.
· Wall: The most common walls are made of natural stone, concrete blocks and clay bricks. They are used to close up the space to form an enclosure that is the house. Most of these walls are not structural, meaning that they only play the role of closing the gap.
· Staircase: Where the building is to be higher than just the ground floor, a means of access to the higher floors is provided in the form of a staircase. This is mostly done of reinforced concrete. There is also the provision of lift shafts. These are also structural members mostly in reinforced concrete.
This stage is to most people the actual building phase as most of what we refer to as house is assembled. It also takes the bulk of the construction time and arguably, finances. One thing to note is that in order to put up the fabric, there are supportive works that are necessary. These include;
· Formwork: This refers to moulds used to shape wet concrete into the desired shape in structural members. The most common material for formwork has for a long time been timber, but this is gradually changing to steel due to reduction of timber production. Formwork is only in place for sometime (usually 21 days) and then it is removed, after concrete has gained structural strength.
· Scaffolding: This refers to all those ladders used to provide access to higher areas of the building during construction. Depending on the type of work at hand and the heights involved, this ranges from a single ladder to a whole network of steel structures on the face of the building and construction.
· Shoring: This refers to a form of support to weak or potentially weak building sections, to allow for the provision of more permanent support.