ARE 5.0 Project Planning & Design (PPD) Study Notes

ARE 5.0 Project Planning & Design (PPD) Study Notes

I’ve been 3 for 3 so far and PPD is this weekend followed by PDD next month. I’ve been taking them in order and would be very happy to pass all on the first try. There is a lot of overlap between PA and PPD and then PPD and PDD. So I’ve been studying PPD and PDD concurrently with a strong focus on the PPD related content. Example problems have been a must for this process, especially for PPD equations.

Shoutout to Hyperfine Architecture who has some of the best affordable PPD and PPD study questions available right now. Designer Hacks is also affordable and great for getting the basics down on all the ARE tests. Pluralsight has been great for all of the AREs plus it has Revit and Photoshop content. I’ve also been using a 4.0 copy of Amber Book Building Systems questions and a 4.0 copy of Ballast Structure questions.

Forgot what you learned for PA? Hope not because it is important for your career but either way it’s time to brush up! I’m going to read over my PA notes to make sure the information is still fresh. You are going to need to remember everything about climate, zoning, codes, and accessibility for the PPD exam. This is basically a Design Development focused test. You selected your site and orientation in PA and now in PPD you may be moving around windows/doors and selecting construction types, finishings, structure, and building systems.

These notes may cross over into PDD, are shared to be friendly help, are very basic, may contain errors, and should not serve as your sole reference point for study materials. Good luck.

PPD Overview:

The following is an overview of what may appear on the PPD exam based on reviewing NCARB’s ARE 5.0 Handbook (Sept 2018 version) and ARE related discussion boards. NCARB updates the handbook on occasion, so it is best to always check the most current copy from their website. They also have example problems that you should review to have a better understanding of what may show up on the exam.

120 questions in 4 hours 15 min

Environmental Conditions and Context: 10 – 16%

  • Analyze site to determine location of building and site improvements
  • Sustainable principles related to design
  • Impact of neighborhood context on the project design 

Codes & Regulations: 16 – 22%

  • Zoning and environmental regulations to site and building design
  • Building codes related to design

Building Systems, Materials & Assemblies: 19-25%

  • Select MEP systems
  • Select structural systems 
  • Select special systems such as acoustics, communications, lighting, security, conveying, and fire suppression
  • Determine materials/assemblies based on program, budget, and codes.

Project Integration of Program & Systems: 32-38%

  • Determine building configuration
  • Understand how MEP/Structure systems affect project design
  • Apply programming requirements to design.
  • Integrate environmental and contextual conditions in the project design

Project Cost & Budgeting: 8-14%

  • Evaluate design alternatives based on the program
  • Perform cost evaluation 
  • Evaluate cost considerations during the design process 

PPD Notes

Environmental Conditions and Context : 

  1. Analyze site to determine location of building and site improvements
  2. Sustainable principles related to design
  3. Impact of neighborhood context on the project design 

All of these topics applied to PA and were covered more thoroughly in my PA notes. Below is a simple summary of items that may be more PPD related:

  • Roof Ponds: Provide both evaporative cooling and high thermal mass for one or two-story buildings in hot-arid climates.
  • Paving surfaces should have high albedo and shade during hot months
  • Minimize disruption of existing drainage patterns and vegetation
  • Shading:  Horizontal on South, Vertical on East/West
  • Solar Panel Tilt: @ latitude deg year-round, latitude +15 deg in summer, latitude -15 deg in winter
  • Cold: Compact/cubical form, partially underground, minimize north exposure/windows, maximize south exposure/windows, minimize exposed surfaces to reduce heat loss, block winter winds, vestibules, high thermal mass, summer shading, dark/medium exterior colors, bottom leeward side of hills.
  • Hot-Humid: Narrow floor plans, max/cross ventilation, minimize thermal mass, shade all openings, light exterior colors, most difficult to design without mechanical cooling, top of hills
  • Temperate Climate:  rectangular form, east-west axis, Maximize southern exposure, design for winter heat gain but summer shading, night-time ventilation, summer ventilation but block winter winds, medium exterior colors, middle leeward side of hills
  • Hot-Arid Climate: Compact form, small surface area, minimize openings, high thermal mass, nigh ventilation, pools for evaporative cooling, shade direct sunlight, light exterior colors, top of hills

Codes & Regulations: 

  1. Zoning and environmental regulations to site and building design
  2. Building codes related to design
  • Parking Standard & Accessible
  • FAR = total covered area of all floors / area of plot of land
  • Site Coverage
  • Setbacks
  • Building height & area
  • Occupant Load
  • Fire Separation
  • Means of Egress – Exit Access, Exit, and Exit Discharge
  • Door, Corridor and Ramp/Stair Widths
    • Door – 32″ clear: 0.2 (0.15 voices/sprinkled)
    • Corridor/Other – 44″ min: 0.2 (0.15 voice/sprinkled)
    • Stairs/Ramps – 44″ min: 0.3 (0.2 voice/sprinkled)
    • Exceptions for H and I-2 occupancies exist with more stringent requirements
  • Doors:
    • When fully open 7″ max projection into egress path
    • When open 90 deg: cannot reduce the required egress path by more than half
    • limited to a maximum of 4ft wide door leaf width
    • 48″ min apart in a series
  • Dead End Corridors:
    • 20ft (50ft sprinkled) exceptions!
  • Area of Refuge
  • Accessibility
  • Building Area Modifications: Aa = {At + [At x If] + [At x Is]}
    • Aa = allowable building area
    • At = building area per table 503
    • If = frontage increase per 506.2 = [F/P – 0.25] W/30
      • W/30 must be > 1 (with exceptions 506.2.1)
    • Is = sprinkler increase per 506.3
      • 1 story = 3 = 300%
      • 2+ story = 2 = 200%
      • Not Permitted in H1, H2, H3 occupancies
    • F = Frontage on public-way/open-space >/= 20ft from property line
    • P = Perimeter of the entire building
    • W = [frontage >/= 20ft x width of public-way/open-space per 506.2.1]/F
      • (use 30ft for all fronts > 30ft)

Building Systems, Materials & Assemblies: 

  1. Select MEP, Structural and special systems such as acoustics, communications, lighting, security, conveying, and fire suppression
  2. Determine materials/assemblies based on program, budget, and codes.
  • MEP system type, function, $, etc.
    • Minimize First Cost: Single Duct CAV or through wall packaged terminal units
    • Minimize Operating Costs: VAV, Single Duct CAV, Hydronic Convectors, Closed Loop heat pump
    • Control Air Quality/Velocity: VAV (all types), Single Duct CAV, Multizone
    • Individual Control: VAV, CAV reheat, Multizone, Aire-water induction, fan-coil terminals, through wall packaged terminal units
    • Minimize System Noise: All Air Systems (except induction) and Hydronic Convectors
    • Minimize Visual Impact: Any all-air system
    • Min floor space or floor height: Through wall packaged terminal units, induction systems, and hydronic convectors
    • Minimize maintenance: VAV, single duct CAV, and hydronic convectors
    • Avoid Chimney: Electric boilers, through wall packaged terminal units, closed-loop heat pumps
    • Max Construction: through wall packaged terminal units
  • Balance point temperature: temp at which the building does not require mechanical heating or cooling
  • Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)
    • aka heat recovery ventilator: captures heat from vent air and uses it to preheat incoming fresh air (or pre-cool) 95% efficient
    • ERV heat wheel spins to transfer heat
    • requires a drain for condensate that occurs when outside is humid
  • Plumbing Valve types and use:
    • Globe Valve: frequent use like a faucet
    • Gate Valve: maintenance use
    • Check Valve: one-way flow – backflow prevention
  • Copper Pipe Types and use (MLK):
    • M – thinnest – low-pressure supply
    • L – thinner – building supply
    • K – heaviest – underground
    • DWV – drainage, waste, vent, low pressure
  • City Water Pressure typ is 50psi to 75psi max
  • Minimum fixture pressure is typ 4 to 20 psi
  • Current = ‘hose’ size
  • Watts = power
  • W=I current in amps x V = (Ohm’s law)
  • Wire numbers and phases, know what it means.
  • Need at least 1 footcandle at the floor for egress.
  • Typical indoor illuminance is 10 to 100 fc
  • Structure system type, function, $, etc.
  • Practical Max Spans
    • Brick Lintel: 15ft
    • Wood Joists, Sitecast One Way Slab & Corrugated Decking: 20 ft
    • Wood Decking: 25 ft
    • Wood Solid Beams & Steel Light Gauge Joist: 30 ft
    • Sitecast TwoWay Slabs & Wood Rafter Prs/Light Floor Truss: 40 ft
    • Sitecast One Way Conc. Joists & Precast Concrete Slab: 45 ft
    • Pneumatic Air Inflated: 50 ft
    • Waffle Slab: 55 ft
    • Precast Concrete Beams: 65 ft
    • Wood Light Roof Truss & Sitecast Concrete Beams: 70 ft
    • Steel Beams: 75 ft
    • Precast Double Tees TT & Glue Laminated Beams: 100 ft
    • Precast Single Tees T, Open Web Steel Joist & Sitecast Concrete Shells: 150 ft
    • Wood Heavy Truss: 200 ft
    • Brick Archway, Sitecast Concrete Domes & Arches: 250 ft
    • Steel Heavy Trusses: 300 ft
    • Steel Suspension, Space Frame & Wood/Steel Domes, Pneumatic Air Supported: 500 + feet
  • Shear Walls: Relatively heavy, minimal openings, usually reinforced concrete
  • Braced Frames: Most efficient in terms of strength per weight, usually steel or wood
  • Rigid Frames: Structurally inefficient, suitable for low broad structures, or in combination with another system, usually steel or sitecast concrete, more open facade but places greater stress on structural system so larger beams/columns and closer column spacing compared to other systems.
  • Masonry Structural System: cavity wall construction preferred, concrete block more economical than brick, loadbearing masonry walls and columns must be steel-reinforced in most cases. build in modules that correspond to the brick/block size
  • Lateral Stability Method:
    • Wood: Braced Frame & Shear Wall
    • Masonry: Shear Wall
    • Light Gauge Steel: Braced Frame & Shear Wall
    • Steel Frame: Rigid Frame, Braced Frame, Shear Wall, & Semi-Rigid w/ brace/shear
    • Sitecast Concrete: Rigid Frame & Semi-Rigid w/ brace/shear
    • Precast Concrete: Shear Wall
  • Ordinary Construction: Wood Light Frame
  • Mill Construction: Heavy Timber
  • Bending Moment of beam:
    • maximum when shear is equal to zero
    • Positive creates compression at top and tension at the bottom
    • Negative creates tension at top and compression at the bottom
  • Moment of inertia: depends on the shape of the cross-section and dimensions of the cross-section
  • Section Modulus – related to the moment of inertia and depth of the cross-section
  • Strain: deformation or change in size caused by external forces. elongation under tensile forces and shortening under compressive forces.
  • Deflection: how far a member bends under a load
  • Support Reactions:
    • Sum of all moments = 0
    • Sum of all vertical force = 0
    • Determine positive/ forces in a clockwise pattern about the sum is calculated
    • Distances are measured to the support about which the sum is calculated
  • Wall and Slab System: good for building types that require regular arrangements of uniformly sized spaces, such as apartments, schools, and hotels
  • Column and Beam Systems: good for where sizes of interior spaces of building do not correspond with a structural module, where max open space is desired, or where a high degree of flexibility in use of space over time is desired
    • Girders: deeper beams that span the columns which support secondary beams and the slab.
  • Column and Slab Systems: restricted capacity for heavy loads but greater flexibility in column placement since not restricted to beam lines, economically attractive due to simplified construction techniques and reduction of total floor depths.
  • severe earthquake zones: 30 inches displacement
  • Envelope system selection
    • Porous Materials: thermal resistance
      Dense Materials: thermal mass
  • Interior finish selection

Project Integration of Program & Systems: 

  1. Determine building configuration
  2. Understand how MEP/Structure systems affect project design
  3. Apply programming requirements to design.
  4. Integrate environmental and contextual conditions in the project design
  • Project Cost & Budgeting. 
  • Evaluate design alternatives based on the program
  • Evaluate cost considerations during the design process 
  • Life cycle cost
  • Psychrometric Chart
    • Sensible heat: dry bulb temp, the kinetic energy of air molecules
    • Latent Heat: embodied energy of moisture in the air; wet bulb temp in relationship to dry bulb
    • Enthalpy: total heat content of air; is on skewed access parallel to wet bulb
    • Relative Humidity: moisture content relative to the amount of moisture air can hold at a given temp
    • Saturation Line: 100% Humidity – Dew Point
    • Hot air holds more moisture than cool air
    • Comfort Zone: 68 to 78 deg F, 20% to 80% relative humidity
    • Cold air when heated will transition to a low relative humidity because the absolute moisture content in the air remains unchanged
    • Furnace forced air: spray moisture in ducts to raise humidity
    • Hydronic heating by radiators and radiant heat: need separate mechanical humidifiers


The below reference sources are either directly from the NCARB handbook matrix or were suggested by others who have taken the PPD exam. If you don’t know what one is, look at the ARE Handbook matrix for more information. The resources I used have been highlighted in bold.

  • Architect’s Studio Companion (good single source)
  • Architectural Graphic Standards
  • Building Codes Illustrated – 2015 – also look at actual IBC
  • MEEB – for reference when needed
  • Building Structures
  • Fundamental of Building Structures
  • Timesaver Standards – Wall Types
  • Acoustics
  • Building Construction Illustrated – for reference when needed
  • ADA & ICC A117.1-2009
  • American Society of Engineers 7-10 Min Design Loads 2013
  • Sun Wind & Light (own it…don’t like the format)
  • Visual Dictionary of Architecture
  • Amber Book – Building Systems practice questions (4.0)
  • Ballast – Structural Systems Sample Problems (4.0)
  • Why Buildings Stand Up – Chapters 3, 4, and 5

Misc Links:

My YouTube playlist of PPD and PDD related content:

Calculating Solar Altitude:

Young Architect Facebook (active) ARE Community:

Pluralsight referral/discount link: