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Environmental Science in Building

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By Randall McMullan. Palgrave, 2002. Fifth edition.

376pp. £24.99 The author notes that when the first edition was produced in 1983, 'the term environment was not in common use', but now this update includes significant revisions to accommodate the growing interest in the field of environmental management, writes Austin Williams .

This book is a great introduction to building sciences, enabling the reader to appreciate the topic from many levels.Essentially a GCSE physics primer for architects, it includes a range of graphs, calculations and diagrams that look daunting at first flick-through, but are in fact well written and fully explained.

In dealing with a topic such as the environment, McMullan has avoided an emotive response to the subject and has confined himself to the facts: for example, calmly describing the greenhouse effect and the Kyoto protocol, without resorting to opinion.

OK, what do you need to know? What is a heat pump?

How does it work? How is heat measured? In fact, what is heat; latent heat; radiation;

convection; Boyle's Law; STP;

Charles'Law? Is it all coming back to you now? Reading this book, I remembered my old physics lessons, the fusty smell of the lab, the terror of Mr Scammell, the crack of the ruler on my backside (or was that the crack of my backside on the ruler, I can never remember - something to do with heat transfer, anyway).

The daylight protractor (who threw that? ), making a solenoid (stand in the corner); the malleus, incus and stapes (oh no, double biology); the electronmagnetic spectrum (Pink Floyd's greatest album); the dew-point hygrometer (no speaking at the back).

This book retains the very best standards of the '80s edition and draws on the educational methods of that period, managing successfully to be a reference point and textbook rolled into one.Every so often there are worked examples and exercises to do at the end of each chapter (no peeking at the answers). This is a volume to be treated with respect. An invaluable source book and educational reference. Great.

Can I go now, sir?

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