AEC 118


This is a condensed first class of the AEC 118 course. It explains what the course is about, how students go to the classes online, how tests are taken, what the course requirements are, etc. The actual class is located at another site altogether, and additional information is included there for students who are actually enrolled in the course. This condensed first class is designed primarily for students and others who would like more information about the course before enrolling.

If you are enrolled and wondering about how to get to the classes online, go to the address https://laulima/ and log in with your UH username and password. At the Laulima site that opens, there is a strip below the main banner where all of your classes are listed. Click on "AEC 118..."


Being able to compare this web version of AEC 118 with the classroom version that I taught quite a few years ago, I can say with great certainly that this online version is superior to that.

  • There are well over a thousand images that were previously unavailable to classroom students taking the course.
  • There is no need to take notes since everything "said" online is already written out.
  • You can easily back up if you think you missed something.
  • You can read the material at your own speed. For especially students who are not as used to the English language as are others, and for sudents who find some of the technical terms difficult, the material can be read as slowly as necessary.
  • You can attend classes at your convenience, and you do not need to miss a class if you are ill or whatever.
  • The material is much better organized than it can be when spoken in lecture. There are no missteps, backing up for something forgotten, something jumbled because of a distraction, or something missed because you were busy taking a note about what was said previously, etc. The online material has been developed, reworked, updated, and otherwise improved over many years. At least from the current instructor, this is the best you can get.
What you will miss are the social aspects of face-to-face interaction with other students and myself and the imposed discipline of attending classes regularly. These things that you will miss really are important for both personal and professional growth, and I do not recommend that anyone take all classes online. The vast majority of students taking this class will have other classroom classes with me or other instructors, and there you will experience the face-to-face interaction and other things that this class does not provide. Still, every academic aspect of the classroom 118 course has been either matched or surpassed in this online format. With a little discipline and persistence of yours, you should get more out of this course in the online format than you would if you took the (now discontinued) classroom version.


Upon completion of the course, the student will be able to...

  1. Discuss and, where appropriate, compare the manufacturing processes, components, sources, varieties, and uses of the basic building materials, products, and systems presented in the course.
  2. Roughly define the common terms and concepts associated with the topics of the course.
  3. Describe the CSI format and its purpose, and name at least two-thirds of its divisions.
  4. Participate regularly and appropriately in online group discussions about class material, and seek the help of peers, supervisors, or others as needed.
  5. Demonstrate written communication, reading, and computation proficiencies at a level appropriate to the coursework.
  6. Demonstrate model-building and basic drawing/sketching proficiencies in the completion of course construction and graphic communication projects related to topics of the course.


At the actual first class in Laulima there are "instructor" oand "classmates" buttons for accessing pages about contacting the instructor, for seeing who is in the class, for communicating with other students, etc. You can contact the instructor by e-mail, telephone, or office visit. All of the information is given at the instructor page. You should have no trouble contacting me about any problems or questions that might arise.

Similarly, you will be able to see online who is in the class. All students are asked to submit a photo so that other students can see who they are talking to in any online communication or class collaboration. You can also e-mail individual students by clicking on their names under the photos, or you can e-mail the entire class (including myself) by clicking on the "send e-mail" button toward the top of the page.

Most students, however, prefer to communicate with others by placing messages on the message board in class discussion. Part of every student's grade is be based on regularly using the message board.


  • Students are required to obtain access to the Internet for attending classes online. For students who do not have computers and/or Internet access at home, an open computer lab is available on the 4th floor of Building 2 on campus. The lab is not open late nights and weekends, however, and printing out lengthy material presented online is not allowed.

  • Students are required to obtain an e-mail address and advise me of that address just as soon as possible -- preferrably before the first day of classes and certainly before the end of the second class. Everyone should have a e-mail account. I can easily obtain those addresses, but most students prefer to use other e-mail addresses for course business. So you need to notify me of your preferred e-mail address. I will also need the last four numbers of your Social Security Number or some other four numbers) for posting your grades or score online.

Reading of material posted on the web is important, and there will be material (like this) posted for each class. In addition, reading in the textbook is required for most every topic. The material I present will seldom duplicate what's presented in the textbook, so the textbook should be used as a complement to in-class material. Required textbook readings are listed at the end of each class as well as on a page that can be viewed by clicking on a button in the class banner.

The textbook is a thick, heavy one. Don't let that scare you. For a long time I required a much thinner paperback, but it became dated, and the price rose to about the same as that of this textbook (even though it was thinner and a paperback). I wish this new book were a little thinner, but it's the closest I could get to meeting the requirements of the course, and very importantly it follows the Construction Specifications Institute format that the course follows. Also, if the list of readings for each class looks long, the reading itself may not be that much. Some of the listings are single paragraphs or illustrations. And if you see a number of listings that show the same page number, you can be sure that individually they are quite short.

In each chapter of the textbook there is much more material than what is assigned to be read, and most of that additional material is critical to the subject being studied. Although reading of the additional material is not required, it is recommended that you read as much of it as you may need and as your time permits, especially if it relates to online material that you find unclear or incomplete.

Required textbook: Olin's Construction: Principles, Materials, and Methods by Leslie Simmons
available at the HCC Bookstore and online.

An acceptable substitute for Olin's Construction is Construction: Principles, Materials, and Methods (7th Edition) by Leslie Simmons. This is simply the previous version of Olin's Construction and contains somewhere near the same material that is required for this course. Reading assignments will show the unit and page numbers for both books. This book is not available in the HCC Bookstore, however. If you might prefer to purchase this book instead of Olin's, you'll need to send for it, and it will take time to arrive. Choose this book only if you have time for it to arrive before classes begin.

The online text will be annotated (click on the word "annotated" to see how it will work). Annotations in pop-up windows will allow some students, particularly non-native English readers, to easily find definitions and brief discussions of words or concepts with which they may not be familiar. Pop-up windows can be quickly opened and closed without leaving the main text, and annotations will always relate specifically to how the words being defined or discussed are used in the text -- no link to an online dictionary or something where three or four of the definitions don't apply. Students who do not need this extra help can simply pass over the annotated words without interruption.

INTERESTING FACT: In almost every class there is one or more "interesting fact" (short, few sentences against a blue background something like this) that is included for fun and interest only. You will never be tested on "interesting facts," and you can simply bypass them if you want. They are often surprising, weird, or obscure facts, but they are all true.

Ungraded quizzes for testing yourself on class explanations and other activities will be available at all classes except those that follow a construction project activity and after exam classes. Answers and explanations will be shown on a linked page, so you can check your answers immediately after answering individual questions or completing the quizzes. Exactly how you use the quizzes, as well as simply choosing whether or not to use them at all, will be up to you. For them to have the greatest effect, however, you should take them just like in-class quizzes, then check your answers. The quizzes should give you a good idea about how well you are learning the material -- and the explanations of the answers will often contain new material that will help you learn. Wrong answers will also frequently be discussed. The self-check quizzes are almost entirely multiple choice, but about half of each major exam will be short essay (discuss, compare, explain, etc.). The multiple choice items will simply enable you to check your answers immediately.

There will be two interim exams on the dates shown later in this class, 9:00am, Saturdays, Room 601 in Building 2. For the building location on campus, click on the "instructor" button at the left. Students will generally be admitted to the exams up to 11:00am. More about the exams closer to the test dates.

If you are a neighbor island student, you will need to take the exams at a community college testing center close to you. I will make those arrangements and make sure there is a test waiting for you when you go in. However, the testing center hours vary, and some are even closed on Saturdays. Before the exam date and time, you should check with the testing center, know where it's located, and the time when it will be possible for you to take the exam there. Out-of-state students may take any or all of the exams at a school in your area provided that (1) a school instructor, administrator, counselor, or regularly-employed testing lab official administers the exam, (2) the participation of that person is arranged by you, and (3) the name, phone number, position, etc. of that person is e-mailed to me no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled exam date(s). Testing centers at schools outside of Hawaii (that do not have a reciprocal testing agreement with testing centers at Hawaii community colleges) will generally require payment for testing service. Check on that ahead of time. Any project that is due at the same as an exam is taken must be mailed or delivered to me by the due date (postmarked by that date in the case of mailing).

There is a construction project that will run approximately two-thirds of the semester. We'll devote on average every fourth class to working on it. Each day (whenever it's scheduled), I'll give you instructions for completing a part of the project. It will be a small model of a building section similar to these:

Two Student Projects Model of Koa Wood
Model by Kesha Lee (left) features unique door and window designs and a realistic foundation. Model by Nathan Jucutan (middle) has a real concrete foundation. Model by Derrick Lee (right) has mostly Koa wood parts and a number of added features -- right down to a mouse in the crawl space below the floor.

These models are 9" x 12" and stand about 18" high. The bases are plywood, most of the foundations are Styrofoam™, the framing is out of "Foamcor™" board, and the flooring, siding, door, and roof sheathing are out of illustration board. However, all of the framing and sheathing is now required to be balsa wood. The balsa simply saves a lot of lengthwise cutting, and it's stronger. Balsa is quite easy to cut with an Xacto knife.

The purposes of the project are to (1) learn basic building construction and how building components go together, (2) involve you in work with a few of the materials studied, (3) get you into a store where the materials are sold, (4) provide experiences in working precisely, to scale, and according to specific directions on a three-dimensional project (which will aid you in later AEC courses if you are an AEC student), and (5) provide a change of pace from reading and quiet hands-off participation. Along with simple instructions on how to construct the model, there will be information and photos on actual building construction. The project will be due on the morning of the second interim exam as shown in the schedule later in class today -- and as you'll be reminded prior to the due date.

Neighbor island and other off-island students will need to ship the model to me (postmarked on or before the due date) via UPS, USPS, or other delivery service. In the past I have had students submit the models to someone who I knew at their own colleges. But it's quite a bit to ask some other instructor to not only accept them, but also to grade them. The last time I did that, I never did receive evaluations of the projects from one of the instructors. So you should be aware right away that you will need to ship your model to me. It will cost some $$$, but it will need to be shipped or in some other way delivered to me. Because of the costs involved, the project will not be shipped back to you. If you really want your model back, you can pick it up sometime later when you're on Oahu, or have someone you know here pick it up for you. If you think you might want to pick it up later, please let me know when you send it to me that you want me to hang onto it for you.
There will be one kitchen design project assigned in the course. You will need to print a web page that shows the plan, design a kitchen for it, and mail or deliver the completed plan to me.

At the second interim exam, you'll receive a large floor plan to save until later in the course when we cover electrical systems (Division 16). You'll need to complete the plan with electrical wiring symbols, an electrical schedule, and a load computation. Since you will not draft the plan itself, no special drafting equipment will be required. The completed plan will be due a week or so prior to the final exam. I used to set the due date later, but I moved the electrical systems classes a little earlier in the course and now require that the plans be submitted before the final exam so it doesn't interfere with studying for the exam.

Part of your grade will be based on your collaborating with the class online at least once each week. For that, you will need to go to the discussion board (or "message board") by opening your "favorites" list, selecting the "118 Home Page" favorite that you should have saved, and then clicking on the "Discussion and Private Messages" link at the left side of the home page. Instructions, including screen images of the procedure, are given on page that you can view by clicking on the "discussion" button at the left. If you did not save the home page as a "favorite," you should go back to the home page message for instructions about that. More about how to actually post messages, etc. later in this class.

I will frequently follow your discussions, but I may not actively participate. As much as possible, I want it to be your forum. I would prefer not to influence its direction or make my presence too obvious (for some strange reason, discussion often comes to a halt after I post a reply message of my own). I will, however, follow up on discussion topics as needed or desired at the beginning of the next class sessions. Again, you will need to post at least one message to the message board each week, for which you will receive six points each week (details later in class).

The final exam will be given on the date shown in the schedule that follows, at 9:00am in Room 601, Building 2 on the main campus. The format will be similar to that of the interim tests -- multiple choice, short written paragraph items. The exam will be comprehensive, but a slight emphasis will be on material covered since the last interim exam. Your grade will be posted on the web along with your final grade in the course. More information about the final exam closer to the exam date.


Reading 0% 0 Not graded.
Self-Check Quizzes 0% 0 Not graded, but important practice for the exams.
Interim Exam #1 15% 75 75 items
Interim Exam #2 15% 75 75 items
Construction Project 15% 75 Seven components
Kitchen Design Exercise 5% 25 One component
Electrical Plan 10% 50 Three components
Online Collaboration 20% 100 Photo and profile within first week, plus 2-6 pts. ea. of 15 weeks
Final Exam 20% 100 100 items
TOTAL 100% 500 450-500 pts = A
400-449 pts = B
350-399 pts = C
300-349 pts = D
000-299 pts = F


Grades will be posted on the web, but exams will not be returned. You may, however, come to campus and look over any exam taken and graded.

Final "I" ("incomplete") grades will not be given unless for prolonged, verifiable illness which prevents you from completing the assigned work. You must have completed at least half of the graded work assigned, however.

Final "N" ("no grade") grades will be given only in very rare and exceptional cases where an "I" would usually be given but work will not be able to be made up by the deadline. An "N" will never be given simply to replace a grade that you would prefer not to receive. For an "N" grade, you would probably need to come in with a seeing eye dog, have a doctor send a certificate to verify that you are in a coma, or something similar.

The construction project will be returned to you at the next exam following submission of the project. It is suggested that you photograph the construction project for your portfolio prior to submitting it.

Schedule At A Glance

Required Text (also described earlier):
Olin's Construction: Principles, Materials, and Methods, latest edition, by Leslie Simmons (Wiley). Available from the campus bookstore on the ground floor of Building 2. Used books are generally available.

Recommended References:
Construction Materials, Methods, & Techniques by William Spence
Fundamentals of Building Construction by Edward Allen


  1. 1 piece of 9" x 12" x 1/2" clean, unpainted/unstained plywood
  2. Balsa wood as follows:
    1. 1/8" x 1/4" x 36" (10 pieces)
    2. 1/8" x 3/8" x 36" (3 pieces)
    3. 1/8" x 1/2" x 36" (2 pieces)
    4. 1/16" x 4" x 36" (2 pieces)
  3. 4 oz. bottle of white glue ("Elmer's Glue-All" or equivalent)
  4. 1 piece of 9" x 12" x 1" foamed plastic ( Styrofoam™ or equivalent). If you cannot find this particular size, you can purchase two smaller pieces. But at least one of the pieces must be 12" long, and all of the Styrofoam™ must be 1" thick.
  5. 1 art knife with pointed blade ("Xacto" or similar)
  6. Smallest can (or spray can) of gray paint -- may be shared by two or three students
  7. 1 piece of 8 1/2" x 11" black construction paper
  8. 1 piece of light-colored, medium grit sandpaper
  9. 1 piece of light-colored posterboard (only about an eighth of it will be used, however)
  10. Other miscellaneous materials as you may need or choose later
The balsa is available at the HCC and UH Manoa bookstores. Neighbor island students may need to order from the HCC bookstore and have the wood mailed. Big Island students should check at the UH Hilo bookstore to see if the balsa is sold there as it is at the Manoa campus.


Check these out for information related to a number of topics in the course and for links to other sites. Sites related to specific topics of the course are shown on class pages.
Architectural Resources and Communications (ARC)
Links to major product manufacturers, service providers, schools of architecture, etc.
Builder Online
Electronic cousin of Builder magazine.
Building Industry Exchange (BIX)
Links to construction-related companies, schools, etc.
Building Online.
Links to more than 104,000 building-related sites. Information, free samples, and more.
Building Product Library
AEC InfoCenter. Search for products and information in any of several ways, including the CSI format in which topics are arranged in this course.
First Source Online
Bills itself as "the most comprehensive product resource on the internet." 950 products, 3000 images.
Home Center News
News and analysis for the home improvement building material industry.
National Association of Home Builders
National Association of Women in Construction
National Building Museum
Permanent and temporary exhibitions, design and construction artifacts, tours of landmark buildings, publications, etc. Created by an act of Congress.
This Old House Magazine
Encyclopedia of projects, tools, and products, FAQ's, news, and links.
Sweets Group Online
Comprehensive construction resource guide. Easy-to-use table of contents.


Sites that are related to specific topics of the course are shown on class pages.

Hawaii Design, Repair and Construction Network. Links to Hawaii materials and construction companies.


Using the Internet for research and other purposes. University of Victoria (Australia) site.
Strategies for Learning
Links to resources about learning strategies. Muskingum College (Ohio) site.
Study Skills Articles
Managing test anxiety, memory tips, time management, etc. Iowa State University site.
Study Skills Resources
How to study, test anxiety, memory improvement, procrastinating, concentrating, etc.
Strategies for improving study habits.
Writing Guide
Style guides; writing, punctuation, and grammar tips. University of Illinois Springfield site.


Since I've seen students go through this online course a number of years now, I can better tell you what to watch out for and things you can do to do better in it. Each semester I've had students who have done very well on the first exam, and others who have done disasterously. Scores on the second exam have been better every semester -- but a few students always find that they're in a fairly deep hole by then, and it's usually those same students who haven't participated regularly in class discussion, etc. I'd strongly suggest that you make every effort to regularly spend enough time on the course -- as much as you would if it were a classroom course. I think there's a great tendency to think of it as not a "real" course and to cut corners when nobody is looking. You really must discipline yourself. Don't underestimate what you need to do.

I think some students read the material but think it's common sensical enough that they can rely on common sense to pass the exams. The materials quite naturally are materials most students are already somewhat familiar with. There's nothing from outer space here, there's nothing that's particularly sequential like math where you must understand each step if you're going to understand the next, etc. But beware, if you start thinking that, I guarantee the course will do you in. A number of semesters ago I figured that students would have gotten a score of "21" on the first exam by simply choosing "B" on every multiple choice item and doing nothing else on the exam. Three students got a "28" or lower, and of course they all claimed to have gone to class regularly, taken the self-check quizzes, and studied for the exam. But of course they really hadn't. Student grades have generally been good or bad, and there have been few in-between grades -- few "C's." I think (but don't hold me to it), if you take the course seriously and put in the same amount of work as you would if it were a classroom course, you'll do well.

A few semesters ago a student talked to me about this course that she was thinking about taking the next semester. When I told her (I think it was a "her," but I don't recall) that the course was online and she wouldn't have to go to a regular class in a classroom, she replied, "oh, then I'll have time to take another course (in addition to this)." You see the problem here? My best advice: set aside time for "attending" class regularly, and stick to it. Students frequently tell me that there's almost too much material to learn. From different things I see, I can tell about how often students really attend class, and I know they often attend once a week -- that's the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday classes all on one day, usually Friday. They try to go to three classes at one time, and indeed they find too much material there (at one sitting). That's like attending three math or chemistry classes one right after the other. My strong suggestion is to go to one class at a time, usually three times a week. The better you approach the class with the mindset typical of those attending classroom classes, I think the better you'll do. I don't want to scare you, but it's a fact that it's taken a few students at least six attempts to pass the course -- although maybe that's not bad out of hundreds of students. The last one who took it over and over finally passed, but with only a "D." The other who I recall never did pass (the student's pattern was to disappear about halfway through).

Studies have shown that age is a big factor in success with online courses. It's typically the case that "older" students are slower learners (they're called "adult learners" not only because of their being adults, but also because of the slower pace and more structured style they require). With online courses, though, the older you are, the more likely it is that you'll do well. The reason, of course, is that older students have learned how to discipline themselves for learning, they're often not as distracted as younger students by things outside of class, and they're often more goal oriented. Especially if you are not very far out of high school, pay particular attention to developing a routine for attending classes and for studying.

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