Basic Structural Elements of Building

The basic structural elements of buildings will be discussed under five subheadings including; slab, beam, column, wall and roof.


Slab is the large flat horizontal element of a building. (Pavement) and usually spans between beams or walls. Slabs can be made of wood, concrete, or interlocking blocks or bricks, although slabs made of concrete are the most common. In storey buildings, slabs are usually supported on beams or columns.


Beams are horizontal load bearing members. In its basic form, the main function of a beam is to transfer slab and wall loads to the columns. Depending on the type of building in terms of strength and materials, beams can be made of wood, concrete, reinforced concrete or steel.


Columns are the vertical load bearing members of a building and their main function is to transmit beam, slab, wall, roof, as well as live loads safely down to the foundation of the building. Depending on strength requirements and specifications, columns can be made of wood, reinforced concrete or steel.


Walls are usually vertical members and can be built of wood, bricks, blocks or concrete. Walls within a building would be constructed to have openings for doors and windows where appropriate. Walls can be load or non load bearing. A simple example of a load bearing wall is a situation where the wall directly supports the roof of a building.


Roof is the upper covering of a Building. Its main function is to protect the building from rain and heat from the sun. Roofs can either be flat or pitched.

Uses of Stones in Building/Civil Engineering Construction

Stones are naturally available building materials that have been used since early civilization. Type of stones used in civil/ building construction works are igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic in origin. Stones required for building/civil engineering construction must be strong, durable, hard, tough,  and cost effective.

Uses of stones in building/civil engineering construction

  • For construction of foundations, walls, columns and arches
  • For flooring and damp proof courses
  • Facework of buildings, paving of roads and base courses
  • Abutment and bridges, dams and retaining walls
  • Common building stones

The following are some commonly used building stones


An igneous rock. Colour varies from dark grey to black. Used in road construction and as aggregates for making concrete.


An igneous rock. Crystalline in structure. Particles sizes ranges from fine to coarse grained. They are used for dams, river walls and bridge piers. Also used as coarse aggregates in concrete.


Sand-stones are stratified rocks consisting of quartz and feldspar. They come in many colours including white, grey, red, yellow, brown and dark grey. Sandstone is not as strong as granite and balsalt. They are used for masonry work, dams, bridge piers and river walls.


Slates are metamorphic rocks composed of quarz, mica and clay. Their colour varies from dark grey to black. They are used for roofing tiles, pavements etc.


This is also a type of metamorphic rock with porous structure. Its colour varies, i.e. brown, red, yellow, grey etc.  laterite is commonly used as filling material.


Another type of metamorphic rock. Marble is available in different colours such as pink and white. Used for facing and ornamental works.