"If I have to move up in a building, I choose the elevator over the escalator. Because one time I was riding the escalator and I tripped.
I fell down the stairs for an hour and a half."
~ Demetri Martin

List of recommended study materials:

- Kaplan 2009  (I used 2009, later versions are the same with new cover art)

- Archiflash cards (I had the 3.1 set and used the "M/E" section)
- NCARB practice program & study guide quizzes
- Ballast practice exams

       (Note: eBay is also a good way to find cheaper books... and to sell them off when you're done.)

- Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings (Ninth Edition or later) [aka "MEEB"]

        How To Read MEEB:  review the charts & diagrams... then read chapter points on any diagrams you find confusing...

                                                   you don't have to read all 1700+ pages!

- post your vignettes for review on ARECoach.com 

- NCARB in-exam References tab: http://www.ncarb.org/en/ARE/~/media/Files/PDF/ARE-Exam-Guides/BSreferences.ashx

Best set of pre-written study notes I have found for Building Systems:

MEEB Study Chart for 8th, 9th & 10th Editions:
Special thanks to arecoach.com member mick2 for providing this chart!


Lugnut's BS Vignette FAQs (from areforum.org)

Q. Does it matter which way the damper points?
A. This appears to be a minor issue at most. The long leg of the symbol must be parallel to the wall…either in the center of the wall or at the face of the wall.

Q. How do I center the grid precisely?
A. You don’t. Just get it as close as you can. The snap setting will not permit exact centering.

Q. What if I have ceiling tile slivers?
A. Doesn't matter. This is a ME vignette, not a pretty ceiling tile vignette. Center the lights.

Q. What is the ideal distance from the wall for lights?
A. That depends on the type of light and the lighting chart that goes with it.

Q. I can’t get the lights to fit the room to provide the ideal requirement. Should I over or under light the room?
A. Decide which based on the use of the room.

Q. What is the ideal distance between supply diffusers and return grilles?
A. A minimum of 4’ is recommended, but the farther apart the better.

Q. Should supply diffusers be placed on the window side of the room?
A. There is no evidence that this matters to NCARB.

Q. Can a flex duct supply more than one diffuser?
A. No. This is clearly defined in the program.

Q. The program specifies 1 set per 144 s.f. or portion thereof. If a room has 145 s.f., should I place one or two sets of supply/return? Do I just round up or down?
A. 2 sets should be provided as a strict interpretation of the requirement but…the 3.1 sample passing solution had a room at 145 s.f. with only one set. The program also said to be efficient. An additional set for 1 s.f. is not efficient. Catch 22. If you are over the required area, add the extra set to be safe.

Q. How many accent lights do I need?
A. That depends on the lighting chart. Determine how far from the light you can get the required lighting level. Draw sketch circles that size. Place them along the
appropriate wall so that their intersections occur at the face of the wall. Then place the accent lights at the center of each circle. The goal is to cover as much of the wall as possible.  Note if you change the distance between the lights, you change the distance from the wall as well because the intersection point of the sketch circles will change.

Common Mistakes:
1. Inadequate separation between supply & return.
2. Return grilles not supported on 3 sides by the grid. They’ll fall out. Do not assume the software is smart enough to place grid on the 4th side of a 2x2 light.
3. Incorrect light spacing. Read the lighting charts carefully. The current NCARB passing solution (2009) shows incorrect light spacing in the Architect’s Office.
4. Connect the flex duct to the center of diffusers, not the edge.
5. Grid overlapping ceiling elements.
6. Rigid duct crossing joists when not within 2’ of a beam or bearing wall.
7. More than one rigid duct for each riser. Adding an extra damper wastes money.

Accent Lights:
See the diagrams via the links below. The first one does not work. The sketch circles must intersect at the wall.
The number of accent lights depends on their distance from the wall.

Accent lighting diagram (by areforum member

Additional accent light spacing diagrams (via areforum):


Check out the ERRORS page for additional info on the vignettes:


Great areforum threads and other helpful links:

MEEB (free) Practice Quizzes:

Definitions for confusing lighting terminology (fun too), (from Steve Johnson):

Difference between Luminance and Illuminance (from dwg):

Psychrometric chart explanation (from D. Giordano):

Lighting fundamentals (from carpenter):


A helpful plumbing site:

Septic systems video (from dwg):

Pictures of HVAC & electrical equipment (from Mom2two):

Glossary of acoustical terms (from Mom2two):

A helpful electrical site:

Tired of studying?  Of course you are... kick back and enjoy this...

This one's not quite as good... but it's still a three minute vaca from studying...