• University of Malaya logo

Building Pathology: The Science Behind Why Buildings Fail

Understand the science behind built environment failures, and diagnose and repair the problems affecting your buildings.

384 enrolled on this course

Defective and exposed roof covering (Image by Monsterkoi from Pixabay)

Building Pathology: The Science Behind Why Buildings Fail

384 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Take a closer look at building pathology causes, effects, and solutions

In the built environment, with all of the different building materials used, environmental conditions, and other factors, there are countless possibilities for error.

Essentially, no two structures will ever be exactly the same. The best way to deal with this, and minimise failure, is with a clear understanding of building pathology.

On this four-week course from Universiti Malaya, you’ll learn the science behind building defects, including how to diagnose and deal with them. By the end, you’ll be ready to take on any building pathology you are faced with.

Delve into the science of building pathology

This course gives you a solid foundation in everything that can go wrong with a building’s structure, stability, and longevity. You’ll learn the scientific explanations for problems with various building materials, design, and other issues.

Develop your own building surveyor skill set

Importantly, this course won’t just explain the science behind building failures. It also gives you the skills you need to systematically and critically evaluate these defects in the manner that a building surveyor would.

You’ll learn to describe the problems that you see in a way that helps building professionals diagnose the underlying issues and then suggest improvements that are both suitable and sustainable. In short, you’ll be part of the solution to the problem.

Study built environment pathology in a high-quality learning environment

Accredited by both the Royal Institute of Surveyors Malaysia and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors UK, Universiti Malaya also has a staff of seasoned experts eager to impart their knowledge. Overall, the University will support your studies as strongly as a well-constructed building!

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds Why does a spot of mould suddenly appear on your ceiling or wall? What are those white deposits appearing on the outside of buildings and electrical fixtures? Building Pathology is a course on the science of building defects and failures. Defects can happen as a result of normal wear and tear of a building’s component or materials, or it could be the result of an untimely failure due to issues in design, construction or use of a new building. Hello, I am Dr Zahiruddin Fitri, your course educator from the Department of Building Surveying, Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Malaya.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds I have been teaching building pathology to Building Surveying students at this university since 2012 and have conducted numerous surveys on buildings to find out the real causes of defects. In this course we will be exploring why buildings fail so that you will be able to identify defects in your home so that action could be taken to rectify them. We will look at several common building materials such as timber, metal, concrete and bricks and see what causes them to fail. We will also be discussing water and moisture and how does it affect buildings so profoundly. We are going to learn how building pathologist investigate and confirm root causes of defects and the tools that they use to investigate them.

Skip to 1 minute and 40 seconds I will be also guiding you each week on the topics that we are discussing and to answer any questions that you may have and help you discuss and understand building material behaviour. I hope this course will be able to help you understand the mechanism of defects and to tackle issues of defects in your own home. I look forward to learning with you over the next few weeks and hope that you’ll enjoy the course.


  • Week 1

    Introduction to the science of defect

    • Welcome to the course

      An introduction to the course and the course objectives. Get to know your educator and your fellow learners.

    • Building Defects

      Building defects are easy to spot even if you don't have technical knowledge on building pathology. Know what they are and how it affects your home.

    • Scientific Method as Investigative Tools

      One of the method that can be employed to investigate defects is by using the scientific method. Learn how a building pathologist use a systematic procedure for investigation.

    • Weekly wrap up

      Assess your understanding for this week's topic and review attainment of the learning outcomes.

  • Week 2

    Defects caused by water/moisture

    • Why is moisture detrimental to buildings?

      Take a look at the chemistry of water and how it reacts with building detrimentally with building materials.

    • Dampness & Condensation

      Condensation, dampness and its effects on buildings and its occupants.

    • Moisture and Building Materials

      Different building materials interacts differently to moisture. Explore how here.

    • Weekly wrap up

      Assess your understanding for this week's topic and review attainment of the learning outcomes.

  • Week 3

    Defects on Timber

    • Timber and wood products in construction

      Timber is an important and widely used building material all over the world. Explore how defects is possible in this versatile product.

    • Timber defect – inherent

      Inherent timber defects happens naturally as the tree grows. How does this affect timber performance?

    • Timber conversion defects

      Conversion of timber can introduce defects later in the service life if it is not done thoughtfully, following best practices of the industry.

    • Defects in construction woods

      Learn how defects can be happen in construction woods

    • Weekly wrap up

      Assess your understanding for this week's topic and review attainment of the learning outcomes.

  • Week 4

    Defects on Concrete

    • Concrete in construction

      Concrete is ubiquitous in construction, all over the world. Explore how defects is possible in this versatile product.

    • Defects of fresh concrete

      Fresh concrete when designed and placed properly will last a long time. There are limited types of defects associated with fresh concrete.

    • Defects of hardened concrete

      Hardened concrete should be continually monitored for defects and rectified if defects started appear. A well designed concrete should last the entire design life cycle of the structure.

    • Weekly wrap up

      Assess your understanding for this week's topic and review attainment of the learning outcomes.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify causes of building failures on different types of building
  • Develop an understanding of the technical skills of a Building Pathologist in investigating defects
  • Describe defects on common building materials such as timber, metal, concrete and bricks
  • Investigate defects on different building elements

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for building professionals, homeowners, built environment students, and anyone else interested in diagnosing and repairing building pathology.

Who will you learn with?

Dr Zahir as he is normally called is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Malaya.
He is also the deputy director of the Academic Enhancement & Leadership Development Centre

Who developed the course?

Universiti Malaya

Universiti Malaya is the premier research university in Malaysia, committed to advancing knowledge and learning through quality research and education for the nation and for humanity.

  • Established

  • Location

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • World ranking

    Top 60Source: QS World University Rankings 2021

Ways to learn

Buy this course

Subscribe & save

Limited access

Choose the best way to learn for you!

$134/one-off payment


Automatically renews


Fulfill your current learning needDevelop skills to further your careerSample the course materials
Access to this courseticktick

Access expires 14 May 2024

Access to 1,000+ coursescrosstickcross
Learn at your own paceticktickcross
Discuss your learning in commentstickticktick
Certificate when you're eligiblePrinted and digitalDigital onlycross
Continue & Upgrade

Cancel for free anytime

Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save


Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 14 May 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLbuildingdefects to talk about this course on social media.