Conversion Factors and Construction by Eddie Huff

Introduction to Conversion Factors


When you first hear the term “conversion factor” you may think it is something you have never heard or used before. Many people don’t realize the many conversion factors we internalize every day without even realizing it. A conversion factor is basically a system people use to switch back and forth to different units of measurement such as inches to feet and feet to yards. We use many different types of conversion factors for temperature and lengths. It is extremely common for people to use conversion factors in construction. To make conversion factors more complicated, the United States and basically the rest of the world have two completely different methods of measurement. In the United States we use a system called the Standard System, also known as the Imperial System, which uses lengths such as inches, feet, yards, and miles. The other system is referred to as the metric system and it uses measurements like millimeters, meters and kilometers. The systems are not only constrained to measurements of length, they are also used to quantify temperature with units such as Fahrenheit in the Standard system and Celsius in the Metric System.

Academic Setting


Despite the complications of the two clashing systems we have ways to know how to compare two different units to get the same amount. In my Chemistry class we have been taught that a certain amount of one unit is equal to a certain amount in a different unit. For example, we learned that one inch is always equal to 2.54 centimeters. With this knowledge we have created a conversion factor, we converted one inch into 2.54 centimeters. We can now figure out how many centimeters are in how ever many inches you want by simply multiplying the number of inches wanted by the conversion factor.


Conversion factors are things that can be find in so many different places.  Outside of the academic setting, you can find them in places like construction, as you now know, but also in the kitchen.  There are many different measurements and conversions for those measurements in cooking.  In the academic setting, the study of conversion factors goes far beyond just chemistry. There are several other types of conversion factors someone may encounter in a math class.  The conversions seen in chemistry classes are much different than the ones seen in a chemistry course.  An example of one of these conversions is the ability to convert a temperature in Celsius to one in Fahrenheit.  A mathematical type of conversion factor is a logistic function and in a logistic function one is supposed to solve for f(g(x)).  Many people may not understand what that means but what it is basically saying is if you have f(g) what is g(x)?  Basically, the equation will give what f(g) is and one must use a chart to see what other number corresponded with that.  Once that corresponding number is found, that number is used to a find another that corresponds with that one.  This way of solving this type of function is very similar to a conversion factor.  A logistic function is a difficult thing to explain but it is close to what we use a conversion factor for.   With the example of the logistic function it is clear that conversion factors are not limited or restricted to just construction, cooking, or chemistry.  We can see that conversion factors are something we see a little bit of in more than just one academic setting.  Given certain information people can use conversion factors in most applied academic fields, a conversion factor is not only used for chemistry. 

Conversion Factors In Construction


When construction workers are building a house, it would not be very efficient if all their measurements were completely in yards or completely in inches. They can use conversion factors to switch from yards into feet or feet into inches. As long as they know that one yard is equal to three feet and one foot is equal to 12 inches, they can be a lot more precise with their measurements. Maybe a ceiling height of 4 yards maybe just a bit too high but since the builders can convert to feet, they can make the ceiling 10 feet high which is just 2 feet shorter than 4 yards. Anyone can figure out how we know 10 feet is 2 feet shorter than 4 yards if they know that one yards is equal to three feet like we stated before.conversion-factors-examples

Architects use a tool called an architects scale,  this tool allows them to draw up floor plans and layouts that can later be used to build the actual house or building.  This tool is basically like a more enhanced ruler.  For someone who is the “handyman” around the house or “DIY’er”, one of these tools may be extremely helpful.  This tool will allow the builders or designers to create a model in a way that will directly represent the actual structure once it is scaled up to size.  To scale the model up to size is a conversion factor commonly used in construction.  To build any structure, house, or building the correct way, the architect must use this tool and a conversion factor.


Conversion factors are a tool most people see in their everyday lives without even realizing that it is a conversion factor. Many people may not know what the term “conversion factor” is but more than likely they have used it before and know how to use it now. You can use a conversion factor for any type of measurement. In this blog I focused mainly on the conversion factors that are needed in measuring length due to the fact that construction is primarily involved with lengths, but there are conversion factors for temperatures as well. Some conversion factors may not be as common as other but can be just as useful. Several may be mostly used in a scientific setting but there are some you may use at home. The GPS in your car is constantly using different conversion factors for directions so you do not have to. Whether you know it or not the conversion factors we have today are helping us more than you think. They are getting us where we need to be and putting roofs over our heads. Conversion factors are an extremely important tool we have available to us.



  • “Architects+ruler – Google Search.” Architects+ruler – Google Search. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2016



  • “WSDOT – Metric Conversion Factors.” WSDOT – Metric Conversion Factors. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2016



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s