Is a House a Building?

There’s a lot of jargon on how homes are labeled as we are constantly changing the definition of a home. What is the difference between a house and a building? Do you live in a house? A building? An apartment? A townhouse?

We’ll not only look into the different living setups but also what each one may entail.

A house is considered a type of building, namely, “residential.” Buildings can have multiple functions: residential, commercial, institutional, etc.  A house can be a standalone building in itself, possibly with other buildings attached to it like a garage, garden shed or guesthouse. However, one’s “home” can also be an apartment unit or flat within a building. Residential buildings come in many forms such as a single detached house, apartment building, townhouse or row house.

What’s the Difference?

In architecture school, we were taught that “buildings” are considered habitable structures, whereas “structures” are non habitable such as water tanks, bridges, towers, spires and the like.

“Habitable” doesn’t necessarily mean we live, eat and sleep there but that it’s for human use like offices, shopping malls, recreational centers, hospitals, hotels, etc.


Simply put, a house has dedicated functions for human dwelling in sleeping, eating, cooking, bathing — solely as an abode. Being a building, it can still have one or multiple floors. It can be part of a building as in the U.S. is called “apartment” while in the U.K. is referred to as a “flat.” It can also be a standalone building with other accessory buildings attached to it like a garage, shed, guest house or greenhouse.

There are various housing types and ways of acquiring a house. You could purchase a house already built, buy via a developer in a subdivision or have one “self built.” Self built meaning you hire an architect, engineer and have it made from scratch. Houses also vary in residency permanency. One can be renting the house temporarily or own the entire house and lot. (1)


Being the umbrella term, a building is any closed structure with walls and a roof that is often permanent in one location. They have a variety of sizes and functions such as residential and commercial or can be a combination of many labeled “mixed-use.” (2)

The ways of acquiring a building are more limited in the sense that it’s uncommon for one to own the entire building. However, there are several buildings by big developers put up in several central locations. Being taken care of by a company means the exterior maintenance of the house is no longer your problem. Homeowners can even enjoy the building gym, pool, security and business meeting rooms for a monthly fee.

Buildings have evolved throughout history using several building materials, innovation while adapting to different climates and historical styles.

Therefore all houses are buildings (if not a vehicle) but not all buildings are houses.

Images from Google Search,

Gleaning from the Google study and word search above, the term “building” gained more popularity in the age of skyscrapers (the first one being built in 1884, Chicago). Whereas the term “house” is slowly losing its popularity. This may be due to the fact that more variety of homes have been popping up since such as the walk up, townhouse, apartment condominium. (3)

Types of Houses

We may think a “house” is just any building we see in a subdivision, but there are several classifications to different types of houses:

  • Detached House: a standalone house occupied by one household and no shared walls on any sides.
  • Semi-Detached: This implies 1 shared wall between 2 neighbors (a party wall or firewall). Other variations of this are a terraced house, row house or townhouse that has 2 shared walls.
  • Bungalow: One storey homes. Often found in the US previously as a vacation home
  • Duplex: A standalone house or apartment unit having two floors. It can also pertain to 2 homes back to back sharing a wall. (In contrast to a townhouse that has a continuous shared wall on both sides)
  • Apartment (US) /Flat (UK): a unit in a condominium building where one has neighbors above, below and beside the home. This multi-family dwelling can have commercial amenities on its lower floors for residents.
  • Mobile Homes: this is the only exception to all houses being buildings, as this is a vehicle. Mobile homes are those on wheels and can also be referred to as a RV (recreational vehicle)/Trailer/Caravan (UK). Some “tiny homes” are made onto a vehicle to give the flexibility of location, others are giant cars with its interiors built to fit home functions. Many mobile homes can be parked in a “trailer park” as their living address.

Other  names for homes are a cottage, cabin or chalet. Grander homes are also known as palaces, villas and castles. (4)

A House or an Apartment?

Since a house can be either a standalone structure or part of a building, the real question is, what feels like home to you?

One has to assess their lifestyle to properly evaluate which living setup suits them. This can be a simple matter of budget, but more so logistics. A few questions to ponder are:

  • How do you go to work?
  • Will you save on time and transportation by living in the city?
  • What are your pastime activities? Does a house or apartment better suit those hobbies?
  • What is your relationship with your family? Do you see them weekly? Is it more convenient to pick a location closer to them? Or are you needing to accommodate several relatives often and need a bigger space?
  • Do you travel often? Or always out of town? Do you have someone to watch the house when you leave?
  • Do you have many pets? Will your condominium building allow pets? Will your pet enjoy or get to walk around where you are?

Map out your life pattern to try and get a better picture of what life would be like in a house or apartment unit. (5)

Detached House


  • Customized and personalized
  • As much space as you like
  • Able to accommodate relatives
  • Better for bigger families
  • Better for pets
  • Ideal for family/friend gatherings


  • High maintenance
  • High cost
  • High utilities
  • Limited spatial functions
  • Lower Security
  • Need transportation (car) to city

Apartment Buildings


  • Security
  • Facilities
  • If need less space
  • Less Utilities
  • Less Maintenance
  • Central location in city
  • Easier to rent and finance


  • Little to no personalization
  • Space may be too small
  • Noise & Privacy of neighbors
  • Loss of garden/garage/backyard
  • Maintenance dues
  • Own “air” or possibly a share of the property

What Feels Like Home?

The question at hand is not, “What living situation is better than the other?” What’s most important is finding a place you can call “home.”

The pandemic has forced us to see our spaces and buildings no longer dedicated to one function but adaptable to many. This makes it understandable to those who’ll get even more confused as architecture progresses.

What we do know more of, going forward post pandemic, is that we shouldn’t look at a home solely as a place to live. What can we do if we were to be locked down in this space? We should look at where it’s located, see your surroundings and notice the impacts they have on your health physically and mentally.


  1. Designing Buildings. (2022, January 4). House. House – Designing Buildings. Retrieved March 2022, from
  2. Ask Difference. (2021, October 12). House vs. building. House vs. Building – What’s the difference? . Retrieved March 29, 2022, from
  3. Oxford University. (n.d.). Oxford languages and google – english. Oxford Languages. Retrieved March 2022, from
  4. LearningEnglishPRO. (2021, September 14). Types of houses English glossary | english … – YouTube. Retrieved March 2022, from
  5. Urazia. (2019, April 11). Apartment vs. House what’s better for living. DailyScrawl. Retrieved March 2022, from