Architectural engineering

César Pelli's Ratner Athletic Center uses cables and masts as load-bearing devices.

Architectural engineering, also known as building engineering, is the application of engineering principles and technology to building design and construction. Definitions of an architectural engineer may refer to:

Engineering for designer

Structural engineering

Structural engineering involves the analysis and design of physical objects (buildings, bridges, equipment supports, towers and walls). Those concentrating on buildings are responsible for the structural performance of a large part of the built environment and are, sometimes, informally referred to as "building engineers". Structural engineers require expertise in strength of materials and in the seismic design of structures covered by earthquake engineering. Architectural Engineers sometimes structural as one aspect of their designs; the structural discipline when practiced as a specialty works closely with architects and other engineering specialists.

Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP)

MEP room in a building

Mechanical engineering and electrical engineering engineers are specialists, commonly referred to as (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) when engaged in the building design fields. Also known as "building services engineering" in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.[1] Mechanical engineers often design and oversee the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing, and rain gutter systems. Plumbing designers often include design specifications for simple active fire protection systems, but for more complicated projects, fire protection engineers are often separately retained. Electrical engineers are responsible for the building's power distribution, telecommunication, fire alarm, signalization, lightning protection and control systems, as well as lighting systems.

The architectural engineer (PE) in the United States

In many jurisdictions of the United States, the architectural engineer is a licensed engineering professional.[2] Usually a graduate of an architectural engineering university program preparing students to perform whole-building design in competition with architect-engineer teams; or for practice in one of structural, mechanical or electrical fields of building design, but with an appreciation of integrated architectural requirements.

Formal architectural engineering education, following the engineering model of earlier disciplines, developed in the late 19th century, and became widespread in the United States by the mid-20th century. With the establishment of a specific "architectural engineering" NCEES Professional Engineering registration examination in the 1990s, and first offering in April 2003, architectural engineering became recognized as a distinct engineering discipline in the United States. Architectural engineers are not entitled to practice architecture unless they are also licensed as architects.

The architect as architectural engineer

In some countries, the practice of architecture includes planning, designing and overseeing the building's construction, and architecture, as a profession providing architectural services, is referred to as "architectural engineering". In Japan, a "first-class architect" plays the dual role of architect and building engineer, although the services of a licensed "structural design first-class architect" are required for buildings over a certain scale.[3]

In some languages, such as Korean and Arabic, "architect" is literally translated as "architectural engineer". In some countries, an "architectural engineer" (such as the ingegnere edile in Italy) is entitled to practice architecture and is often referred to as an architect.[4] These individuals are often also structural engineers. In other countries, such as Germany, Austria, Iran, and most of the Arab countries, architecture graduates receive an engineering degree (Dipl.-Ing. – Diplom-Ingenieur).[5]

In Spain, an "architect" has a technical university education and legal powers to carry out building structure and facility projects.[6]

In Brazil, architects and engineers used to share the same accreditation process (CONFEA – Federal Council of Engineering, Architecture and Agronomy). Now the Brazilian architects and urbanists have their own accreditation process (CAU – Architecture and Urbanism Council). Besides traditional architecture design training, Brazilian architecture courses also offer complementary training in engineering disciplines such as structural, electrical, hydraulic and mechanical engineering. After graduation, architects can be responsible for design and construction in these areas (except in electric wiring, where the architect autonomy is limited to systems up to 30kVA), applied to buildings, urban environment, built cultural heritage, landscape planning, interiorscape planning and regional planning.[7][8]

In Greece licensed architectural engineers are graduates from architecture faculties that belong to the Polytechnic University,[9] obtaining an "Engineering Diploma". They graduate after 5 years of studies and are fully entitled architects once they become members of the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE – Τεχνικό Επιμελητήριο Ελλάδος).[10][11] The Engineering Diploma equals a master's degree in ECTS units (300) according to the Bologna Accords.[12]


Further information: Engineer's degree

The architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical engineering branches each have well established educational requirements that are usually fulfilled by completion of a university program.

An air handling unit is used for the heating and cooling of air in a central location (click on image for legend). Bringing together knowledge of acoustic engineering and HVAC is one example of the multi-disciplined nature of architectural engineering

Architectural engineering as a single integrated field of study

What differentiates architectural engineering from architecture (architect) as a separate and single, integrated field of study, compared to other engineering disciplines, is its multi-disciplinary engineering approach. Through training in and appreciation of architecture, the field seeks integration of building systems within its overall building design. Architectural engineering includes the design of building systems including heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing, fire protection, electrical, lighting, architectural acoustics, and structural systems. In some university programs, students are required to concentrate on one of the systems; in others, they can receive a generalist architectural or building engineering degree.

See also


  1. Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers
  2. "Licensure". NCEES. Retrieved 2013-10-20.
  3. "Architects / Building Engineers in Japan" (PDF). The Japan Architectural Education and Information Center. p. 5. Retrieved 2014-08-16.
  4. Edilnews (in Italian)
  5. German Chamber of Architects Archived April 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. "Ley de Ordenación de la Edificación" (Building Management Act)
  7. Resolução 1010/05 – Conselho Federal de Engenharia, Arquitetura e Urbanismo – CONFEA Archived May 15, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. LEI nº 12.378, de 2010 – Presidência da República
  9. Polytechnic (Greece)
  10. Technical Chamber of Greece (Τεχνικό Επιμελητήριο Ελλάδος)
  11. "Role & Objectives". Technical Chamber of Greece. Archived from the original on 2011-08-14.
    The Technical Chamber of Greece has more than 100,000 members encompassing all the engineering disciplines as well as architecture. A prerequisite for being a member is to be licensed as a qualified engineer or architect and to be a graduate of an engineering and architecture schools of a Greek university, or of an equivalent school from abroad. The Technical Chamber of Greece is the authorized body to provide work licenses to engineers of all disciplines as well as architects, graduated in Greece or abroad. The license is awarded after examinations. The examinations take place three to four times a year.
  12. Bologna Process#Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education Area
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