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What does an Architectural Engineer do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated: Feb 25, 2024

An architectural engineer is a construction industry professional who ensures the feasibility of a building’s operating systems as they relate to the architectural design. She is customarily required to be well versed in building codes and cost efficiency as well as proficient in meeting complex architectural challenges. A person in this job position commonly works for a variety of builders and contractors as an independent contractor or is on the staff of an architectural company.

Efficiency in new construction is normally one of an architectural engineer’s main concerns. Her areas of expertise typically include plumbing, electrical systems, fire safety and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Structural integrity and lighting systems are also normally examined by an architectural engineer. Many projects require her input on engineering specifications and energy load factors. She may analyze all these aspects of construction or concentrate in one area.

Questions and concerns regarding project issues are frequently made while reviewing blueprints, well before construction gets underway. An architectural engineer is also frequently required to advise on engineering and design issues as a project progresses. She may also be asked to advise on problems with completed projects and offer suggestions for resolving them.

An architectural engineer commonly work in tandem with the architects and construction engineers on projects. She typically confers with them on how each system is proposed for integration into the overall structure. Her job is to identify areas that need improvement and develop plans with her associates to implement those upgrades in the most cost-effective way.

Success in this position requires the ability to understand how functionality and aesthetics can be harmoniously integrated without compromising the quality of either aspect. For instance, if a building has cathedral ceilings that normally necessitate more energy for cooling and heating, an architectural engineer would typically be expected to develop an energy efficient system that could be incorporated without losing the pleasing visual effects of the ceilings.

Other architectural challenges that frequently require the input of an architectural engineer relate to fire safety. Architects may include working fireplaces in a building’s design without proper consideration of reinforced firewalls in those areas. The engineer is also normally responsible for assuring that the correct number of fire sprinklers and smoke detectors are installed during the construction process.

Qualifications for this position normally include completion of a 5-year bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering. Most regions also require a license in this field. Experience in any area of construction engineering or architectural design is desirable.

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Discussion Comments
By bythewell — On Sep 04, 2011

The sophistication of the most modern buildings these days is amazing. I just saw a documentary on the Burj, that massive sky scraper that I think is still the world's tallest building.

They put in all kinds of fail safes to prevent wind damage and so forth.

They even have rooms which are fireproof so that, in the case of a terrorist attack, or even just an ordinary fire, people can go in there to wait for help.

I imagine they must study the most advanced building examples like these in architectural engineering schools.

I've never had any interest in it before, but I think it could be very fascinating!

By Mor — On Sep 03, 2011

I saw some really interesting exhibits on earthquake proofing buildings recently. They actually put the building on what looks like thick, rubber stilts that will help it to absorb the shock of the moving earth and move with it to prevent damage.

It makes me wonder if there is a way for architectural engineers to volunteer overseas like doctors and computer engineers can (in Doctors without Borders and Geek Corps).

I'm sure there are techniques which can be developed and applied to buildings in Haiti, for example, that would be much appreciated by the locals. And this kind of architectural engineering work would look great on a resume.

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