Architectural engineering

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Cesar Pelli's Ratner Athletic Center uses cables and masts as load-bearing devices. 20071123 Ratner Center.jpg
César Pelli's Ratner Athletic Center uses cables and masts as load-bearing devices.

Architectural engineering, also known as building engineering or architecture engineering, is an engineering discipline that deals with the technological aspects and multi-disciplinary approach to planning, design, construction and operation of buildings, such as analysis and integrated design of environmental systems (energy conservation, HVAC, plumbing, lighting, fire protection, acoustics, vertical and horizontal transportation, electrical power systems), structural systems, behavior and properties of building components and materials, and construction management. [1] [2]


From reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to the construction of resilient buildings, architectural engineers are at the forefront of addressing several major challenges of the 21st century. They apply the latest scientific knowledge and technologies to the design of buildings. Architectural engineering as a relatively new licensed profession emerged in the 20th century as a result of the rapid technological developments. Architectural engineers are at the forefront of two major historical opportunities that today's world is immersed in: (1) that of rapidly advancing computer-technology, and (2) the parallel revolution arising from the need to create a sustainable planet. [3] [4]

Distinguished from architecture as an art of design, architectural engineering, is the art and science of engineering and construction as practiced in respect of buildings. [5]

Structural Engineering

Structural engineering involves the analysis and design of the built environment (buildings, bridges, equipment supports, towers and walls). Those concentrating on buildings are sometimes informally referred to as "building engineers". Structural engineers require expertise in strength of materials, structural analysis, and in predicting structural load such as from weight of the building, occupants and contents, and extreme events such as wind, rain, ice, and seismic design of structures which is referred to as earthquake engineering. Architectural Engineers sometimes incorporate 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 MEP Room Virginia Tech.JPG
MEP room in a building

Mechanical engineering and electrical engineering engineers are specialists when engaged in the building design fields. This is known as mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) throughout the United States, or building services engineering in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. [6] Mechanical engineers often design and oversee the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing, and rainwater 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. [7] Usually a graduate of an EAC/ABET-accredited 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. Although some states require a BS degree from an EAC/ABET-accredited engineering program, with no exceptions, about two thirds of the states accept BS degrees from ETAC/ABET-accredited architectural engineering technology programs to become licensed engineering professionals. Architectural engineering technology graduates, with applied engineering skills, often gain further learning with an MS degree in engineering and/or NAAB-accredited Masters of Architecture to become licensed as both an engineer and architect. This path requires the individual to pass state licensing exams in both disciplines. States handle this situation differently on experienced gained working under a licensed engineer and/or registered architect prior to taking the examinations. This education model is more in line with the educational system in the United Kingdom where an accredited MEng or MS degree in engineering for further learning is required by the Engineering Council to be registered as a Chartered Engineer. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) facilitate the licensure and credentialing of architects but requirements for registration often vary between states. In the state of New Jersey, a registered architect is allowed to sit for the PE exam and a professional engineer is allowed to take the design portions of the Architectural Registration Exam (ARE), to become a registered architect. It is becoming more common for highly educated architectural engineers in the United States to become licensed as both engineer and architect.

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. Up to date NCEES account allows engineers to apply to other states PE license "by comity".

In most license-regulated jurisdictions, architectural engineers are not entitled to practice architecture unless they are also licensed as architects. Practice of structural engineering in high-risk locations, e.g., due to strong earthquakes, or on specific types of higher importance buildings such as hospitals, may require separate licensing as well. Regulations and customary practice vary widely by state or city.

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"(構造設計一級建築士) are required for buildings over a certain scale. [8]

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.[ citation needed ] 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). [9]

In Spain, an "architect" has a technical university education and legal powers to carry out building structure and facility projects. [10]

In Brazil, architects and engineers used to share the same accreditation process (Conselho Federal de Engenheiros, Arquitetos e Agrônomos (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 focus in architectural planning, yet they can be responsible to the whole building, when it concerns to small buildings (except in electric wiring, where the architect autonomy is limited to systems up to 30kVA, and it has to be done by an Electrical Engineer), applied to buildings, urban environment, built cultural heritage, landscape planning, interiorscape planning and regional planning. [11] [12]

In Greece licensed architectural engineers are graduates from architecture faculties that belong to the Polytechnic University, [13] 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). [14] [15] 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. The Engineering Diploma equals a master's degree in ECTS units (300) according to the Bologna Accords. [16]


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 Air handling unit.JPG
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

Its multi-disciplinary engineering approach is what differentiates architectural engineering from architecture (the field of the architect): which is an integrated, separate and single, field of study when compared to other engineering disciplines.

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

Related Research Articles

Mechanical engineering Engineering discipline and economic branch

Mechanical engineering is an engineering branch that combines engineering physics and mathematics principles with materials science to design, analyze, manufacture, and maintain mechanical systems. It is one of the oldest and broadest of the engineering branches.

Engineer Professional practitioner of engineering and its subclasses

Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are professionals who invent, design, analyze, build and test machines, complex systems, structures, gadgets and materials to fulfill functional objectives and requirements while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety and cost. The word engineer is derived from the Latin words ingeniare and ingenium ("cleverness"). The foundational qualifications of an engineer typically include a four-year bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, or in some jurisdictions, a master's degree in an engineering discipline plus four to six years of peer-reviewed professional practice and passage of engineering board examinations.

Construction engineering is a professional discipline that deals with the designing, planning, construction and management of infrastructures such as roads, tunnels, bridges, airports, railroads, facilities, buildings, dams, utilities and other projects.

A software engineer is a person who applies the principles of software engineering to the design, development, maintenance, testing, and evaluation of computer software.

A civil engineer is a person who practices civil engineering – the application of planning, designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating infrastructure while protecting the public and environmental health, as well as improving existing infrastructure that may have been neglected.

Regulation and licensure in engineering is established by various jurisdictions of the world to encourage public welfare, safety, well-being and other interests of the general public and to define the licensure process through which an engineer becomes authorized to practice engineering and/or provide engineering professional services to the public.

Structural engineers analyze, design, plan, and research structural components and structural systems to achieve design goals and ensure the safety and comfort of users or occupants. Their work takes account mainly of safety, technical, economic, and environmental concerns, but they may also consider aesthetic and social factors.

The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, also referred to as the Engineer in Training (EIT) exam, and formerly in some states as the Engineering Intern (EI) exam, is the first of two examinations that engineers must pass in order to be licensed as a Professional Engineer in the United States. The second examination is Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination. The FE exam is open to anyone with a degree in engineering or a related field, or currently enrolled in the last year of an ABET-accredited engineering degree program. Some state licensure boards permit students to take it prior to their final year, and numerous states allow those who have never attended an approved program to take the exam if they have a state-determined number of years of work experience in engineering. Some states allow those with ABET-accredited "Engineering Technology" or "ETAC" degrees to take the examination. The state of Michigan has no admission pre-requisites for the FE. The exam is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).

A Bachelor of Engineering is a first professional undergraduate academic degree awarded to a student after three to five years of studying engineering at an accredited university. In the UK, a B.Eng. degree will be accredited by one of the Engineering Council's professional engineering institutions as suitable for registration as an incorporated engineer or chartered engineer with further study to masters level. In Canada, the degree from a Canadian university can be accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB). Alternatively, it might be accredited directly by another professional engineering institution, such as the US-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The B.Eng. contributes to the route to chartered engineer (UK), registered engineer or licensed professional engineer and has been approved by representatives of the profession.

Building design

Building design refers to the broadly based architectural, engineering and technical applications to the design of buildings. All building projects require the services of a building designer, typically a licensed architect. Smaller, less complicated projects often do not require a licensed professional, and the design of such projects is often undertaken by building designers, draftspersons, interior designers, or contractors. Larger, more complex building projects require the services of many professionals trained in specialist disciplines, usually coordinated by an architect.

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) is an American non-profit organization dedicated to advancing professional licensure for engineers and surveyors. The Council’s members are the engineering and surveying licensure boards from all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These boards are divided into four geographic zones: Central, Northeast, Southern, Western. It is headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina.

Fire protection engineering is the application of science and engineering principles to protect people, property, and their environments from the harmful and destructive effects of fire and smoke. It encompasses engineering which focuses on fire detection, suppression and mitigation and fire safety engineering which focuses on human behavior and maintaining a tenable environment for evacuation from a fire. In the United States 'fire protection engineering' is often used to include 'fire safety engineering'.

The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) is an organization that was established in 1961 to create a recognized certification for engineering technicians and technologists within the United States. A 1981 study by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), requested by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' SubCommittee On Construction, prompted the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) to merge two certification bodies; the Institute for the Certification of Engineering Technicians (ICET) and the Engineering Technologist Certification Institute. The result is a nonprofit organization that provides a nationally recognized and accepted procedure for recognition of qualified engineering technicians and technologists.

Electrical engineering technology

Electrical/Electronics engineering technology (EET) is an engineering technology field that implements and applies the principles of electrical engineering. Like electrical engineering, EET deals with the "design, application, installation, manufacturing, operation or maintenance of electrical/electronic(s) systems." However, EET is a specialized discipline that has more focus on application, theory, and applied design, and implementation, while electrical engineering may focus more of a generalized emphasis on theory and conceptual design. Electrical/Electronic engineering technology is the largest branch of engineering technology and includes a diverse range of sub-disciplines, such as applied design, electronics, embedded systems, control systems, instrumentation, telecommunications, and power systems.

Engineering education is the activity of teaching knowledge and principles to the professional practice of engineering. It includes an initial education, and any advanced education and specializations that follow. Engineering education is typically accompanied by additional postgraduate examinations and supervised training as the requirements for a professional engineering license. The length of education, and training to qualify as a basic professional engineer, is typically 8–12 years, with 15–20 years for an engineer who takes responsibility for major projects.

Building engineer

A building engineer is recognised as being expert in the use of technology for the design, construction, assessment and maintenance of the built environment. Commercial Building Engineers are concerned with the planning, design, construction, operation, renovation, and maintenance of buildings, as well as with their impacts on the surrounding environment.

Building services engineering is a professional engineering discipline that strives to achieve a safe and comfortable indoor environment whilst minimizing the environmental impact of a building.

The Principles and Practice of Engineering exam is the examination required for one to become a Professional Engineer (PE) in the United States. It is the second exam required, coming after the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.

Architectural engineer (PE)

Architectural Engineer (PE) is a professional engineering designation in the United States. The architectural engineer applies the knowledge and skills of broader engineering disciplines to the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and renovation of buildings and their component systems while paying careful attention to their effects on the surrounding environment.

FINE MEP is a BIM CAD software tool for Building services engineering design, built on top of IntelliCAD. It provides full IFC support, according to the 2x3 IFC Standard. FINE BIM structure, enables a smart model shaping and high design accuracy, directly applied to the real 3D building model and its building services. Not only the building elements, but also the components of the mechanical/electrical installations themselves are all intelligent objects carrying their own attributes and interacting among each other. MEP design is supported by specific CAD commands and further facilitated through sophisticated recognition and validation algorithms, providing a user-friendly modeling environment.


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  13. Polytechnic (Greece)
  14. Technical Chamber of Greece (Τεχνικό Επιμελητήριο Ελλάδος)
  15. "Role & Objectives". Technical Chamber of Greece. Archived from the original on 2011-08-14.
  16. Bologna Process#Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education Area