WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ENGINEER AND AN ARCHITECT?


The major distinctions between architects and engineers run along generalist and specialist lines. The generalists are ultimately responsible for the overall planning.

It is for this reason that an architect is generally employed as the prime professional by a client. On some special projects, such as dams, power plants, wastewater treatment, and research or industrial installations, where one of the engineering specialties becomes the predominant feature, a client may select an engineering professional or an E/A firm to assume responsibility for design and construction and taken on the lead role.

On certain projects, it is the unique and imaginative contribution of the engineer that may make the most significant total impact on the architectural design.

The overall strength of a dynamic, exposed structure, the sophistication of complex lighting systems, or the quiet efficiency of a well-designed mechanical system may prove to be the major source of the client’s pride in a facility. In any circumstance, the responsibilities of the professional engineer for competence and contribution are just as important to the project as those of the
architect.

Engineers, for example, play a major role in intelligent building system design, which involves mechanical-electrical systems. However, a building’s intelligence is also measured by the way it responds to people, both on the inside and outside.

The systems of the building must meet the functional needs of the occupants as well as respect the human response to temperature, humidity, airflow, noise, light, and air quality. To achieve the multifaceted goals, an intelligent building requires an intelligent design process with respect to design and system formulation as well as efficient and coordinated execution of design and technical documentation within the management structure.

An intelligent building begins with intelligent architecture—the shape, the building enclosure, and the way the building appears and functions. Optimal building solutions can be achieved through a design process that explores and compares varying architectural and engineering options in concert.

Sophisticated visualization and analytical tools using three-dimensional computer modeling techniques permit architects and engineers to rapidly evaluate numerous alternatives. Options can be carefully studied both visually and from a performance standpoint, identifying energy and life-cycle cost impact. This enables visualization and technical evaluation of multiple schemes early in the design phase, setting the basis for an intelligent building.

In all cases, the architect’s or engineer’s legal responsibilities to the client remain firm. The prime professional is fully responsible for the services delivered. The consultants, in turn, are responsible to the architect or engineer with whom they contract.

Following this principle, the architect or engineer is responsible to clients for performance of each consultant. Consequently, it is wise for architects and engineers to evaluate their expertise in supervising others before retaining consultants in other areas of responsibility.

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