Architectural Engineers work closely with architects and other disciplines of engineering (often in teams of consultants) that apply engineering principles to the construction process, ensuring a building is safe, built on time and budget and is sustainable.
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Architectural Engineering. Building a Strong Career
An Architectural Engineer is usually involved in the planning, design and construction of buildings. This field takes in a number of different facets including:
- Building environmental control
- Airflow Modeling in the Built Environment
- Heat and Mass Transfer
- Noise and Acoustics
- Life systems
- Structural systems
- Services such as:
- Air conditioning
- Water supply
- Building construction/structural integrity (taking into account natural disasters such as earthquakes)
- Fire and fire safety prevention
- Project management
What’s the Difference Between an Architect and an Architectural Engineer?
This often confuses people – and understandably so – as the two roles do have a degree of overlap in most cases, and often the two will work closely together on projects.
In most cases an architect is responsible for the aesthetics of a building, they are interested in form and structure. The design process is creative and is strongly focused on design and practicality of the design.
Architectural Engineers on the other hand are responsible for the structural and mechanical systems of a building e.g. the building process and how the job is tracking, essential services such as air conditioning, heating and ventilation. Lifts and commercial requirements e.g. schools and hospitals have specific requirements that can vary considerably from residential buildings.
To break it down further architects are design based while engineers have a stronger focus on mathematics and scientific applications and how they will influence the design and construction of a building and it’s required services.
Educational Requirements for Architectural Engineering
There are specific educational requirements that are needed in order for a person to pursue a career in Architectural Engineering. In some cases this discipline of engineering is considered a branch of Civil Engineering, as both are heavily involved in the building industry and can often have very similar responsibilities.
There are a variety of institutions that provide courses in architecture, including in an online format which helps provide extra flexibility for students. Upon graduation from college a student will usually be assigned a design project which demonstrates their abilities and how effectively they have applied their application of architectural principles and knowledge.
Before graduating college with their degree, students will often apply for an internship so that they may gain hands on experience (in some cases this will also fulfill requirements of their degree program). Depending on the company where the student will undertake their internship will depend on whether or not a student is paid, however in almost all cases this is unpaid work. Along with a degree a person will also need to become a licensed Architectural Engineer. It usually takes six to eight years to earn all required certifications.
Career Opportunities and Salary as an Architectural Engineer
An Architectural Engineer has the option of working in the capacity of self employed independent contractor or as a staff member. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the starting salary for someone in the field is around $73,000 annually for architects, but the median salary for an Architectural Engineer is $116,000 a year.
Employment prospects are strong, (it is estimated that employment will grow by close to 25% over the next 5 years) especially as the need for sustainable building becomes more important. Graduates will often find employment with an architectural firm or building company. During their study students in most cases are required to fulfill 12 weeks of job placement and in many cases this can lead to permanent employment.
In most cases this discipline of Engineering involves working both in the office (consulting with other Engineers and services) and on the physical job site to review how the project is progressing and make adjustments based on how the job is tracking. This is quite similar to the role of a Civil Engineer who is often responsible for the time management and construction process of the project and factoring in contingencies such as bad weather and industrial action.