Structural Engineer vs. Architect
Structural Engineer vs. Architect
Although both structural engineers and architects work with designing and planning structures, their actual roles are very different. It can be challenging to understand the difference without taking a closer look at what precisely each role is and what these professionals do in their industries. In fact, many professionals are often part of a single project, including different types of engineers, architects, and designers. However, this piece is only discussing structural engineers and architects as the list of everyone that might be involved in one project can be rather lengthy!
What is a Structural Engineer?
Structural engineers are part of the designing process for buildings and other structures, but their main focus is the actual functionality and safety of the structure and its individual parts. Structural engineers study materials that are used in construction to ensure the correct materials are used for the project so structures can stand up to the pressure and loads as needed, depending on the intended use.
Other than buildings, structural engineers work on structures like bridges, tunnels, and dams – prioritizing the safety and strength of the structure. These engineers may draw sketches by hand or use computers or physical models to assist in designing structures. Structural engineers also inspect structures during the construction process as well as currently standing structures, looking for weaknesses that need to be fixed to restabilize structures. Structural engineers may work as a consultant in an office setting or in the field at job sites overseeing projects. Some engineers fill both of these roles while others may only fill one, based on whether they work for a large firm or are solo entrepreneurs.
What is an Architect?
Architects design structures, taking into account aesthetics as well as the practicality of the space. Although architects do design the structures, they don’t have to focus on some of the more technical aspects that the engineers focus on. This allows the architects to work more closely with clients to create spaces that function in the way the client needs them to and looks the way the client wishes. Architects often work with interior designers to create the aesthetic balance to functionality, such as materials, colors, and placement of walls, windows, and doors.
Both structural engineers and architects need good communication skills. They work with clients, various types of contractors, and designers to create a cohesive final product. They both have extensive educational backgrounds as well. Both of these professions must usually obtain undergraduate degrees and often Master’s degrees as well, in addition to the licensing required by the states they work in. Both professions require levels of math and physics, although architects, to a lesser extent, with more of their focus on design elements.
Structural engineers sometimes obtain master’s degrees in structural engineering as well. They also work in apprenticeships or other types of training to gain field experience. The ability to gain on-the-job training under experienced engineers allows people to begin their careers a few years earlier and means that a college degree isn’t 100 percent required.
Although there is some overlap between these two professions, they are certainly not the same. They are, in fact, quite different! Structural engineers focus on the stability and safety of all structures, whereas architects focus on the appearance and feel of the space. You might say that structural engineers are scientists, whereas architects are artists. The architects design how a building should look and feel, and structural engineers ensure the same structure will be safe and stable. These professionals both fill important roles in the construction industry, creating or recreating structures all over the country.