Duration: 4 years
Architectural engineering is the branch of engineering concerned with the application of engineering principles to the design and construction of buildings and other structures. In architectural engineering, the focus is on systems used to build new buildings or to restore old buildings. These systems include the building structure itself, lighting, sound and electrical systems, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Other engineering systems include plumbing structure, fire safety systems, and energy conservation. Architectural engineers are responsible for coordinating these systems and making sure they are designed and manufactured accurately, safely and economically.
Architectural engineering is a collaborative field. Architectural engineers work closely with architects and other engineers to design and build buildings that reflect the architect's artistic vision. Architects often focus on the aesthetics and functionality of a building project. In turn, architectural engineers technically troubleshoot preliminary designs and solve problems that arise before and during construction. For example, in the case of a tall office building, an architect engineer can make recommendations on what materials they should use based on their ability to withstand high winds or heavy snowfall.
Architectural engineering is a unique discipline within the broad engineering framework. A bachelor's degree from an accredited engineering program is required to get a job as an architectural engineer. While most engineering programs take five years to complete, some take four years. During the first two years, course work varies with students taking humanities courses in addition to mathematics, basic sciences, introductory engineering and computer courses. In the final years of an engineering program, students take mostly engineering courses, focusing mostly on one engineering major.
To concentrate on architectural engineering, students take classes to prepare them to work as experts in their field. These are courses in design, structural engineering, electrical engineering, thermodynamics and construction management. Students also study architectural history in terms of design. Architectural engineers use their knowledge of mathematics, physics, and engineering to ensure that building projects are structurally and functionally sound.
Job opportunities in the field of architectural engineering are varied. Many architectural engineers work as consultants in the construction industry, often in an office-based environment. Their work also often includes visits to construction sites in different locations. Some architectural engineers choose to focus on specific engineering challenges, such as construction or energy efficient construction in earthquake zones. Many architectural engineers choose to work for them, eventually establishing their own consulting firm.