When Do I Need an Architect? When Do I Need an Engineer?
It’s a common question, especially from plant managers contemplating an expansion or reconfiguration of their current operation. To understand the answer, it helps to know the division of responsibilities for each discipline.
Architects are trained to plan, design and oversee the construction of buildings. While their general focus is on the function and aesthetic of buildings, there are those who specialize in a specific area of architectural design such as industrial architecture. In this case, the Architect should have an in-depth knowledge of building code as it pertains to Occupancy Classification, Chemical Classification, Life Safety, Construction Type, and Energy Code requirements.
Since Architects are responsible for the overall results of design, an Architect should first be brought on board to define a project’s parameters prior to the engineering systems being designed. An Architect will look at issues such as a building’s orientation, materials, fenestration, egress and ADA requirements – all elements that could impact the engineering systems within a building. This is also true for any specialized engineering element such as fire protection, deflagration control, and classified electrical devices. The design of these elements is regulated by applicable building code and adjusted based on space allocation. It is the job of the Architect to lead the team to ensure all engineering elements are properly integrated into an architecturally significant and functional design that will meet or surpass a client’s expectations.
Engineers are a critical part of the team because they design a building’s mechanical system, and address structural elements and site design such as utilities, curb and gutter, parking, and the handling of storm water. Coordination of these elements requires a complete understanding of a building’s functionality and imagination for how these pieces should fit together.
In the end, effective architectural / engineering coordination will result in a well-integrated building where production, safety, and efficiency are maximized.