Do I Need an Architect if I Have a Structural Engineer?

Deciding which professionals you will need to hire for a construction project can be difficult. Architects are responsible for designing spaces based on their client’s visual guidance. They also follow design criteria based on codes and regulations. Structural engineers, on the other hand, design projects larger in scale, such as buildings and bridges. The job of a structural engineer is based on problem-solving complex structural issues and following the structural design codes. This article will serve as a guide to the question, do I need an architect if I have a structural engineer?


Architects are licensed professionals who bring their knowledge of building materials, project management, and building layouts to a project. To understand more about the job of an architect for home building, check out the article titled, What is the Role of an Architect in Building a House? Architects use creative elements to design their client’s visions. A lot of their work is based on the details of a project, but typically more aesthetic details. They do incorporate computer-aided drawings (CAD) to actualize their design. Also, they provide managerial assistance on budgeting, overall costs, milestones, and schedule. Architects are brought in to set up meetings for their clients, prepare estimates based on building materials, and arrange the hiring of contractors. They are usually hired on with a civil engineer due to design elements and will make layout changes based on complexities discovered by civil or structural engineers.

Structural Engineers

Structural engineering is a discipline of civil engineering. Typically, it is a graduate degree and an additional license from the professional engineering license that civil engineers are required to have. Structural engineers design and inspect projects like civil engineers, but they also possess a knowledge of structures and how the built environment is affected. The following article will highlight some differences between a civil and structural engineer: When to Hire a Civil Engineer Over a Structural Engineer. Structural engineers are knowledgeable of regulations and codes they submit for building permits and test materials that are to be used for structures. Here is a list of project types structural engineers will be important to have involved in:

  • Demolition of a structure
  • Harsh weather/Extreme seasons for the location of the project
  • Rebuild of damaged structures
  • Foundations
  • Solar panel installation
  • Multi-family buildings
  • Temporary shoring

Architect vs. Engineer

Architects and engineers do different things when it comes to building design. Structural engineering is aimed at health and safety, so the work has a specialized focus on durability and points of failure. They have the knowledge to test materials meant to be used for buildings based on structural analysis programs and test data. Structural engineers have the expertise to provide construction material cost estimates, but architects do this as well, with more of a focus on the look of a building. Both professionals have the skillset to develop a budget and schedule for a project. They both use CAD to design building plans that can be used for a contractor during the construction phase. While both serve a role in ensuring a project is well-thought-out and efficient for use.

Do I Need an Architect if I Have a Structural Engineer?

If you have onboarded a structural engineer already before hiring an architect, then you may not need an architect. Structural engineers basically check the adequacy of a design based on code and safety, so hiring an architect will not change the design much once an engineer has provided one. It could be helpful to hire an architect in case the material used on the design is not cost-efficient and the appearance is not desirable; however, structural engineers will still need to check the material’s suitability and make sure they will not result in failure of the structure. The type of infrastructure being designed does play a role and the need for a structural engineer arises because any non-standard design elements must be checked and approved by a person with appropriate knowledge in that field. As the structural engineer has the final say on approving a design, they could be the only professional needed in some cases.

Architectural Engineering

Some schools have programs for architectural engineering. According to the Penn State College of Engineering, this discipline combines “practical and theoretical knowledge to the engineering design of buildings and building systems.” The goal is to relate the design and creative elements of architecture with the formality and structural aspects of engineering. Architectural engineers possess the knowledge of mechanical, electrical, and structural systems for building design. Like other architects, they do management that involves planning a construction process for a project. Safety is a factor for their creations, much like structural engineering. Architectural engineers are architects that do some structural engineering. There are about 4.5 million people in the workforce that possess an architectural engineering degree according to Data USA. This is similar to the number of structural engineers, so this may be a comparable option for hired professionals.

Cost of Hiring

Also, consider the cost of the different professionals mentioned within the article. Architects can cost between $2,500 and $8,000 for drafting building plans. Additional services and plan revisions will increase the cost. Structural engineers can cost between $800 and $3,000 for structural plans. For renovation projects and new construction, a structural engineer can cost up to 20% of the total project cost. Architectural engineers will have comparable hourly rates to an unlicensed engineer, so they will not cost as much as an architect or structural engineer since these are licensed professionals.

Hiring the Right Professionals

Architects and structural engineers have diverse skill sets to bring to a project design, but the structural engineer has a more objective role in designing for complex issues. Suppose a structural engineer is onboarded first for determining constructability. In that case, it is not necessary to onboard an architect because the engineer will be able to provide some of the same skills. Additionally, architectural engineers have a balanced understanding of structural building systems and the conventional roles of architects, making them a comparable option to a structural engineer. Remember that licensed structural engineers are required on specific project types based on codes and approvals in specific areas. There are also additional resources to look at for knowing who to hire. The article Which professional do I need to hire to build a house? will give some insight on a home building project. Design Everest’s team has professionals to assist in the design of various project types. Contact us to get a free quote and consultation today.

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