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 the systems used to construct new buildings or restore older ones. These systems include the building structure itself, the lighting, sound, and electrical systems, and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Other engineering systems include the plumbing structure, fire safety systems, and energy conservation. Architectural engineers are responsible for coordinating these systems and making sure they are designed and built properly, safely, and economically.
The field of architectural engineering is a collaborative one. Architectural engineers work closely with architects and other engineers to design and construct buildings that reflect the architect's artistic vision. Architects generally focus on the aesthetics and functionality of a building project. In contrast, architectural engineers troubleshoot preliminary designs from a technical standpoint and solve problems that arise before and during construction. In the case of a tall office building, for example, an architectural engineer might make recommendations about what materials to use based on their ability to withstand high winds or heavy snowfall.
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Architectural engineering is a unique discipline within the broader engineering framework. A bachelor's degree from an accredited engineering program is needed to get a job as an architectural engineer. Most engineering programs take four years to complete, though some take five years. Course work during the first two years is varied, with students taking humanities classes in addition to courses in math, basic sciences, introductory engineering, and computers. During the final years of an engineering program, students take mostly engineering courses, usually with a concentration in one branch of engineering.
To concentrate in architectural engineering, students take courses to prepare them to work as professionals in the field. These include courses in design, structural engineering, electrical engineering, thermodynamics, and construction management. Students also study architectural history from a design viewpoint. Architectural engineers use their knowledge of math, physics, and engineering to make sure 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, usually in an office-based setting. Their work also includes visits to construction sites, often in different locations. Some architectural engineers choose to focus on specific engineering challenges, such as construction in earthquake zones or energy efficient construction. Many architectural engineers eventually choose to work for themselves by starting their own consulting companies.