What does the engineering team do?

Architecture: a team effort

Buildings aren’t designed by only one person. Architecture is really a team effort requiring input from many associated professionals. While the basic team is necessary for most buildings, other specialists may be required as well. The list below will give a good general idea of what the various consultants do.

The architectural line up

Basic team required for new buildings:

  • Architect: see this post for more detail.
  • Structural engineer: responsible to ensure the building doesn’t fall down. Uses information in the soils report to design the building’s foundation; chooses the most cost effective foundation type for the soil conditions; designs wall systems and underlying structure to support the roof; ensures walls are designed to resist local wind conditions and are properly anchored to the foundation; designs roof systems to accommodate snow and wind loads, and to support any roof mounted mechanical equipment.
  • Mechanical engineer: responsible for proper air quality and plumbing systems. Designs HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) equipment to accommodate the different uses in the building; designs ductwork or other distribution systems to ensure there is enough fresh air throughout; analyzes the orientation of the building on the site and calculates heat loss and heat gain to ensure correct size of air handling equipment; designs plumbing systems and connections to municipal underground services; chooses plumbing fixtures for approval by owner; designs fire sprinkler systems.
  • Electrical engineer: responsible for power, communications, lighting and fire safety systems. Performs lighting calculations and chooses lighting fixtures for approval by owner; designs main power panels, distribution systems and connection to municipal power service; calculates transformer size required and advises on the adequacy of existing power supply to meet the new demand; designs data and voice communication systems; designs fire alarm system and locates exit devices, signage and smoke/heat detectors in the proper spaces.
  • Geotechnical engineer: tests soil conditions for bearing capacity at the building site and advises on the type of foundation required; makes recommendations for pavement type; prepares a report for use by the structural engineer and city building officials.
  • Land surveyor: prepares a drawing of the features of the building site such as existing buildings, topography, landscape, overhead utilities, Rights-of-Way, roads or driveways. The land survey is used by the architect and engineering team to design the building site.

What about extra consultants?

Other specialists that may be required:

  • Interior Designer: sometimes required for large or complex buildings; designs interior environments and chooses finishes such as paint colours, wall coverings, flooring, drapery, furniture to achieve a certain mood or look. Architects also perform these tasks.
  • Landscape Architect: sometimes required by the local municipality to choose proper types of plants, plant locations, and irrigation systems. Prepares drawings illustrating the complete landscape design.
  • Kitchen Consultant: designs commercial kitchens for proper work flow and efficiency; selects proper equipment and fire suppression systems, finishes, power and lighting.
  • Acoustic Consultant: advises on the proper design of spaces and choice of materials to enhance sound quality and/or reduce noise transfer between spaces. Church auditoriums area a challenge because there needs to be a balance between good acoustic properties for the spoken word as well as proper acoustics for music.
  • Audio/Visual Consultant: designs communication systems including video and audio controls; advises on proper size and placement of video screens, loudspeakers, sound control boards, video camera, theatre lighting; designs cost effective systems to achieve the owner’s A/V goals.
  • Building Envelope Consultant: may be required by the municipality; designs wall and roof systems for proper control of moisture; ensures system components will be compatible and will effectively keep water from getting in the building.
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