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The Relationship Between Civil Engineering and Architecture

Written by:
Liliana Alvarez

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between civil engineering and architecture? Both are integral to the design of any structure and sometimes it seems as though what they do overlaps. Actually, there is a strong relationship between the two, but their focus is different. While they might be working on the same element, what they are looking at differs substantially. Let’s take a look at what that means.

Aesthetics, Function and Structural Integrity

Perhaps the easiest way to clarify the relationship is by explaining that architects are primarily concerned with the aesthetics and function within a design while civil engineers are concerned with structural integrity and safety. For example, an architect would be called in to draw up the design of a commercial building in Saint Louis. Their main concern is ensuring that everything fits well together. It is their task to provide design elements that will function well while being seamlessly incorporated into the aesthetics of the design.

At this point, a civil engineer steps in with their expertise in structural engineering Saint Louis buildings require to meet safety regulations. That may be a bit oversimplified, but you can clearly see that they both have a role to play in every single design element within a structure if the integrity of the structure could be called into question.

An Important Key Distinction

Another way to look at the distinction in their roles is in terms of the design and construction of a structure. As stated, it is the role of the architect to draw up plans for a building, for example. The aesthetic design is their main objective. It is the responsibility, then, of the civil engineer to ensure that this design meets with:

     - Load bearing requirements

     - Grading

     - Integrity of the foundation

     - Utilities

     - Drainage

At this point, the civil engineer might make necessary changes to the initial design drawn up by the architect if there is no way to meet structural and safety elements as it is currently laid out. That new design will almost always be passed back to the architect who will see if those plans in any way significantly alter the design elements desired by the client. If so, it will be passed back to civil engineering and it is not uncommon for blueprints to be passed back and forth several times before all elements desired as well as required are satisfied.

Collaboration Is a MUST

While there are major points of divergence within the two professions, there needs to be a strong collaboration at the very same time. It may be possible for an architect to plan a building with the latest Architectural CAD software that would win awards in design elements but wouldn’t be feasible in terms of structural integrity and/or safety. Conversely, a civil engineer could draw up a building incorporating the latest advances in structural technology, but it might not be aesthetically pleasing.

Neither occupation would create anything like that, but it shows the sheer necessity of collaborating on even the finest details within a structure. In the end, you might want to say that architects rely on the aesthetics of function while the civil engineer finds ways to make those elements structurally safe.

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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