Architectural Engineer Career Facts

Architectural engineers are also known as building engineers. Their work usually involves the use of engineering methods and technology in building design and construction. They work with architects on the technical aspects of design.

The work environment

In many cases they're specialists, doing mechanical, electrical and plumbing design based on architectural plans. These engineers are sometimes called MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineers as a specific class of engineering. 

The best way to describe this work is as a form of systems design:

An architectural engineer works with an architectural plan to design an electrical system for the building.

The plan must:

  • Provide safe, secure electrical wiring and fuse systems.
  • Access the electrical mains infrastructure from the building line.
  • Be easy to maintain and access in emergencies.
  • Achieve a good, efficient match with the architectural design.
  • Meet statutory standards for electrical systems.
  • Be cost effective as part of the design.
  • Include provision for any internal electrical switch features.

To make this plan, the architectural engineer will usually work with CAD systems, routing the electrical systems according to available space and design considerations. The wiring plan is incorporated into the design as a separate CAD component. In some cases special designs for electrical fittings may include designs for things like air conditioning plants and their related wiring.

One advantage of using architectural engineers is that they have the technical knowledge to work effectively in their specialties with other designs. They're particularly effective in large construction projects, where they can do a single unified design for an entire complex of buildings. This is a very efficient method of dealing with these important architectural needs. It can also prevent problems with architectural designs which might affect electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems.

Wages: $50,000 to $95,000

Hours: Variable, but generally within standard business hours unless otherwise required.

The career environment

MEP engineers are a fundamental part of the design process across many industries, so the potential for job mobility is high.

As well as architecture hey also work in:

  • Telecommunications
  • Lighting
  • Guttering
  • Drainage
  • Elevator systems (office and industrial)
  • Fire alarm systems
  • Fire protection systems
  • Power distribution
  • Infrastructure
  • Civil engineering roles

An electrical specialist could reasonably expect to work in several of these roles in the course of a career. Career progression is based on qualifications, experience, and specializations. In this field, specialization can be a real career move, opening up a range of options. A fire systems specialist, for example, would be able to access positions globally, across the industry.

Contract work is a big part of career progression. Salaries are generally good, but as a contractor, an architectural engineer can move upwards in terms of income and career prospects. At the top of the range, engineering consultancies are the pinnacle of the career, sometimes worth millions of dollars in big projects. These consultancies often operate globally, working with extremely advanced building designs for which new systems have to be invented, as much as designed.

This can be interesting work. Because they work on the basis of creating efficient designs, architectural engineers, who are the first to work with new systems, often play a major part in the evolution of these systems, sometimes creating new architectural system methodologies.