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Architecture is a multi-faceted profession. Architects may assist developers and/or clients thru the complete construction process; starting from rezoning land, permit processing, design development, preparation of construction documents, overseeing construction, to the completion of the project.

To fully understand where the lines are drawn between the Engineer and the Architect, we need to define their respective responsibilities. See each respective Engineering Discipline Web Page.

The education that Architects and Engineers receive is quite different. The Architect attends the School of Architecture, while the Engineer attends the School of Engineering, with emphasis on core studies in their respective field of Engineering. The Engineer is also exposed to other engineering courses which are not part of their core studies, which widens their range of engineering knowledge.

In the School of Architecture, emphasis is placed on building design, site planning, history of architecture, city planning, some structural, some electrical, some mechanical, some civil, etc.

The structural, electrical, mechanical and civil courses studied by the Architect and the Engineer are quite different. The courses studied by the Engineers is more in-depth and intense.

First the Architect meets with a Client who desires to construct a commercial project. The Client tells the Architect what he wants to construct. If the property is not properly zoned for the intended use, then the Architect may assist the Client in submitting a request for zoning change. This may include sketches and drawings of the proposed project. Which is then submitted to the City or County (in some muncipalities, Zoning Board and County Commisioners). If the zoning change is approved, then the Architect may start with the design of the project. Usually, it includes preliminary site plans, floor plans, elevations and renderings. Part of this preliminary phase of work, is the verification of parking requirement, building setbacks from property lines and right-of-ways, building height limitations, floor area ratios, fire separations, number of required exits, handicap requirements, travel distances, preliminary specifications, etc. The preliminaries are reviewed by the Client, and it is also recommended that the plans taken to the Building Department for review. Once the preliminaries are approved, the Architect will start the Construction Documents (Working Drawings) and the Specifications.

It is usually the Architect who contracts with the Client to provide all of the required services for the complete project. The Architect then contracts with the Engineers to provide the required engineering services. Therefore, the Architect, as the team leader will schedule with each Engineer, the time frame and work to be performed.

When the Architect has completed sufficient drawings on the Floor Plans, Elevations and Sections, copies are sent to the Engineers. The Structural Engineer then prepares the Structural Plans, sizing the beams, columns and footing (and any other structural components which need design), the Mechanical Engineer will prepare the Plumbing and A/C Plans, the Electrical Engineer will prepare the Electrical Plans, the Civil Engineer will prepare the Surface Water Management System and the Landscape Architect will prepare the Landscaping Plan. This is the ideal scenerio and usually applies to large projects.

The Architect coordinates all of the engineering plans with the plans he/she have prepared. In this case the Architect is in-charge of the project, and acts as the Client's (owner's) representative.

The presented scenerio is not the only method of contracting. The Client may contract with the Architect and with each Engineer separately, or anyother combination of arrangements.

For small projects, the Architect or Engineer may, in certain states, perform all of the services outlines above. Check with your local municipality for requirements.

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