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Architect vs Engineer: Which one do I need? A Full Guide

structural engineer vs architect

Trying to decide between an architect or a structural engineer can be a daunting task for anyone who doesn’t have much knowledge of the construction industry, particularly if you’ve never had to deal with either before.

Whilst there are many similarities between architects and engineers, there are also many key differences between the two disciplines. There are merits for both professions and circumstances where one is much more appropriate than the other.


An architect, in its most simple definition, is focused on both the designing and constructing of space, ambiance, and consideration of other physical environments for buildings. Not only are they responsible for the designing of a building, but they often supervise their construction also.

You can rely on Architects to use the right side of the brain (the creative side). An architect loves to design and will be given the responsibility to both design and plan a building project. Their profession leads the line in creating spaces for people to work, live, eat and play. Architects, dependent on their skill level, work on projects of all sizes and complexity designing the buildings you see every day, such as; home extensions, university campuses, hospitals, and entire neighborhoods.

Architects are not only responsible for the design of a building. Part of their role is to be responsible for public safety and the overseeing of a build project.

How does an Architect get involved with a project?

Architects are typically hired when a client wants to make use of an area of land/an existing structure and require an architect to produce detailed designs of a concept or idea, that if the client likes, will then want to be brought to reality. Whilst exploring creative ideas, an architect will also need to keep in mind both technical and functional aspects of a build.

What are Architectural services?

There are many architectural services offered by firms dependent on their team skill level. As a point of reference, HLN Architects & Engineering are a multidisciplinary firm with offices throughout the UK and a highly skilled team of both architects and engineers. We, therefore, offer a wide range of services, such as:

  • Planning
  • Urban Design
  • Interior Design
  • Environment
  • Concept Development
  • Conservation
  • Building Surveys
  • Space Planning
  • Contract Administration
  • 3D Visualisation
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Housing and Commercial Design
  • Planning Applications
  • Listed Building Refurbishment



Engineers on the other hand focus on the integrity of the building by applying scientific principles to the structure to ensure that not only is it technically sound, but also safe.


Engineers differ from architects in that they focus on the science and mathematics behind any project. Their relation with architects works harmoniously by regular discussions of how the architects desired vision for a building can be constructed whilst also being structurally secure.


In terms of construction, Engineering can be broken up into two areas; Civil Engineering & Structural Engineering


Role of a Civil Engineer: designing and supervising large construction projects, including buildings, roads, airports, dams, tunnels, bridges, water supply systems, and sewage treatment.

Role of a Structural Engineer: these are highly skilled, creative professionals who are responsible for designing the strength and stability of buildings and bridges. This consists of designing buildings being capable of withstanding the loads imposed on them (i.e. people and equipment).


What are Engineering services?

The level and depth of engineering services depend on the skill level of each firm. As a highly experienced firm with offices throughout the UK, HLN offers a variety of Engineering services that our qualified team can offer.

Structural Engineering Services:

  • Surveys & Reports
    • Structural Engineer Reports
    • Party Wall Awards
    • Structural Surveys
    • Measured land and building surveys
  • Structural Engineering
    • House inspections and reports for extension and conversion design
    • Plans and calculations
    • Strengthening and modification of buildings
    • Structural detailing
    • Designs in steel, concrete, timber and masonry
  • Geotechnical Engineering
    • Site investigation and foundation design
    • Development and problem sites
    • Contaminated land development
    • Subsidence investigations

Civil Engineering Services:

  • Material design (such as working with concrete, steel, masonry and timber)
  • Roads, bridges and earthworks
  • Industrial and commercial developments
  • Strengthening and modification of buildings
  • Structural detailing

Do I need an Engineer or Architect?

Trying to distinguish when you need an engineer or an architect can be a daunting task, particularly for anyone who’s not familiar with the industry and the roles of each profession. So, we’ve put together a list of when you’ll need either an Architect or an Engineer.

When you need an Architect

  • Design and Architectural drawings
  • Planning Applications Submissions
  • Ensuring your build meets building controls
  • Which builder/contractor should I use?
  • Site inspections
  • Where should the outlet pipes go?
  • Should I have recessed lights?
  • Do I need a party wall agreement?
  • Garage, loft and house extensions
  • Change of layout to your home
    • Door opening layout
    • Windows and lighting
    • Piping
    • Vents
    • Room to room view
  • Not sure where to start? A qualified architect is great at helping you when you know you want to make additions to your home, but are unsure at where to start.

When you need an Engineer

  • Materials consideration
  • Site Location Inspection
  • Weight of build analysis
  • Structural Support Analysis
  • Home improvements that affect the stability of a building
  • The following is usually dependent on the nature and size of the project
    • Building an extension
    • Any structural changes with regard to door and windows
    • Solar Panel Fitting
    • Loft Conversions
    • Removing or altering any internal walls
    • Underpinning floors
    • Chimney Breast Removal (Link)

Architects and Engineers Responsibility on Projects


Architects (90%): As previously mentioned, architects’ main focus is on the design and constructing the space, ambiance, and form of the buildings as well as other physical environments.

Engineers (10%): Engineers will then ‘test’ these designs to ensure the structural soundness

based on the application of scientific principles.



Architects (50%): Architects must ensure to work within the project budget guidelines to effectively source and design for materials and construction costs.

Engineers (50%): Engineers will take into account the factors Architects are working with

whilst evaluating the specifications of any project.


Project Management

Architects (80%) Engineers (20%): Both Architects and Engineers will take on project management roles aligned with their areas of expertise. For a typical project, Architects will typically take on more management than that of an Engineer. However, both will more than likely serve as a liaison between the project design team and client.


Maths & Physics

Architects (10%): Architects’ main focus when it comes to the maths and physics of a project will be to ensure they are always keeping scientific methodologies in mind whilst also communicating with engineers whilst preparing the drawings.

Engineers (90%): Engineers are experts in this field and it is where their profession really comes into play. It’s their job to translate, as precisely as possible, the architect’s vision into quantifiable terms.

How do you choose an Architect or Engineer?

Choosing an Architect or Engineer for your project is one of the most important tasks you undertake. The right professional for the job will help you understand the costs, implications and assist with the development through each phase. Whilst many firms will claim to be better than the rest, a good course of action would be to go through the following:

4 tips for choosing an architect and engineer

4 tips for choosing an architect and engineer

Take HLN for example:

Are we qualified?

Yes, we have many qualifications, more specifically; for Architecture, we are RIBA Certified, Expert Witnesses and are accredited with Constructionline, for Engineering we are part of the Institution of Structural Engineers.

What projects have we previously worked on?

We’ve worked on projects in a variety of industries, from small home projects to multi-national banks. Take a look at our Group website to see more.

Have we got genuine testimonials?

Absolutely, we’ve got many happy clients that have kindly given us feedback on the work we’ve done.

Do we reference the services on our website?

You can find out more about our services, for Architecture, Structural Engineering & Civil Engineering.


For advice and further information on if you need an architect or an engineer, please call us on 020 8099 6388 or email us at mail@hlngroup.co.uk.


Interested to see how a Structural Engineer and Architect discuss projects and see how they collaboratively work together to explore all features of a project? Check out the video below

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