An engineer, an Architect, and an Architectural Technologist walk into a building… Yeah, I know it’s the start to a poor joke.

If you are thinking about or are about to undertake a new-build, remodel or extension project, then this blog is for you. The primary questions initially are where do I start and who is best to help me? Depending on the size or aspirations of your project you may want to hire a professional to design your project and guide you through the planning process if required, (link to “Do I need Planning Permission”) or to develop the project into detailed drawings that you can give to potential builders to quote the cost of construction. So who do you hire? An engineer, an architect, an architectural technologist or even a neighbour who told you they can draw houses?
In my experience most construction projects big or small are a demanding balance of decision making and good planning. Undertaking your first new-build, remodel or extension project is one of the biggest millstones in your life and it’s right up there with getting married and maybe even starting a family. Many people are shocked by how expensive it is to build and most are fairly naive to the fact prior to construction but soon find themselves swamped with bills and/or tradesmen not arriving on schedule. The difference a trained and experienced professional can make to you and your project can never be underestimated. It is something you will only truly appreciate when the construction process is complete and you are reminiscing with friends and family at the housewarming party.
Likewise, a truly competent designer will provide even greater value in terms of getting the most out of your project within the budget. This value will keep giving back for years and years to come but still the question remains as to who do you get that can provide such value to you?
Let me first share with you the differences between the eligible professionals who can provide you with relevant construction services or drawings. Architects, engineers and architectural technologists are all more than capable of delivering the professional services to complete your project.
EngineerEngineers spend four years in college working towards their degree. Their first years in college are spent studying a very broad syllabus of structure, materials and mathematical calculations. Their following years are spent learning about concrete, steel and how they are affected by their environment. Obviously, there is more to the course but to simply outline I have just noted the areas of familiar reference. In general, terms an engineer calculates the size of the primary (and secondary) building elements such as the foundations, structural wall and roof framing using steel, timber or concrete.   
  
Architectural TechnologistAn architectural technologist also spends four year in college to obtain a degree. The technologist studies a vast range of topics within architecture and construction. They too study materials, structure and mathematical calculations, but also study design. In general terms a technologist figures out how the building should be constructed.
ArchitectThe Architect spends five years studying how to design spaces and material that contribute to enriching the lives of the occupants. They are then required to obtain a further two years’ professional experience where they develop a project from the design stage all the way through to the completion and undertake an examination in professional practice before they can register with a regulatory body. Only then can an architect practice legally as an architect. (Link to “What can an architect do for you”).

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A very rudimentary way to convey the differences between the professions is as follows; the architect designs the space considering light, air quality, spatial experience and surrounding context, the technologist designs how it should be built and the engineers specifies the size and strength of the materials.

You may ask as a result. so who is the most suitable to design my new living space? Obviously based on what we just discussed, architects are the appropriate professional to design your new living space because of their unique skillset.   
Everyone is different and everyone has a slightly different design brief. You want a home built based on your needs and desires, but there are a number of principles that do not change when it comes to good architectural design. Your designer must take into account your family setting, your daily routines and your budget. Then the designer must look at the path the sun takes on your site. They must then determine what rooms should be prioritised for sun light at specific times of the day. For example when you wake up in the master bedroom and open your window blinds, the sun should fill the space, uplifting your spirits for the day ahead. This is just one example but is often overlooked. The designer must then observe the architecture indigenous to your area, studying materials and precedent All these elements are then arranged sensitively proportioned to suit the site and neighbouring context.
A considered design response to context and proportions are vital to all successful projects. These are the attributes that you recognise as pleasurable when you first look at a house, both on a subconscious and conscious level. If the proportions are not sensitively considered and appropriate to local context, the overall ‘feel’ of the design will be weakened. The majority of Irish house designs in the last fifty years have neglected the importance of proportions and context particularly within the rural setting. Below are two house designs in a rural setting. On the left, is a common ‘farmhouse’ design seen throughout the Irish countryside, of which, as you can see is poorly proportioned and fails to ‘settle’ into its setting. The image on the right is of a house sensitively designed and mindful of traditional Irish proportions and setting. The difference is plain to see and affirm how ‘traditional’ practices can be brought elegantly into the 21st century. Note how simple but beautiful this design is. (Link to “How proportions produce beautiful houses”)

Bad proportions                                            Good proportions

In my experience, the only profession that consistently considers proportions and setting are architects. That’s not to say that a technologist or an engineer can’t educate themselves of suitable proportioning systems or how to site a project sensitively into its context but for an architect it’s generally one of the most important ingredients to successful design.   

If you would like to find out more about how proportions are what produces beautiful houses then you should read this blog (link to “How proportions produce beautiful houses”)  

So the choice is yours? Obviously, you will be recommended professionals to help with your project by family and friends and of course costs will come into focus too. This is understandable and it is generally a good idea to do your research before committing to a particular construction professional but when it comes down to the decision of who will help deliver your project, I leave you with this thought, although your doctor specifies treatment for your health, you wouldn’t go to him/her to get a tooth pulled, would you? So, assigning the right professional for the right task is essential.

We wish you the very best of luck with your project. We would love to hear from you as to if you found this article useful or if you think it is poor nonsense. Have your say, comment below.

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