Difference Between Architect And Civil Engineer: The Best Answer

Home improvements, renovations, or repairs can be a daunting task. You likely have a vision of what you want but knowing whether to employ an architect or a civil engineer to make your vision a reality can be complicated. So, what exactly is the difference between an architect and a civil engineer?

An architect’s job is to create an aesthetic project design that aligns with the client’s vision. A civil engineer is brought in to design the structural elements to ensure that the structure is safe and oversee the building of this. Together they create a detailed design and supervise construction.


So, suppose you are thinking of renovating, improving, or doing repairs to your home. In that case, you must employ the right professional to design and oversee your dream project. Read on to learn about what the specific roles of these professionals are in terms of design and construction.

The Main Difference Between A Civil Engineer And An Architect

The primary distinction between an architect and a civil engineer is that the architect is the one who will take your vision and ideas and create a design based on these specifications. The civil engineer is the one who will be tasked with making sure that the plan that the architect has created is structurally safe. 

The Architect’s Role In The Design Phase

The architect is usually the principal agent of the project, especially for larger-scale builds or renovations. The architect will help you conceptualize and design the aesthetic features of the structure you want to build by creating detailed drawings and renderings of the project. 

Therefore, you will need to meet a couple of times with the architect to discuss your vision, ideas, and concepts for the project before the design can take place. The architect will design and create a visual rendering of the structure from your ideas and specifications for you to approve. 

Remember that you, as the client have the final say during this process. Therefore, you must discuss what elements of the design you are satisfied or unsatisfied with, with the architect! Remember that it will be difficult to change the design after this stage!

The Civil Engineer’s Role In The Design Phase

During the design phase of any project, the civil engineer’s role is to ensure that the structure that an architect has designed is safe. They will design the main structural elements of a build that are crucial to the overall structural integrity and safety.

Once you have signed off on the aesthetic design of the project, the architect will employ a civil engineer to look over and design the structural elements of the project. These elements include stability, rigidity, strength, and loadbearing structures within a building.

The typical structures that the civil engineer will be designing are:

  • Beams – the vertical supports for a roof or floor.
  • Cantilever beams – support beams that extend outward from the structure, such as a balcony.
  • Columns/pillars – upright structures that bear the weight of a roof or second floor.
  • Posts similar to a column but usually refer to timber construction.
  • Walls usually only when the actual wall acts as a loadbearing structure.
  • Foundations – loadbearing structures built underground that support the above-ground structure.

Therefore, the primary function of the civil engineer in the design phase of any project is to make the aesthetic design safe. This is the most crucial part of any design, as, without the civil engineer, the structure could be unsafe!

However, as the client, you need to keep in mind that the structure’s aesthetics may change to make the design structurally sound! Therefore, after the engineer and the architect have finalized the structure’s design, you must sign off. Before signing off, you need to check if you are satisfied with the design and discuss any issues you have with these plans!

After signing off on the final design plans, the project’s construction phase can start!

An Architect’s Role In The Construction Phase

In the construction phase of any project, the architect’s role is to oversee the construction team, making sure that the structure is built according to the design. This will include multiple onsite inspections, evaluations, discussions, and signing off when the construction is completed.

Hiring a construction team will be part of their job if the architect is employed as the principal agent. This step is accomplished by specifying the design and putting it out to tender. From this, the principal agent will then have to decide which company they think will be able to complete the construction. Before making the final decision, they will have to run this by the client!

Additionally, it’s the architect’s responsibility to ensure that the builders build the overall structure according to the design specifications. Therefore, the architect will need to be onsite regularly to oversee the construction. Once construction is complete, the architect will need to sign off that it was completed according to the design specifications.

A Civil Engineer’s Role In The Construction Phase

The role of a civil engineer in the construction process is to oversee the structural aspects of a build. This includes making sure that elements related to structural integrity are built correctly. Additionally, they need to complete procurement and quality checks of the building materials.

The difference between the architect and civil engineer during the building process is that the architect focuses on the overall structure, while the civil engineer makes sure that the structural elements are built correctly. Therefore, it’s the civil engineer’s responsibility to check that the structural aspects related to structural integrity are constructed correctly. 

Therefore, the civil engineer will likely have to be onsite more often than the architect to ensure that each element is built correctly. Additionally, the civil engineer will have to sign off and report back as each structural piece is completed.

How To Decide Who The Principal Agent Will Be

The principal agent is the individual that a client employs to act on their behalf legally. Therefore, this individual will oversee the entire process from design to completion. They will also have to hire other specialists and workers to complete the project.

Although the architects are usually employed as the primary agent, hiring a civil engineer for this role is not uncommon. To decide who to employ as the primary agent, you need to consider the project’s scope. 

Suppose the project involves more extensive renovation or home improvements. In that case, it is advised to employ an architect for this role. However, suppose you are planning on only making minor alterations or repairs. In that case, you could choose to hire a civil engineer, saving you a lot of money!


The main distinction between an architect and a civil engineer is that the architect will design the aesthetic and structural plan and oversee that construction is according to this plan. The civil engineer will design structural elements to be safe and ensure that each aspect of the design is built correctly with quality materials. 






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