Peace and blessings beloved. I come from a family of tradesmen (plumbers, electricians, welders, carpenters, painters, etc) but never took a real interest in learning about said trades (or anything trade-related). I seen people work on and extensively repair households but never from the ground up so that particular part of the process is new to me. As these jobs relate to Engineering I had no clue or understanding of where each would fall, align with, etc.

As I began to research what specifically goes into building a home (from the womb to conception) I came across Engineering and began to also research what type of schooling they go through to attain that position, noticing the plethora of Engineers. Sifting through I came across various Engineering disciples that are stated to be involved with the process that included (not limited to) Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Architects, Civil, and maybe even a Sustainable Engineer (if one wants to build a Green Home). Seeing that there are a lot of nuances and technicalities involved I came across some articles and places that argued one more over the other, which to a novice can be very confusing.

Knowing that size, region, and environment all play a role in the process, generally speaking, which type of engineers are involved in the process (from start to finish) of designing and constructing residential homes? Whether the house is an urban, suburban, or rural setting. Thank you.

  • $\begingroup$ What has your research revealed? What engineers would you expect are involved in the process (from start to finish)? $\endgroup$ – Transistor May 9 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ @יהודה - Welcome to this Stack. As I'm sure you observed elsewhere on SE, some editorial effort is necessary. Please don't take it personally. You are obviously able to respond to comments with excellent clarity -- that same effort could be used in the future to skip these minor arguments and just by edit the question. Best of luck in your construction or design project. $\endgroup$ – Pete W May 10 at 0:18
  • $\begingroup$ @PeteW Peace beloved. First and foremost my apologies for whatever and all the bad vibes I brought to this website. It wasn't my intention to birth any sort of pettiness or unnecessary arguments due to the lack of my maturity on my end. Thank you for the advice and will do it now and moving forward. Peace to all. $\endgroup$ – יהודה May 10 at 0:49
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    $\begingroup$ Check your local building code. Depending on the footprint of the home the requirements can vary. In my neck of the woods if I recall correctly, a small foot print building will only require the seal of either just an architect or just an engineer. As the size increases the requirement may change to an architect AND an engineer. It is usually an architect that designs houses as they have some of the knowledge of a structural engineer as well a more in depth knowledge of building and finishing materials like door, windows & drywall. Struct. engineers tend to be more focused on the skeleton $\endgroup$ – Forward Ed May 10 at 2:16
  • $\begingroup$ @ForwardEd Thanks for the answer and response. If you were to get your degree, license, and whatever other certifications need be in State A and you moved and desired to build in State B, would you have to become recertified? For example, I teach in NY but in order to teach in another state, I would probably have to take some courses to get new certificates in compliance with the state and maybe even get relicensed (almost practically making your teaching license null and void). $\endgroup$ – יהודה May 10 at 3:04

A house or a development is the result of coordination between the architect and the civil engineer. But let's make no mistakes, civil engineering (the main study of the civil engineers) umbrellas many sub-disciplines that each carries the weight and contributes to the success of the said projects, whether a single residential house or multi-unit development. The training and responsibility of each discipline are:

  • Geotechnical Engineering: The study of soil materials and methods of subgrade exploration (sampling and testing) to determine the strength and stability of the in-situ soil layers, including the influence of the groundwater. The geotechnical engineer also provide guidance to the fill, backfill materials, and compaction requirements to avoid excessive/uneven settlement.

  • Structural Engineering: Study the structural behaviors and mechanics of the building materials. His/her primary responsibility is to size the building components (foundation, beams, columns, floors, roof...etc.) and ensure the strength of each building component and the building as a whole be able to withstand the effects of own weight from the building materials, force effect due to the occupant (live load), and force effect due to the varies environmental loadings, such as wind, snow, earthquake, and occasionally, the flood, without failure (collapse), nor lose of their intended functionality and comfort of use.

  • Construction Engineering: Focused on the methodology of construction and scheduling. The construction engineer has a broad understanding of each trade, and methods to put things together, cost, and cost control. He/she oversees the construction activities from the ground up until completion by actively coordinate and manage the activities such as ground preparation (excavation, grading, filling, and backfilling, which sometimes can be handled by the geotechnical engineer as well) and structure erection. His/her function can extend to including site restoration, interior/exterior electrical, and plumbing works.

In general, all three disciplines are indispensable for multi-unit developments. For a single residential house, however, the geotechnical and construction engineers are often ignored(*) or only given a minor role, especially the latter, whose responsibilities can be carried out by the architect, structural engineer, or the owner/builder through the use of trusted and experienced contractors.

(*) Overlook the role of the geotechnical engineer is often the cause of uneven building settlement that likely to result in problematic structural cracks.

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    $\begingroup$ I suspect you have done someone's homework for them. The lazy question didn't deserve this much work. $\endgroup$ – Transistor May 9 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Transistor I guess OP is a foreign junior engineering student trying to understand the role of civil engineers in the US housing market. $\endgroup$ – r13 May 9 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Transistor Or maybe it's somebody (as part of their research) who is not an engineer nor have a background in thought it would be wise to ask a question on a website (about engineering) possibly getting assistance from people who have expertise in the area. Why even have a question-based website if questions aren't even welcomed? What makes you think I haven't done any research? Clearly, I could see you didn't think I was worthy enough for an answer but enough to maybe think that your comment which borderlines being on being a jerk was worth everyone else's time. $\endgroup$ – יהודה May 9 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ @r13 First, thanks for the answer. I know of the different fields (electricians, carpenters, architects, etc) that are a part of the process (building a house) but not as it relates to engineering, which I have very little background knowledge on. Engineering is a field that has many disciples within it and I was researching I was getting an array of answers that (to someone who has little knowledge) was hard to grasp. This is why I thought it would be a wise decision to ask an engineering question on an engineering website..and no I'm not a foreign exchange student. $\endgroup$ – יהודה May 9 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ You should consider hiring a well-known structural engineer and pay him extra for efforts other than structural design. Firstly you need him to get the construction permit, and finally, you will need him to obtain the permit for occupancy. In between, he can coordinate the geotechnical engineering effort, the hiring of quality contractors, and the structural inspections required by the building code and the building department of your jurisdiction. Hope this helps. $\endgroup$ – r13 May 9 at 23:36

As an engineer (with partner also an engineer) who designed a 4 bed house to exceed the energy requirements of the building regs, and by a huge amount that some new builds are just beginning to match its performance some 15years later I have to point out that a good engineer or two, and a good architect are all that is needed.

So, had to brush up on some engineering theory to work out if the 20cm thickness of insulation would support the total mass of the house as no other support went through that slab except sewage, water and electricity pipes.

What was paramount was to be able to make use of the sun - passive solar design. Ie avoid summer sun by the use of shading, get free heat in winter by letting sunlight into the house etc

So, being able to use degree-days tables and interpolate data to approximate the weather to run performance simulations was the crux to the design - and the architect had no idea...

Main thrust of our engineering degrees was thermal and power plant analysis along with experience with renewables : solar pv and thermal etc.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the response. "Main thrust of our engineering degrees was thermal and power plant analysis" That's interesting because from my research if one wanted to become an engineer to build residential houses, that was not offered as a possibility or what one would do. So it would really depend on what type of house you would want to construct. Also, the ingenuity (very impressive) about how you utilized the sun during the summer and winter is amazing....When you say a good engineer or two, what type of engineer specifically and would they be in the same field? $\endgroup$ – יהודה May 9 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ Engineers that are prepared to research. $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike May 10 at 4:47
  • $\begingroup$ So are we talking Aerospace Engineers or more like Nuclear Engineers? $\endgroup$ – יהודה May 10 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ Do a degree where you can pick and choise your subjects - a modular degree. Sounds like you don’t know what to do - need to do some more research on degrees available. $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike May 10 at 5:04
  • $\begingroup$ No, I was just being sarcastic and silly because of your prior response. Being how I am a teacher for living I tend to be very open, humble, and non-condescending when I respond to people's (not just the youth) inquiries. $\endgroup$ – יהודה May 10 at 5:23

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