Engineers, architects, contractors... What does each of them do? Are they all required for each project?
Under the new 2007 California Building Code, many projects will require that a design professional take responsibility for the design of the project. Design profesionals include engineers and architects and sometime building designers. (The State of California stopped licensing building designers some years ago and we don't know any who are still in practice.) Architects are traditionally the leaders of the design team for building projects. Engineers traditionally are the leaders for civil works, such as pipelines, dams and bridges. Contractors may also be architects or engineers, but the licenses are separate. See the State of California website for more information. http://www2.dca.ca.gov/pls/wllpub/wllquery$.startup
In the State of California, civil engineers, structural engineers and architects all have substantially the same authority to design buildings. While they have similar authority, their training and emphasis are different. Architects receive more training in aesthetics and functional flow, engineers receive more training in building strength and construction techniques. Architect and engineers often work together on large projects, but they tend to emphasize different priorities. Architects stereotype engineers as insensitive: engineers stereotype architects as impractical. There is something to both steretypes, but there are certainly skilled members of both professions that transcend them. In general, architects don't prepare structural calculations. Many civil and structural engineers don't do architectural, mechanical, electrical or plumbing plans. At Kembcon we do all or any part of the design.
Kembcon does not have any architects on staff at the moment, but we have cordial relations with several architectural firms. If we think a project has significant aesthetic issues, we may bring them in or refer our clients to one of them. Sometimes we work for them, sometimes they work for us, sometimes we both work directly for the client. Generally, for our type of work, no architect is required, but we sometimes choose to bring one in to assist us.
Structural engineers are all civil engineers who have passed an additional State examination. They all must maintain their registration as civil engineers, so the State of California collects two license fees every couple of years. Thre are many civil engineers who do a good job of providing structural engineering services: they just aren't allowed to call themselves structural engineers until they get the second license. By the same token, Kembcon prepares architectural plans, but we donot call ourselves architects.
Contractors are the people who actually oversee and perform the construction. They can have excellent insight on construction techniques and alternate solutions to design problems. They usually have a better handle on the cost implications of a particular design choice than either the architect or the engineer. However, they are not design professionals and cannot make changes to the approved project design without the consent of the engineer or architect of record.
Finally, all property owners are entitled to improve thier own property without using a contractor. They can act as an "Owner-Builder", but they must promise to comply with the State law regarding licensed contractors and workers compensation insurance.
Engineers, architects, contractors: All have thier own areas of expertise and all can contribute to a successful project.