Architecture Vs Civil Engineering

Architecture vs Civil Engineering has had a long-standing misunderstanding. People who aren’t close to these professions often think they are similar. Certainly, this is not a fight for who is superior but a quest for knowledge. As an architect, I am curious to understand what makes both professions tick.  

Until modern times there was no clear distinction between civil engineering and architecture. Civil engineering was so broad at the time that it encompassed architecture, which is still partly the perception today.

The duties of the Architect and of the Civil Engineer are comparable with both having a lot of similarities.

They both engage in almost the same type of work routine but with different project scopes and types.

Basically, an architect specializes in buildings and their spaces, while a civil engineer specializes in infrastructures (with the exception of some structural engineers).

Therefore, the architects’ work scope is mostly limited to buildings.

Civil Engineering

The civil engineers’ work scope which involves infrastructure is broader.  He handles projects such as dams, pipelines, roads, bridges, canals, sewerage systems, railways, and other large-scale and heavy constructions.

Often on projects architects and civil engineers collaborate. Some examples of these are airports, modern bridges and multifarious projects.

The scope of Civil Engineering has made it mandatory for civil engineers to specialize further.

Mostly into areas such as structural, geotechnical, environmental, construction and transportation engineering etc, which are all parts of civil engineering.


For architects, in the building industry, for example, there are additional built environment professionals who work together with them to deliver projects.

Some of these professionals are town planners, Land surveyors, Quantity surveyors, Estate surveyors, builders etc.

This means that every built environment professional is assigned his role as a part of a larger building team, but this isn’t the case in civil engineering.

Architecture vs Civil engineering

Civil engineering projects are executed by civil engineers alone (except for the land surveyor).

Every activity required to carry out the project is executed by all the specialties in civil engineering.

Therefore in the building industry where the architect designs, the Quantity surveyor quantifies, the builder constructs and the estate surveyor manages and maintains, in civil engineering the civil engineer does it all.

When we look at definitions (according to Wikipedia) the architect is the person(s) who plans, designs, and reviews the construction of buildings. While the civil engineer is the person(s) who designs, constructs, and maintains the physical and naturally built environment.

This simply means that when you compare both industries, the duties of the civil engineer encompass design and extend to construction and maintenance. While that of the architect is professionally limited to design and supervision. So in true comparison, the duties of a civil engineer exceed that of the architect.

You will need to combine three or more built environment professionals to equate the civil engineer, even though the civil engineer as a person is required to specialize.

Civil engineers’ specialization reflects the structure and division of labour as seen among built environment professionals.

A common ground for misunderstanding between civil engineering and the building industry is that:

  • Firstly, civil engineers and society have not recognized that there is now a distinction between civil engineering and building architecture
  • Secondly, because civil engineers are trained in design and construction (though of infrastructure) they often with that knowledge encroach on fields currently covered by professionals in the building industry. By so doing carry out the responsibilities of trained architects, builders and quantity surveyors. With the profession “Building” being the most hit.

In conclusion

The Architect’s primary focus is buildings, their designs and supervision.

While the civil Engineer’s primary focus is infrastructure and its designs, construction and maintenance.

Therefore as far as professional duties are concerned (not the scope of work) architecture alone (as a part of the built environment professions) is not equal to civil Engineering but a combination of Architecture, Quantity Surveying, Building and Estate management.

This is not to say that civil engineering has the power to dominate the building industry (which of course is illegal) but that they are all independent and specialized professions in their own rights.

Please feel free to add your opinions and input. Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Architecture Vs Civil Engineering”

  1. Is quantity surveyor a good course to study in higher institution in order to secure a good job when done in the institution

    1. Hi Yusuf,

      Yes, quantity surveying is a good profession. I understand your concerns though because in Nigeria today, getting a job is hard for everyone not only the QS but as a QS you have the opportunity to practice independently if you are unable to secure an office job. If you have doubts about QS maybe you should study other courses that are lucrative and you are interested in.

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