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What is the difference, and which do you need?

The three main species of construction professional may seem interchangeable to the layman.

All three may be found looking at a particular aspect of a project, but in fact they will all have arrived there from three diametrically opposed directions: architects approach their work from the point of view of the aesthetic appearance of the project; surveyors start from the premise of the value and use of land, and engineers begin by thinking about the strength and stability of the structural elements.


Historically, an architect was the chief of the builders on a project: the master mason, perhaps. The long training of the modern architect is still based around an analysis of the appearance and functioning of the building and spaces in it, but added to this, architects are often the 'lead consultant' in a building project, meaning that they have to direct the activities not only of the builders, but also of the other professional designers, and are therefore ultimately responsible for every aspect of the work.

If your building project requires a consideration of aesthetics and the use of spaces, you may need an architect.


The surveyors' profession has many subdivisions, for example:

  • Building surveyors – undertake simple building designs, administer building work, and identify defects.
  • Quantity surveyors – specialize in calculating the value of building work.
  • Land surveyors – prepare accurate plans of existing properties, sites and buildings.
  • Party wall surveyors – specialists in the laws regarding party walls.

If there are issues with the use and tenure of land, neighbors, or construction costs, you might consult a surveyor.


Originally the designers of 'engines of war', engineers are now divided into many disciplines, such as civil, mechanical, chemical, electrical, electronic, software … and of course structural. What they all have in common is the use of science to solve real world problems.

Structural Engineers are interested in the strength and stability of the elements of construction – the solid sections between the architect's 'spaces', like the floor or wall between rooms.

If you want help with the strength or stability of a structure, you may need to engage an engineer.