Architectural Engineering is Here!!

The University of Waterloo recently approved the launch of a new program in Architectural Engineering for September 2018 (subject to approval by the Ontario Quality Council).  We will be looking to take in about 85 students in the fall, and we’re rapidly gearing up space and teaching resources.  The official announcement is here, and applications are now open!  Here are a few key points about the program and admissions for this coming Fall.

Admission requirements:  same as all of our other engineering programs, namely required courses in mathematics,  physics, chemistry, and English (the specific details depend on the school system).  Their website has more information and links.  An Admission Information Form (AIF) is also required, and the video interview is optional.  A portfolio submission may be required for applicants in 2019, but will not be for this first year intake (not enough time!).  Applications are submitted through the OUAC website.

Program: most of the curriculum can be seen on the program website.  Like any engineering program, the first year has chemistry, physics, mathematics, programming, and a few courses specifically related to Architectural Engineering.  The program is inclusive co-op and direct entry, like all our engineering programs.  No general first year and competing for spaces in the major.

Unique features:  terms 3A and 3B will be taught at our School of Architecture location in Cambridge, Ontario and students will be able to interact with Architecture students and faculty.  Each term in the program will have a significant “studio” component, where students learn by hands-on projects, designing and fabricating models and such.  Also, there are very few (if any) similar engineering programs in Canada (perhaps Carleton’s Architectural Conservation and Sustainability Engineering or Concordia’s Building Engineering).   More of these programs exist in the U.S. where this discipline is a bit better known and more common (for example at U of Texas at Austin, or U of Southern California where they call it “Building Science”).

But now the most important question for prospective applicants.   What is Architectural Engineering?

First and foremost, it is an engineering program with all the math, physics, engineering design and problem solving that is involved with any engineering program.  It will lead to potential licensing as a Professional Engineer in Canada or the U.S., but it will not lead to licensing as an Architect.  These are two related but distinct professions.

So what is the difference between an Architect and and Architectural Engineer, or a Civil Engineer for that matter?  Here is my simple way of thinking about it.

Architect:  knows about materials, structures, etc., but their primary concern is with the aesthetics and “user experience” of a building design.  How does the design interact with the surrounding environment, how does the layout and space function for the users’ needs, and how do they perceive the interior and exterior environments?

Civil Engineer:  is primarily concerned with the construction and structural aspects of the building, the foundation and frame, earthquake resistance, building codes, etc.  They may take an Architect’s design and do some further work on the structural design to optimize things or minimize costs.

Architectural Engineer:  is primarily concerned with how a building “lives and breathes”.  They have some background in the aesthetics and use of space ideas from Architecture, and lots of background in structural design from Civil Engineering.  However, they also have strengths in the operations of the building, such as energy use and minimization, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), indoor air quality, utilities, interior materials, re-purposing and sustainability of buildings.

Why do we need Architectural Engineers now?  There has been a growing demand for people with this mix of Architecture, Civil and Mechanical engineering topics over the years, and the Faculty of Engineering has decided that now is the time to help meet this demand.

The demand comes from several trends.  First, according to some reports up to 40% of energy use in the U.S. (and probably Canada) is associated with buildings.  To achieve significant reductions in energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions we will need to address building energy efficiency.  One trend in new buildings is to design net-zero energy buildings, like this one currently under construction on Waterloo’s north campus.

Another major trend is to take old buildings and re-purpose them for new uses.  There are some significant architectural, structural, energy and sustainability issues when doing this, which Architectural Engineers can help work on.  There are lots of examples of old warehouses, offices, and industrial buildings being redeveloped across North America.  A local example is the Breithaupt Block in Kitchener, which turned a former rubber factory into buildings that are now home to  Google’s largest Canadian office.

So, is Architectural Engineering right for you (if you’re a prospective applicant)?  Perhaps, if you like math and science, have an interest in buildings and their users, have some creativity like an Architect, and want to make an impact on sustainability.  See our websites for more information, and I’ll post some other things about it when I can.  If you have a pressing question, you might try emailing to connect with the experts.

9 thoughts on “Architectural Engineering is Here!!

  1. Hello,

    Is it true that Physics is not a necessary course for this program because it does not list it in any years of the the required courses on the Waterloo website. Thanks!

    • No, that’s not correct. Physics is required for admission to Architectural Engineering, just like all other engineering programs. There are two physics-based courses in first year, AE 104 (Mechanics 1) and AE 105 (Mechanics 2), followed by AE 204 (Solid Mechanics 1) and AE 280 (Fluid Mechanics and thermal Sciences) in the 2A term and a few more in subsequent terms.

  2. What average will I need for admission to architectural engineering? Can I list it as my alternate choice on my AIF?

    • At this stage we have no way of knowing how competitive the admissions to AE will be, so there is no way to know what a competitive average will be. Yes, it can now be listed as an alternate choice on the AIF if you apply to another engineering program.

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  4. Hello Prof. Bill Anderson,
    I have heard that the competition for new programs at University of Waterloo is always very intense, (Ex Nano few years ago, and Biomedical engineering) at this stage, Is this the case for Architectural engineering as well? Would Architectural engineering be closer to the blue line (Mechatronics) or the green line (Civil)?
    Thank you!

    • It’s looking reasonably competitive for Arch Engineering. Not quite as wildly competitive as Biomedical though. Possibly somewhere between civil and mechantronics, but it’s impossible to determine accurately until later in May once everything is completed.

      • How many applications are you guys anticipating, since you guys are only accepting 80 students?
        And is it/ or will be ministry approved?

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