How Architects and Engineers Really Collaborate

Architects are often praised for the beautiful buildings they design, but their behind-the-scenes partners, structural engineers, are equally important to achieving the design vision and ensuring that it works. If you’ve ever wondered how architects and engineers work together; how they divide, conquer and collaborate, Lithon’s Dalene Vries has some answers for us. 


1. The Idea

Every building construction project, whether city construction or urban planning, involves collaboration between architects and structural engineers. From the moment a project is conceived visually by an architect, engineers are there assessing the feasibility of the design, collaborating on changes and intricacies and ensuring that what gets built is structurally sound. 

The architect usually begins by sketching out the client’s ideas and creates a 3D model of the design. The structural engineer imports the 3D model of the architectural design into their sophisticated programs for analysis, and then carefully designs structural elements to support the idea. They not only provide advice on how best to construct the building, but also take into account factors such as cost, safety, and environmental impact. 


2. The Ins and Outs of the Journey

Dalene explains that after planning and conceptual design, together they can move into detailed designs, which are costed. With a team of quantity surveyors, building contractors, other types of engineers, and all kinds of sub-contractors, the architect and structural engineer then collaborate to map out a building’s construction journey together. When this is complete, construction begins. At every stage, architects and structural engineers must sync their plans to keep the project on track. It’s a dance of designs and numbers, ensuring that both aesthetic and structural integrity comply with building codes and safety regulations.


3. Playing to Our Strengths

When it comes to architects and structural engineers, “we basically speak the same language but each one has their unique tools of expertise,” says Dalene. One could say that architects design with an eye for the awe-inspiring, while engineers scrutinise and add to those designs with safety and sustainability in mind. Together, they ensure that the final structure resonates with the original vision while standing solid and secure. For structures demanding concrete or steel, like multi-storey buildings, reservoirs, retaining walls, raft foundations, water treatment plants, steel frames and canopies, this partnership is especially important.


4. Teamwork and Trust are Essential

It’s essential that architects and structural engineers work together as a team and not as individuals. Teamwork thrives on clear and constant communication. Whether it’s hashing out details over a coffee, discussing load-bearing walls on a call, or aligning aesthetics with function in a meeting room, it’s the flow of ideas and information that keeps projects moving forward. Communication between architects and engineers should always be underpinned by mutual respect and understanding. Although they may not always agree, having the end goal in mind is all important. 


5. Navigating Through Challenges 

Working together is not always easy. Engineers and architects often have to reach a consensus on structural details, adapt to design changes, and manage construction curveballs. A foundation of trust and effective communication is key to overcoming these obstacles and achieving a successful project outcome.


Collaborate with Lithon 

Lithon’s structural engineering team is well-versed in joining forces with architects, on all kinds of projects from big to small. For insights and expertise on your next engineering venture, reach out to us at