New degree builds Oregon State engineering expertise

Two people pointing at a diagram.

To address the challenges of constructing more appealing, resilient, and efficient buildings, projects need engineers who excel within a diverse team of professionals.

“As buildings have become more complicated, everyone on the project has become more specialized,” said Judy Liu, professor of structural engineering. “There’s a need for someone who understands all of the disciplines and who can reach across them, so the process can be integrated and streamlined.”

Beginning in 2016, Oregon State University’s College of Engineering took steps to address that need and in 2019 received permission to offer a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering. ABET, the accreditation organization for engineering programs in the United States, lists only 24 schools that offer an accredited degree in architectural engineering. The Oregon State program is the second of its kind west of the Rockies and the first in the Pacific Northwest, and it complements existing regional architectural degree offerings.

The Architectural Engineering Institute describes those in the field as engineers who practice in the space where engineering and art meet. They work with architects and civil engineers but are distinct, both in their skills and in the role they play in the building design team.

“The architectural engineering program leverages a lot of the elements of civil engineering and construction engineering management, which are already very strong at this school,” said Joe Fradella, senior instructor, Hoffman Instructor, and AE program committee member. “It brings a new dimension, which we haven’t yet had in this region.”

The program will provide students with breadth and depth in a handful of areas, including structural systems; heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; electrical and lighting systems; and construction engineering and management. And, since buildings use nearly 40 percent of the nation’s energy, architectural engineers have a large opportunity to reduce consumption by increasing the efficiency of building systems.

The AE committee developed the curriculum informed by a review of current programs, existing courses and curricula, and accreditation requirements. The school is pursuing accreditation for the program through ABET. “I completed an architectural engineering program at another school,” Fradella said. “While it was a good program, I’ve tried to take what I’ve learned since then and make this new one special — and make it pop.”

July 1, 2019