Architectural Engineering and Design

Image of Architectural Engineering and Design student and instructorArchitecture + Engineering

Chicago has been — and continues to be — a center for innovation in architectural design, hosting such great architects as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Helmut Jahn, Adrian Smith, and many others. The city’s reputation as a center for architecture can be traced to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and Daniel Burnham’s master plan for the city.

Building on this tradition, the McCormick School of Engineering is proud to offer the Architectural Engineering and Design (AE & D) Certificate Program. Both the image of cities and the quality of life for those who live in them are substantially defined by architects and engineers working together to design and construct buildings and other structures. This process requires a mixture of imaginative design, knowledge of materials and systems, and a variety of analysis and management tools.

Traditionally architects have led the design effort, and they are best known for the aesthetic element of their products. But it is the integration of architecture and engineering perspectives that leads to breakthrough, innovative buildings in terms of functionality, aesthetics, economy, and sustainability.

Engineering + Architecture

Building design is as old as the history of civilization, yet today the evolving challenges and opportunities in building design and construction are real, diverse, and exciting.

These include:

  • New building materials, including composites, super-high-strength concrete, adaptive, self-monitoring and self-healing systems.
  • Total integration of information technology in building life cycles, using building information models to support design, construction, operation, and rehabilitation.
  • Evolving requirements for safety and security, including damage-resistant and resilient materials and designs.
  • Life cycle designs that support adaptive reuse of structures as needs change.
  • Demands for energy efficiency and sustainability, including use of recycled materials and zero-energy building concepts.

These challenges and opportunities demand a new kind of professional, with expertise in structural analysis, architectural design, systems engineering, information technology, and management. These are whole brain engineers who can combine creative thinking with a social knowledge of technology to produce attractive, functional, and sustainable infrastructure.

Image of an architectural model built by a student.

AE & D at Northwestern

To prepare engineering students for collaborative careers in the building industry — as architects, structural designers, builders, project managers, or developers — Northwestern University offers a concentration in Architectural Engineering and Design — AE & D — in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

It is particularly fitting to host this program at Northwestern, because of our established excellence in engineering and the strong and growing emphasis on design as represented by our Segal Design Institute. The world-renowned architectural heritage of Chicago provides a logical context for this program.

This specialty is intended to meet the interests of creative students with a strong sensibility for and appreciation of architectural design. Graduates will be engineers who are prepared to:

  • Join the building and construction industry directly.
  • Pursue graduate studies in architectural engineering, construction management, and structural design.
  • Enter graduate programs in architecture.

The 6-course certificate program in AE &D is built on the McCormick School of Engineering Basic Studies Program and the Basic Civil Engineering Curriculum. Civil Engineering students completing this program will meet all requirements for the B.S. degree in Civil Engineering. Other Northwestern engineering students may earn the certificate by taking two additional courses (8 courses total). Students may also take a variety of elective courses that are directly supportive of AE & D, and most can do this within their allotment of technical, free, and theme elective courses. For more information take a look at the program requirements. Students interested in pursuing advanced studies in architecture are encouraged to include in their program of theme courses more fine arts and design courses that will develop their design skills and contribute to the portfolios necessary for application to architecture schools. 

AE & D Students Will

  • Gain a broad understanding of building systems and design.
  • Develop their ability to communicate and collaborate with architects.
  • Explore issues in sustainability and green design of buildings.
The program is strongly linked to the Chicago building community – prominent architects, engineers, and builders - who will provide leadership, teaching, and guidance to the program and its students. These relationships create U.S. and international internship and career placement opportunities for AE & D students.

Picture of Laurence Booth

Design Studio and Portfolio Development

The studio course series provides an opportunity for extended, mentored design exercises to develop creativity and design and representation skills. This course sequence is taught by experienced architects, and work products can be used in the design portfolio for each student, a necessary part of the application to most graduate programs in architecture and design.  In the studio series students will learn building information modeling (BIM) and elements of sustainable design.

Placement Connections

Connections with the architecture and building professions in this program can be helpful for placements in internships, cooperative education employment, and career positions. As engineers and architects explore novel ways to design buildings in response to new demands and opportunities, they push the extremes of structures, materials, and ideas. It is important that engineers and architects speak the same language and understand their complementary roles in the creative process of shaping and sustaining our built and natural environments. The Architectural Engineering and Design Program prepares students for the interdisciplinary world of building design at the cutting edge of architecture and engineering.


The Architectural Engineering and Design Program is directed by Laurence Booth, Richard Halpern/RISE International Distinguished Architect in Residence. Booth, design principal of Booth Hansen Associates, is an award-winning architect with more than 45 years experience. Studio and specialty courses will be taught by Mr. Booth, other experienced architects, and local building industry professionals.