Industrial Architect: Work, Salaries, Jobs, Education and Ethics

An industrial architect designs industrial facilities like factories, warehouses, and manufacturing plants. They have various specializations, including manufacturing facilities, energy plants, warehouses, and environmental sustainability. Industrial architects collaborate with clients and engineers, conduct site visits, and use CAD software to create detailed plans.  Industrial architects need technical skills and knowledge in architecture, engineering, CAD software, building codes, and industry standards. They must excel in space planning, collaboration, problem-solving, sustainability, and safety standards. Staying current with industry trends and regulations is essential to their success. The average salary for an industrial architect is around $86640 per year (€80640, £65280 per year). However, salaries vary based on location, experience, firm size, and industry specialization. Industrial architects have contributed to iconic buildings like the Fagus Factory, Lingotto Factory, Van Nelle Factory, Salts Mill, Sears, Roebuck and Company Complex, Ford River Rouge Complex, Willis Tower, and Bank of China Tower.  Technologies like Building Information Modeling (BIM), parametric design tools, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), generative design, 3D printing, and construction robotics are reshaping industrial architecture. BIM, in particular, improves design, collaboration, and visualization. Industrial architects rely on software like AutoCAD, Revit, SolidWorks, SketchUp, Rhino, Grasshopper, and Revizto. These tools help in designing, modeling, and collaborating on industrial projects. Top schools for industrial architecture include the Illinois Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, and Wentworth Institute of Technology. Relevant coursework, internships, and specialized programs prepare students for a career in industrial architecture. While a Masters in Architecture degree provides foundational knowledge, it is insufficient for working as an industrial architect. Specialized training and technical expertise related to industrial facilities are essential for success in this field.

What is an industrial architect?

An industrial architect is an architect who specializes in the design and planning of industrial facilities such as factories, warehouses, and manufacturing plants. This involves considering factors like workflow, required equipment, and worker safety and comfort. Industrial architects play a vital role in the physical infrastructure for producing and distributing essential goods. There are several types of industrial architects, each with their own area of specialization. Manufacturing facility architects focus on the design of production plants, including layout and integration of equipment and automation. Warehouse and distribution center architects specialize in designing storage and logistics facilities. Energy and utility architects handle the design of power plants, waste treatment facilities, etc. Industrial park architects plan developments with multiple industrial buildings, infrastructure, etc. Environmental architects incorporate renewable energy, recycled materials, etc., into sustainable industrial designs. Across these areas, industrial architects apply their technical skills, understanding of industrial needs, and vision for efficient, functional spaces to create infrastructure supporting vital economic activities.

What are the responsibilities of an industrial architect? 

Industrial architects have a variety of responsibilities in their typical workday: They collaborate with clients, engineers, etc., to understand project requirements and develop an appropriate design brief. They conduct site visits to assess conditions and ensure the feasibility of proposed designs. They create detailed plans and specifications for building layouts, loading areas, etc., using CAD software. They review and approve drawings and documents from contractors. They ensure designs provide proper ventilation, lighting, etc. for a safe working environment. They select suitable building materials, fixtures, and production equipment while considering cost, durability, and function. They research new materials and techniques to improve industrial facility efficiency and safety. They ensure compliance with regulations and obtain necessary permits and approvals. They oversee construction to ensure adherence to standards, budgets, and schedules. They provide regular progress updates and feedback to clients. They assess completed buildings to identify potential improvements. Fundamentally, industrial architects synthesize their architectural expertise with an in-depth understanding of industrial needs to create specialized facilities tailored to their clients’ operations. Their designs focus first and foremost on functionality and safety while also striving for innovation and sustainability. Their oversight through completion aims to optimize the performance of the building to support their client’s industrial goals fully. An industrial architect is responsible for protecting worker welfare through their designs.

What type of buildings do industrial architects commonly design?

Industrial architects commonly design buildings focused on manufacturing, production, storage, and distribution. One major type of industrial building they design is a factory for assembly lines and industrial production processes. In factories, architects optimize workflow, equipment layouts, ventilation, lighting, and other aspects for efficiency and safety. Another common project is warehouses – large storage and distribution facilities with open floor plans to accommodate inventory and transport of goods. Design considerations for warehouses include storage rack layouts, loading docks, and traffic flow. Industrial architects also design specialized energy facilities like power plants, refineries, and waste-to-energy plants. These projects require extensive knowledge of safety and environmental regulations. In addition, industrial parks are a common project that integrates multiple industrial buildings, infrastructure, and amenities into a planned development. Designing these large-scale projects requires coordinating many different facility types and aspects. Finally, industrial architects adapt their expertise to specialized facilities like water treatment plants, aircraft hangars, chemical plants, and more based on the unique needs of the manufacturing or production process.

What skills and knowledge do you need to be an industrial architect?

Industrial architects need a diverse set of technical skills and knowledge. Firstly, they require a strong architectural and engineering background to understand structural design, building materials, and construction methods. This includes proficiency in CAD software, building codes, and industry standards. Secondly, excellent space planning abilities are critical to optimize layouts and workflow based on equipment, ventilation, lighting, and other needs. Industrial architects also need strong collaborative skills to work with stakeholders like clients, engineers, and contractors. Problem-solving skills are equally important to solve complex design challenges unique to industrial facilities. Knowledge of sustainability and incorporating green design is also essential to reduce environmental impact. Additionally, industrial architects must understand all relevant safety standards, regulations, and building codes to ensure facilities meet criteria. The role demands technical expertise in architecture and engineering combined with space planning, collaboration, problem-solving, and sustainability skills. Keeping current on industry trends, technologies, and regulations is also crucial. With these diverse cross-disciplinary skills, industrial architects can design innovative, functional industrial spaces that meet specialized needs.

What types of architects are the most competitive?

The most competitive types of architects are sustainable architects and modern architects. Sustainable architecture is a type of architecture that focuses on creating eco-friendly and energy-efficient buildings that minimize the environmental impact and cost of construction and operation. These types of architects must have a deep knowledge of sustainable materials, technologies, and practices, a strong aesthetic sense, and a vision for the future. They must also comply with various regulations and standards promoting green building. Green design architecture is in high demand as more people and organizations are becoming aware of the importance of environmental conservation and social responsibility. In contrast, Modern architecture is characterized by the use of new materials, techniques, and forms that reflect the changes and challenges of the contemporary world. Modern architects must be innovative, experimental, adaptable, and responsive to their client’s and users’ needs and preferences. Their designs must also balance functionality, beauty, tradition, and novelty. Modern architecture is highly competitive as it requires constant learning and improvement and a keen sense of the trends and movements in the architectural field.

What is the salary of an industrial architect?

The average salary for an Industrial Architect is around $86640 (€80640, £65280) per year. However, salaries can vary significantly depending on several factors. Location greatly impacts potential earnings, with industrial architects in states like California, New York, and Washington earning the highest average salaries of $100000 to $108000 (€93000 to €100440, £75000 to £81000) annually. Experience level also affects salary, with entry-level industrial architects earning $59000-$75000 (€55000-€70000, £44640-£56640) annually, mid-career architects earning $75000-95000 (€70000-€88400, £56640-£71520) annually, and highly experienced architects earning over $120000 (€112000, £90720) annually. Additionally, firm size and type of employer influence salary, as architects at large firms or in major metropolitan areas tend to earn more than those at smaller firms or rural locations. Industry specialization also impacts pay, with architects focused on high-paying industries like oil and gas, technology, and healthcare earning higher salaries than those in other fields. The highest salaries tend to be found in major metro areas and in high-paying industries.

Who are the most iconic industrial architects?

Industrial architect: work, salaries, jobs, education and ethics

Listed below are the most iconic industrial architects:

  • Albert Kahn: Albert Kahn was one of the most influential industrial architects of the 20th century. He pioneered the use of reinforced concrete for industrial buildings, allowing for larger open floor plans. Kahn designed over 1,000 buildings in his lifetime, including many iconic automobile plants such as the Ford River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, MI, and the Packard Plant in Detroit, MI. His designs emphasized lighting, ventilation, fireproofing, and safety for the workers. Kahn was one of the first to separate different functions like foundry and assembly work into different buildings with different requirements.
  • Peter Behrens: Peter Behrens was a German architect and designer considered to be one of the first industrial designers. In 1907, Behrens was appointed as an artistic consultant to AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft), for which he designed not only industrial buildings but also products, graphic design, advertisements, and even worker uniforms. This unified corporate identity was revolutionary for its time and made AEG a leader in industrial design. Behrens designed over 40 factories for AEG, introducing modernist design elements like geometric forms, glass curtain walls, and metal frame construction. Notable examples are the Turbine Factory and the Boiler House.
  • Albert Charles Robinson: Albert Charles Robinson was one of Britain’s most prominent industrial architects in the early 20th century. He designed numerous factories, particularly in the automotive industry, specializing in reinforced concrete construction. His notable works include the Ford automobile factory at Dagenham (1931) and the Morris Engines Branch factory at Coventry (1939). Robinson’s designs favored horizontal bands of metal-framed windows, providing plentiful natural light to the factory floors. His buildings were functional and efficient for production, yet also exhibited a refined aesthetic with minimal decorative elements.
  • Walter Gropius: Walter Gropius was the founder of the Bauhaus school and a pioneering modernist architect. While known more for his theoretical work, Gropius designed influential industrial buildings, including the Fagus Factory in Germany, which was completed in 1911. This shoe-last factory demonstrated Gropius’ functionalist design approach with features like a glass curtain wall, steel frame construction, and minimal decoration. Gropius would go on to design the Bauhaus school building in Dessau, Germany (1926) which became an icon of modernist architecture and influenced industrial design worldwide.
  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a Scottish architect linked to the Glasgow School art movement. His most famous industrial building was the Willow Tearooms in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow (1903). The tearooms demonstrated Mackintosh’s distinctive style, featuring robust exposed ironwork, stylized decoration, and creative use of glass. In a tea room, the design elements pointed toward a new form of industrial architecture focused on clean lines, functionality, and abstraction. Mackintosh’s influence can be seen in the work of modernist architects that followed.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright: Frank Lloyd Wright pioneered the Prairie School movement and was one of America’s most influential architects. His work transitioned organically from the Arts and Crafts style to Modernism. Wright designed several significant industrial spaces, including the Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine, WI (1939). This office and manufacturing facility building was an early example of open-plan office design. Wright designed custom furniture and utilized glass, brick, and Wright’s trademark textile blocks to create a bright, inviting environment for the company’s workers.
  • Le Corbusier: The Swiss-French modernist architect Le Corbusier had a significant influence on industrial architecture. His theoretical writing emphasized rationalized, functionalist design for buildings. Le Corbusier built several pioneering industrial structures, including the Centrosoyuz building in Moscow (1928) and the Villa Savoye Poissy in France (1931). These buildings demonstrated his “five points of architecture” with pilotis, ribbon windows, open floor plans, and flat roofs. Le Corbusier’s ideas helped shape the International Style of industrial architecture in the mid-20th century.
  • Mies van der Rohe: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a German-American architect, Director of the Bauhaus, and one of the pioneers of modernist architecture. His industrial buildings, like the A.E.G Turbine Factory (1909) were simplified and stripped of decoration. Mies pioneered new techniques like using steel I-beams and large expanses of glass. The German Pavilion designed by Mies for the 1929 Barcelona Expo became an influential building demonstrating these concepts. Mies’ ideas formed the basis for the International Style and helped redefine industrial architecture in the 20th century.

What ethical principles should industrial architects respect?

Listed below are the ethical principles that industrial architects should respect:

  • Protect public health, safety, and welfare: Industrial architects have an ethical responsibility to prioritize public well-being in their designs. This includes meeting safety codes, considering projects’ environmental and social impacts, and proactively addressing any risks or hazards. As professionals responsible for spaces where many work or live, upholding safety should be the number one concern.
  • Exercise unprejudiced professional judgment: Architects should provide objective, data-driven advice to clients based on facts and expertise. Personal opinions or biases that compromise the quality of design recommendations threaten public trust in the profession. Architects also must avoid or withdraw from projects where conflicts of interest cannot be resolved.
  • Uphold the dignity and integrity of the profession: By conducting business honestly, lawfully, and transparently, architects earn respect for the profession. Likewise, properly crediting the contributions of team members demonstrates integrity. Reporting misconduct when encountered also upholds dignity. Architects should aim to improve the standing of the field.
  • Continually improve professional knowledge and skills: Lifelong learning is an ethical imperative in a complex, evolving profession like architecture. Architects refine their expertise by keeping current on the latest practices, materials, technologies, and regulations to create better, safer buildings. Stagnant knowledge risks substandard, outdated, or dangerous work.
  • Respect cultural and natural heritage in designs: Architects should thoughtfully conserve historical, cultural, and environmental value in their projects wherever possible through context-sensitive solutions. An ethical duty exists to respect what past generations have contributed to sites. Architects also must consider their impact on future generations.
  • Support professional organizations and share knowledge: Giving back to the profession helps strengthen and uphold it for the future, as does mentoring emerging architects. Sharing lessons learned fosters advancement. Architects should assist with research and setting standards where able.
  • Respect diversity and create inclusive designs: Architects have an ethical duty to accommodate diverse users’ needs equitably. Considering attributes like mobility, age, language, culture, and gender in design decisions makes spaces more accessible, welcoming, and functional for all.
  • Practice environmental stewardship: Architects should prioritize resource efficiency, resilience, and ecological impact reduction in their work to conserve energy and materials. An ethical duty exists to reduce contributions to climate change and environmental harm from the built environment.
What notable buildings were designed by industrial architects?
Industrial architect: work, salaries, jobs, education and ethics
  • Fagus Factory: The Fagus Factory in Alfeld, Germany, designed by industrial architect Walter Gropius, is considered a landmark of early modernist architecture. Gropius pioneered the use of glass curtain walls, steel frame construction, and minimal external decoration. The factory demonstrates these concepts with its geometric forms, gridded glass walls, and lack of exterior ornamentation. Gropius oriented the building for optimal daylighting with its elongated north-south axis. The Fagus Factory directly influenced the Bauhaus style and helped redefine 20th-century industrial architecture by proving modern materials and design could be commercially successful. 
  • Lingotto Factory: The Lingotto building in Turin, Italy built by Fiat was designed by industrial architect Giacomo Matté-Trucco. It is notable for its unusual architecture featuring a spiral ramp that winds up through the building, allowing finished automobiles to exit the factory at the rooftop. The building’s form follows its function to create an efficient assembly line layout. Lingotto’s stripped classicism style combines modern industrial architecture with Art Deco styling. After closing as a factory, Lingotto became a retail and entertainment complex. 
  • Van Nelle Factory: The Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam, Netherlands, is considered a masterpiece of modernist industrial architecture. Designed by industrial architects Brinkman and Van der Vlugt, its glass curtain walls, steel frame construction, and spacious floor plan demonstrated modernist design principles. Huge steel framed windows allow ample natural light into the interior. The factory’s simple, functionalist style emphasized air, light, and openness. Van Nelle Factory is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its architectural innovation and its influence on modern commercial buildings.
  • Salts Mill: Salts Mill in Saltaire, England, was built in 1853 by Sir Titus Salt. It was one of the first industrial buildings to improve employees’ working conditions. Salts Mill pioneered the use of cast iron, concrete floors, elevators, and sprinkler systems. The mill’s grand classical style was intended to inspire Salt’s workers. Converted into an art gallery in the 1980s, Salts Mill represents a leading example of mid-19th-century industrial architecture and adaptive reuse.
  • Sears, Roebuck and Company Complex: The Sears, Roebuck and Company Complex in Chicago, IL was one of America’s earliest examples of modern industrial architecture. Designed by Nimmons and Fellows, the building maximized natural light with expansive windows, used reinforced concrete, and had a simple unadorned style. The complex pioneered the use of new building methods ideal for industrial facilities. Sears was the largest business building in the world when completed in 1906, influencing industrial architecture with its innovative design.
  • Ford River Rouge Complex: The iconic Ford River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, MI designed by industrial architect Albert Kahn pioneered modern automotive factory design. Kahn’s use of reinforced concrete, glass, and steel created large open interior spaces ideal for auto production. The Rouge helped launch mass production techniques that revolutionized manufacturing. Kahn oriented the building to maximize natural light and ventilation. 
  • Willis Tower: Willis Tower in Chicago, designed by famous industrial firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, was one of the tallest buildings in the world when completed in 1970. It demonstrated innovative structural engineering, using a “bundled tube” design that allowed for a record height. The tower’s sleek, modernist style emphasized simplicity and lacked external decoration. Willis Tower showed that modern skyscrapers could achieve impressive heights using a minimalist, industrial aesthetic. It became an icon of both modern Chicago architecture and modern skyscraper design.
  • Bank of China Tower: The Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, designed by I.M. Pei is an example of late 20th-century industrial architecture. The tower’s unique triangular framework allowed for a tall, slender structure requiring less steel. Geometric-shaped exteriors create a distinct profile on the Hong Kong skyline. 
What new technologies are reshaping the work done by industrial architects today?

The new technology reshaping the work of industrial architects today is Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM allows the creation of detailed 3D digital models of buildings that improve design, coordination, visualization, and analysis. It also enables better collaboration between all project stakeholders and helps identify errors before construction. BIM models can even create digital twins of buildings to monitor ongoing performance. Also, parametric design tools like Grasshopper are changing the work of industrial architects. These tools allow quick iteration of designs by modifying parameters rather than drawings. Parametric modeling enables simulation-based optimization of designs for factors like sunlight, ventilation, acoustics, and more.

Additionally, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) now allow industrial architects to visualize and evaluate designs at full, human scale before construction begins. This leads to improved design quality. VR and AR are also useful for showcasing design proposals to clients and stakeholders in an immersive format.

Generative design powered by artificial intelligence is an emerging technology that automatically generates optimized layouts based on specified goals and constraints. This allows rapid exploration of countless design options to find an ideal solution. Factors like efficiency, circulation, and safety can all be optimized using generative algorithms. Finally, technologies like 3D printing and construction robotics enable new industrial architecture capabilities. Complex geometries and custom components can be 3D printed, and robotics improves construction site speed, precision, and safety.

What software is most widely used by industrial architects today?

Industrial architects’ most widely used software program is AutoCAD. It is a popular CAD software from Autodesk and is one of its most essential tools. Its advanced modeling features make AutoCAD well-suited for designing detailed 2D and 3D plans for industrial buildings. Similarly, Autodesk’s Revit BIM software is invaluable for its powerful 3D modeling and building information modeling capabilities that help architects design and document complex industrial projects. Beyond these CAD and BIM programs, specialized 3D modeling tools like SolidWorks play a key role as well. SolidWorks is commonly used in manufacturing and engineering, and industrial architects leverage it to design industrial equipment and assets and model industrial spaces. Other critical software includes SketchUp for fast conceptual modeling and renderings to communicate designs, Rhino for accurately modeling complex geometries, and Grasshopper for parametric and generative design to optimize facilities. Finally, collaboration and design review tools like Revizto facilitate coordination of building information models with extended project teams of engineers, contractors, and clients.

Where can you study to be an industrial architect?

Top schools for industrial architecture include the Illinois Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, and Wentworth Institute of Technology. Beyond dedicated industrial architecture programs, related architectural degree paths like architectural engineering can also prepare students for careers in industrial design. Coursework in architecture, engineering, construction methods, and building systems provides relevant knowledge. Programs accredited by the NAAB (National Architectural Accrediting Board) ensure proper training. Another option is architectural and engineering master’s programs, which take students from various undergraduate backgrounds and provide specialized industrial architecture and design training at the graduate level. These accelerated programs last 1-2 years. Internship experience at architecture firms specializing in industrial projects is also highly recommended to gain hands-on experience.

Is a Master’s in Architecture degree enough to work as an industrial architect?

No, a Master’s in Architecture degree alone is not enough to work as an industrial architect. While it provides vital foundations in architectural design and technical knowledge, most graduate architecture programs do not equip students with specialized expertise in planning industrial facilities for uses like manufacturing, production plants, warehouses, etc. Relevant skills needed for these complex buildings – like production layout planning, designing for heavy machinery, construction systems for extensive material handling/storage, etc. – necessitate targeted supplemental training beyond a conventional architectural graduate degree. While a master lays vital foundations in the key aspects like regulatory policies, model codes, core design principles, etc., developing specialized technical expertise is essential for successfully planning and designing the highly utilitarian facilities fundamental to industrial sectors.

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