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Right Brain, Left Brain: Explaining the MEP Engineer and Architect Relationship

April 30, 2019
A man in a hard hat is holding a blueprint in front of a construction site.

MEP engineers and architects often work hand-in-hand, frequently performing parallel functions that contribute to a building’s successful design. Despite the frequent overlap, these two groups often approach projects from vastly different perspectives. So, why do they ultimately work so well together?

The theory of right brain vs. left brain can help explain this.

In the 1960s, neuropsychologist and Nobel Prize winner Roger W. Sperry studied epilepsy patients who had their left and right brains physically severed for therapeutic reasons. From his research, he concluded that different hemispheres of the brain have different functions, thus giving rise to the theory that there are right-brain vs. left-brain people:

Right Brain   Left Brain  







Thinking in Words


Linear Thinking




It certainly holds true in our circles of architects and MEP engineers! Take for instance, the differences in how the two professions typically approach a project:

Architects: Right-Brain

Architects rely on their creativity and ability to think theoretically to guide their designs. While also concerned about the stability and safety of the building, they focus equally on the aesthetics and creating spaces that inspire and stand the test of time.

Engineers: Left-Brain

MEP Engineers, on the other hand, are less concerned with the artistry of a building and concentrate on making the building interiors suitable for human occupancy through the methodical design of its MEP systems. They do this through a linear way of thinking and mathematical skills.

It’s easy to see why the theory gained traction over the last 50 years. Most people can easily categorize themselves as right brain or left brain. But the theory has been disproven.

The Science Behind the Theory

Scientists at the University of Utah debunked the theory with an analysis of more than 1,000 brains. They found no evidence that people predominately use their left or right brain. In fact, study participants used their entire brain equally throughout the course of the experiment—exactly how the brain is designed to work. Both sides of our brain are needed to function—to not only speak, but to do so in a tone that matches the message, and so forth. Our brain transfers this relative data from the two hemispheres via a network of nerve fibers that harmoniously join logic and creativity, or the right brain with the left brain.

So, how does brain function relate to the working relationship between MEP engineers and architects?

A popular analogy likens the relationship to the human body. If a building was a human body, the architect would determine the individual’s physical traits and details like where the arms and legs would be positioned. The engineer, on the other hand, would be responsible for ensuring how the body moves and functions. A functional body—or as in this analogy, a building—simply doesn’t exist without attention to both form and function. Just as the brain’s two sides cannot function properly without the other, building design can’t be completed solely by architects or solely by engineers.

MEP engineers and architects understand this, and together, through open-communication (similar to that of the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the brain’s two hemispheres together), marry the strengths of their so-called “left” and “right” brains. In doing so, the engineer and architect are not only able to deliver a finished building that reflects the different perspectives and priorities of both professions, but also produce safer buildings, a richer built environment, and more efficient design and delivery processes. A win-win for all!

About VP Engineering
VP Engineering is a dynamic MEP design firm offering engineering expertise in senior living, multi-family, hospitality, medical, industrial, retail/commercial and educational markets worldwide. With experience in a wide range of building types, our MEP engineering services, including mechanical engineering, plumbing engineering, electrical engineering as well as LEED consulting, help keep projects on budget and achieve your goals. Learn more at