PE Exam – Let’s Get Started

PE Exam - Let's Get Started
Do you remember the first time you tried something new? Whether it was ski-diving or scuba-diving, a new sport or a new instrument, learning to drive or learning to fly. Those first few “steps” can seem huge. Most times, all we need to do is take a deep breath, put one foot in front of the other, and begin moving.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

These same steps can be applied to just about any endeavor. Take, for instance, preparing for the PE Exam. Hopefully by now you’ve made the decision to take the PE Exam and have registered with Where most people find themselves at this stage is … “the exam is two months away, I’ve got plenty of time to prepare … I’ll get started later.” And before you know it, one month is gone, then another week, and another. Now you’re down to panic-mode. There’s not enough time to properly prepare so you try to cram as much as possibly into the little time remaining and you spend the next few weeks agonizing over the whole mess.

If you’re taking the Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, or Structural PE Exam, you’ll only have to carry this burden around for six months until the next exam. But if you’re taking the Architectural PE Exam, you get to suffer for twelve full months … one whole year. Don’t be this person. Take these next two months seriously. Put in the work. Do the hard things necessary to pass the PE Exam. And remember:

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

So … let’s get started.

This post – and the next few – primarily pertain to the Architectural Engineering PE Exam but the information presented can be applied to any of the other exams.

These first two topics:

  1. Aspects of building performance that affect human comfort (e.g., vibration, noise, lighting, climate control) and,
  2. Impact of one system on another (e.g., lighting load on air-conditioning system capacity)

are intended to get the test-taker to consider building systems – architectural, civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing – as a whole and how each one affects the others.

For example, how do vibrations transmitted from HVAC equipment to the structure impact the overall acoustics of a space or entire building?

  • Does the mechanical engineer treat the cause with additional isolation devices to limit the transmission?
  • Does the structural engineer use heavier – or more – steel to counteract the impact?
  • Does the architect and acoustics engineer provide additional sound dampening?

And how do each of these affect the occupants?

Vibrations can be annoying and interfere with productivity.

Sound dampening can alter the intended “feel” of the space.

Noise can undermine speech and affect attention.

Everything we do as designers has the capacity to impact something else so we must be aware of our efforts as well as the efforts of others.

To successfully navigate this portion of the exam, I recommend gathering information – articles, charts, graphs, examples, etc. – that relates to these types of impact.

Gather information on:

  • Vibration
  • Noise
  • Lighting
  • Climate control
  • Insulation types and characteristics
  • Day-lighting
  • Windows
  • Building materials

As well as information on:

  • How does the lighting load affect the air-conditioning load
  • How does the HVAC load affect the overall electrical load and service size
  • How do the MEP systems affect the structural systems
  • How do all the systems combined affect the final architectural design

In future posts I will provide some beneficial resources and websites that you can include in your Test-Day Resource Library. But for now, do some digging on your own and see what you can find. Be curious, always ask why? or why not? and never merely take someone else’s opinion for your own. This part of the exam has a certain element of subjectivity and it’s not always “written in stone.” In your quest, you might find a new insight or twist on a long-held belief that makes you question your stance on the issue. This is not a bad thing. It’s in our moments of questioning and decision-making that we form our destiny.

PE Exam – Let’s Get Started

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