The difference between geometra, architetto and ingegnere
With the start of a new renovation project, my non-Italian clients almost always ask me “what is the exact role of the geometra?”
I must admit there is a lot of misunderstanding about this term. The reason is that in most countries such a profession as geometra does not exist. Most clients think that a geometra can do almost everything, starting from taking care of building permissions, to the architectural projects and finishing with the structural: in fact not so long ago this was almost true.
However, with changes in building regulations and the increasingly restricting legge antisismica (anti seismic law), the roles of geometra, architetto and ingegnere have become more clear.
A geometra usually starts his/her work with a visit to the local council (comune) registry offices and the regional land registry offices (Catasto) to obtain all documents required prior to a sale or renovation works.
A geometra can also be asked to finalize small renovation projects. In this case, there is no difference between geometra and architetto, as Italian law allows both to proceed.
However, if renovations involve the creation or have the need of a structural project (for example, creating a new opening for an extra window) the signature of a civil engineer is necessary!
The fact is that a large part of Italy is under threat of earthquakes (think of California!), so very strict anti-seismic laws have been implemented to minimize or avoid sismic damage. Even though not the whole country is at risk, the legge antisismica (anti seismic law) has to be applied on the whole of the territory. Because of its requirements, almost every renovation needs a structural project, which needs to be signed by a civil engineer.
In some ways, we could say that a geometra can in part take over the job of an architetto, but the ingegnere can take over the job of an architetto and a geometra.
The reality is that for medium to large renovation projects, as well as new building projects, the role of a geometra is limited to the initial location survey and the visits to both local council registry offices and the Catasto. S/he can also be involved in the follow up of the works.
The architetto is responsible for the architectural project and the civil engineer (l’ingegnere civile) is responsible for the structural project.
Basically, the geometra has great limitations in the type of projects s/he can undertake. We saw that major renovations and structural renovations are not among his/her duties; a geometra, moreover, cannot be responsible for new building projects in reinforced concrete, nor and can s/he be responsible for the collaudo (approval of the structures when the building process is finished). This can only be approved by architect or engineer.
In Italy (and this is different from most of other European countries) geometri, architetti and ingegneri are only allowed to sign off project they created or supervised, thus taking responsibility for it. Also remember that all geometri, architetti and ingegneri have to be registered on their specific albo professionale or ordine, the access to which is regulated by a state exam.
By Ing. Gunther Desaever