Construction of maritime defenses: works management and safety coordination are the sole responsibility of the engineer


Emma Potter

The matter of distribution of professional skills between engineers and architects it is always relevant and continues to be subject of litigation.

Last month we reported sentence no. 11149/2023 of the Council of State in which the judges of Palazzo Spada had identified engineers are responsible for designing the municipal sewerage network; on this occasion, we highlight the ruling of 21 February 2024, n. 1745, of the section. V of the Council of State, in which the judges dealt with the competence relating to works management and safety coordination during the execution phase for sea defense construction worksconsidering it, also in this case, in the hands of engineers and not architects.

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Engineers and architects skills: the ruling on sea defense construction works

In the body of the ruling cited above we read that, “as regards the division of skills between the professional categories of engineer and architect, the constant jurisprudence of this Council of State recognises, in a general way, that “the planning of road, hydraulic and hygienic works, which are not strictly connected with individual buildings, is the responsibility of engineers, based on the literal, systematic and teleological interpretation of the articles. 51, 52 and 54 of the RD (see Cons. Stato, IV, 22 May 2000, n. 2938; id., V, 6 April 1998, n. 416; id., IV, 19 February 1990, n. 92) ” (Cons. Sato, V, 22 July 2021, n. 5510; 17 July 2019, n. 5012; 22 December 2023, n. 11149)”.

From this perspective, in establishing thebreadth of skills recognized, respectively, to engineers and architects pursuant to the combined provisions of the articles. 51 and 52 of the same royal decree no. 2537 of 1925, jurisprudence confirmed thetraditional orientationin order to be included in theexclusive prerogative of the profession of engineer of works of a more markedly technical-scientific nature(1).

In the present case, the activity had as its object the (mere) works management and coordination of safety during execution in relation to works consisting of “Maritime defense construction workand in species mostly attributable to “Rockfall barriers, and similar” and to “Maritime works“, except for a small part of “Conservative restoration”. It was, in hindsight, about works that fell within the engineering fieldin the maritime and related defense sector (“barriers” And “rockfall protection”), compared to which does not detectin a different sense, the fact that they were contemplated (equal to 1.44%) conservative restoration interventions in an area subject to landscape restrictions and the regime for the protection of historical-artistic properties.

Said circumstance it was not sufficient to deem exclusively the architect competent pursuant to art. 52, paragraph 2, rdn 2537 of 1925, according to which «civil construction works that have a significant artistic character and the restoration and restoration of the buildings contemplated by Law 20 June 1909, n. 364, for antiquity and fine arts, are the responsibility of the architectural profession; but the technical part can be carried out by both the architect and the engineer». And in fact, the intervention fell within the scope of the species and was still within the “maritime works” And “rockfall barriers and similar“, rather than the simple “civil construction» stricto sensuwith lack of relevance of specific artistic aspects; on the other hand, the (limited) conservative restoration activities alone were not valid sic et simpliciter to make the presence of the professional architect necessary.

Engineers' skills: case studies

There The main regulatory source for identifying the skills of engineers is represented by the Royal Decree of 23 October 1925 n. 2537containing theApproval of the regulation for the engineering and architect professions: these are rules dating back to 1925 which, nevertheless, are largely still in force, with some provisions amended and others repealed over the decades.

L'art. 51in particular, provides that the figure ofengineer the project, conduct and estimate of the works:
– to extract, transform and use the materials directly or indirectly needed for construction and industry,
– relating to the routes and means of transport, flow and communication (think, for example, of the design of roads, ports and airports),
– relating to constructions of all kinds (and, therefore, the generality of civil construction works),
– relating to industrial machines and systems,
– relating, in general, to the applications of physics (think, for example, of hydraulic, sewerage, purification and electrical systems).
Added to these skills are: geometric reliefs and the appraisal operations.

In light of the regulatory provisions indicated above and the jurisprudence, theexclusive competence of the engineer with regards to the design and related works management:
– hydraulic works (2) and, in general, hygienic works (3) (aqueducts – including rural ones (4) –, sewers (5), purification plants, cemeteries (6));
– road works(7), including rural roads(8);
– the ventilation systems of the underground areas of the monumental cemetery and the related rehabilitation works (9);
– the safety and reclamation of a waste landfill(10);
– the redevelopment of the historic center of a town through the reorganization of public spaces, “accessibility and connection and interchange roads (vehicular and pedestrian), the arrangement of pavements, public lighting, street furniture of the entire affected area”(11).

In collaboration with


(1) Council of State, sec. V, sent. 27 September 2018, n. 6552; section VI, sentence. 15 March 2013, n. 1550.
(2) TAR Puglia, Lecce, sec. III, sentence. 31 May 2013, n. 1270; TAR Calabria, Catanzaro, section. II, sentence. 9 April 2008, n. 354; TAR Campania, Salerno, section. I, heard. 26 April 2007, n. 457.
(3) TAR Calabria, Catanzaro, sec. II, sentence. 9 April 2008, n. 354; TAR Campania, Salerno, section. I, heard. 26 April 2007, n. 457.
(4) TAR Lombardy, Milan, sec. II, sentence. 13 March 1989, n. 201.
(5) TAR Campania, Salerno, sec. I, heard. 9 October 2015, n. 2167.
(6) TAR Umbria, ruling. 19 February 2016, n. 117. Art. 17 of the RD 6 October 1912 n. 1306 includes the works relating to cemeteries in the category of “works concerning public hygiene”: TAR Veneto, sec. I, heard. 30 April 2013, n. 633.
(7) TAR Campania, Salerno, sec. I, heard. 8 October 2021, n. 2113; TAR Campania, Naples, section. I, heard. 20 February 2017, n. 1023; TAR Lazio, section. Latin, sent. 12 July 2013, n. 609; TAR Emilia Romagna, Parma, sentence. 9 November 2011, n. 389; TAR Veneto, section. I, heard. 8 July 2011, n. 1153; TAR Calabria, Catanzaro, section. II, sentence. 9 April 2008, n. 354; TAR Campania, Salerno, section. I, heard. 26 April 2007, n. 457.
(8) Council of State, sec. II, opinion n. 723/2015.
(9) TAR Piedmont, section. I, heard. 17 February 2004, n. 261.
(10) TAR Campania, Naples, sec. I, heard. 20 April 2016, n. 1968; sent. 14 September 2016, n. 4299.
(11) Council of State, sec. V, sent. 31 March 2011, n. 1965.