Building Services Engineers bring buildings and structures to life.
Building services include heating, lighting, ventilation, air-conditioning, electrical distribution, water supply, sanitation, acoustics and all the other attributes that make a building safe and comfortable for the people who live and work.
All these services are vital for everyday living, and it’s the job of the Building Services Engineer to make a building come to life. He or she plays an incredibly important role in ensuring the sustainability of a building endures for many years to come. If you are good at solving problems and learning how things work, and if you’re interested in environmental issues and renewable technologies, this is a great career choice for you.
Story of a real Building Services Engineer
A Life of Problem Solving
When I was in Year 9 at school we had a careers advice teacher. Mr Terry was his name. He was new to the job. Indeed, he was the only careers teacher that I new of. None of my football mates who went to other schools seemed to have such a new fangled teacher at their schools. Mr Terry was a trail blazer, part of a new initiative that was being piloted at my school. He had his own office with heaps of information on all of the different types of jobs in the big wide world beyond the school gates. I remember looking at all this stuff, then thinking how incredibly mind blowing this one decision I had to make was going to be. Life changing, life forming, what if I decide on something then end up hating it.
Mr Terry said he had some personality trait tests to see what type of chap I was…. Would I prefer working in a team or was I better working alone…. would I be better in an office or in a technical job. The tests were done and all was revealed… I needed to do something that involved “looking after or caring for people”…”like an ambulance driver or a social worker”…. “WHAT!!! YOU HAVE GOTTA BE KIDDING”… I said to myself … not to him… did not want to seem ungrateful… after all he was only new to this job, couldn’t expect him to get it right first time!
Did he not realise I had a most inquisitive of mind? The evidence was there to be seen in my new toy cars and trucks all without exception lay in tatters.. having lasted only five minutes before they were bust. Not from abuse, just that if they had a friction engine mechanism with a screwed casing I had the screws out to see what was inside.. all so I could figure out how its clockwork mechanism worked! Six months earlier I was scorned by my mum for taking an old wind-up clock apart. It had stopped working and I just wanted to see if I could find out what was wrong fix the mechanism! I had a passion for finding out how machines worked!
I also loved encyclopaedias, nerdy I know.. but I especially liked aeronautics, outer space, large span cantilever bridges like the Golden Gate Bridge. These were the things that really excited me. I remember being glued to the coverage of the first landing on the moon. I was eight when that happened. Science was cool. Physics was just sick!
My Working Life
Now some 43 years after the moon landings my interest in finding out how not just things, but more precisely, buildings, work and how they can be made to perform better, is still there. I am a building services engineer, a chartered engineer with a degree from South Bank University. I study how heat and light and the outside weather move through and affect the comfort of buildings. I design the internal heating and lighting systems that go to make buildings habitable. I understand how much energy they need and how low we can make the carbon foot print of them. Over the years I have added to my knowledge and experience, and the projects I have got involved with have got bigger and brasher. I have designed all the energy systems in big hospitals in Bahrain, Toronto airport, half the schools in my home city of Sheffield, big office buildings for the government, even a whacking great gas fired power station on the Humber estuary. In the next few weeks I start the design of a whole town in south east China. Buildings account for over 50% of carbon emissions to the world. I really care about this, and want my designs to care about it. I want to know how to make the world we live in a bit better too, and I am going about it in my own way. You come across other people who also have similar views about how to make it better too. Some famous, some not so famous. I am part of something that will, I hope, mean that I have contributed in some small way towards making my buildings and hopefully the world a better kinder place for future generation’s futures.
A little piece of advice…
So when choosing a career for yourself my advice would be to make sure it has something to do with what you love. Be passionate about it. Pursue it to its ultimate perfection. Make it something you will do so well that you make a real difference to others who see or benefit from your passion. Have fun with it, be your own person, put your own flava on it, even if you feel out of step with the crowd. My favourite Steve Jobs quote is “Stay Hungry – Stay Foolish”. I love that phrase because I understand exactly what he means and how it has governed my pursuit of innovation and excellence.
Engineering is good for you!
Now I have a career that has taken me to the four corners of the globe. I lead a team of design engineers who are equally passionate about what they do. We have a deep understanding of the laws of physics that helps us to come up with solutions that are fresh and new. We manage projects worth several millions of pounds and lots of responsibility to our clients who for the most part love what we do too.
But perhaps the most important skill I have noticed in myself is in my ability to understand people, to care about and understand how they feel in my buildings, and how my buildings impact on how they feel.
Maybe Mr Terry was not so wrong after all. Maybe I do love my job not only because I have a passion for how things work, but also because it allows me to care about people and about the planet we share.
Work? What’s that? How can you call something you love ‘doing work’?!”