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Building services engineers advise about, design, install and maintain cost-effective and energy efficient systems for building services such as water, lighting, heating, air conditioning, lifts, and telecoms.
Building services engineering projects can vary from designing air filtration systems to engineering flood lights.

What does a building services engineer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Building services engineers are responsible for ensuring that the electrical, mechanical and telecoms aspects of new buildings perform effectively and efficiently.

The job may include tasks such as: designing and maintaining air conditioning, elevators and other mechanical systems; distributing electricity and water supply; and providing lighting and heating.

Building services engineers are responsible, in short, for all the functional characteristics of a building that take it from being an empty shell to a comfortable living space. In their work, they need to consider: health and safety features, such as emergency procedures and security; sustainability; and cost effectiveness. Building services engineering projects can vary from designing the air filtration system in a forensic lab to engineering the flood lights in a sports stadium.

Typical work activities include:

  • designing the layout of energy distribution, water pipes and ventilation systems and identifying relevant materials
  • drawing up plans using computer-aided design and building information modelling software
  • carrying out tests on systems and making changes to plans where necessary
  • monitoring the installation of services and managing their maintenance once the building is completed
  • making sure that all building services meet health and safety requirements and environmental legislation.
  • negotiating contracts with clients, particularly in consultancy work
  • liaising with plumbers, electricians, surveyors, architectural technologists and other construction professionals
  • giving presentations and writing reports highlighting the practical implications of the architect’s designs
  • promoting energy efficiency and other sustainability initiatives
  • managing teams of people

Put simplistically: building services engineers that work for construction consultancies tend to focus on the design of the systems; those that work for construction contractors oversee how the designs are implemented on site; and those that work for facilities management or property companies will maintain or repair the services.

While hours are typically 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, they may stretch into the evening when the project demands it. Time management skills are vital, as is a degree of flexibility and the ability to deal with any last minute problems that may arise.

Typical employers of building services engineers

  • Construction companies, including consultancies and contractors
  • Property firms and/or facilities management companies
  • Local authorities and central government organisations
  • Research institutes and higher education

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into a career as a building services engineer for both university graduates and school leavers. Graduates will need an engineering degree in an area such as building services engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or another closely-related subject. It should be accredited by an appropriate professional body, such as the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineering (CIBSE) or the Institution of Mechanical Engineering (IMechE).

Graduate building services engineers can work towards one of two professional qualifications depending on what level of degree they completed. If you have a BEng, you can apply for incorporated engineer status with a professional body. If you completed either a BEng followed by a masters, or an MEng degree, you can become a chartered engineer. Both titles are highly valued by employers, though chartered engineers are often more sought after.

Having industry-related work experience – for example, a summer internship or a placement year as part of a sandwich degree – will give students an advantage when applying for graduate jobs.

To find out about how you can get into this career via a school leaver route (eg an apprenticeship or school leaver training programme) see the construction and property sector of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers. This building services engineer article will be particularly helpful.

Key skills for building services engineers

  • Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills
  • An eye for detail and good design
  • Excellent numeracy skills
  • Strong communication skills
  • Excellent people and time management skills
  • The ability to work well both as part of a team and on your own
  • Strong technical drawing skills
  • Good IT skills and a familiarity with industry-specific software and modelling programmes

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