Building services engineer: job description

Building services engineer: job description

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.

While health and safety features, such as emergency procedures and security, are of high priority, the environmental sustainability and cost-effectiveness of buildings are increasingly vital considerations in the industry.

Typical work activities include:

  • designing the layout of energy distribution, water pipes and ventilation systems
  • assessing whether a site is suitable for construction
  • identifying the materials and equipment to be used in the various systems
  • drawing up plans, writing briefs and reporting on progress
  • 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 issues
  • managing teams of people

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. While the role is predominantly office based it also requires site visits. The frequency of these visits will depend largely on the nature of the project.

Similarly, 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 developers
  • Local authorities and central government organisations
  • Research institutes and higher education

Qualifications and training required

You will need to do a a degree or HND course in an area such as building services engineering, mechanical engineering or electrical engineering.

A degree accredited by the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineering (CIBSE) and/or the Engineering Council UK (ECUK) will give you a considerable advantage over non-accredited graduates.

A masters (MEng) can help to focus your study on a particular area like environmental engineering, allowing you to pursue research that interests you. You will  need an accredited MEng, combined with CIBSE membership and followed by a period of initial professional development (IPD), if you wish to achieve chartered status.

Pre-entry experience is not a requirement as training will be provided on the job. However, if you are able to find a vacation scheme you will be in a better position when applying, not least because of the networking opportunities provided by the placement.

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

Next: search graduate jobs and internships