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.

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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: essentially, all the functional characteristics of a building that take it from being an empty shell to a comfortable living space. As such, the job may include tasks such as:

  • designing or maintaining air conditioning, elevators and other mechanical systems
  • distributing electricity and water supply
  • providing lighting and heating.

Building services engineering projects can vary from the design of the air filtration system in a forensic lab to the installation of flood lights in a sports stadium.

The focus of the role will vary according to the type of employer the building services engineer works for. Building services engineers who work for construction consultancies tend to focus on the design of the systems; those who work for construction contractors oversee how the designs are implemented on site; and those who work for facilities management or property companies will maintain or repair the services.

Depending on the type of employer you work for, work activities could 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.

It is possible for building services engineers to specialise on the mechanical or electrical sides of the functions and systems. Job titles might be ‘graduate mechanical engineer’ or 'graduate electrical engineer' instead of ‘graduate building services engineer’.

Find out what you could earn as a building services engineer.

Typical employers of building services engineers

  • Construction companies, including consultancies and contractors
  • Property firms and/or facilities management companies
  • Organisations that own or operate from a large number of buildings, such as the NHS and universities
  • Local authorities and central government organisations.

Vacancies can be found on TARGETjobs, through career services websites, on employers’ websites and through relevant the jobs boards and publications offered by professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineering (CIBSE) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineering (IMechE).

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into a career as a building services engineer for both university graduates and school leavers. Graduates typically need a degree in an area such as building services engineering, architectural engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. It should be accredited by an appropriate professional body, such as CIBSE or IMechE.

Graduate building services engineers can work towards one of two professional qualifications depending on what level of degree they completed. If they have a BEng, they can apply for incorporated engineer status with a professional body. If they completed either a BEng followed by a masters or an MEng degree, they 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. Gain further tips on how to get a building services engineering graduate job in our interview with a principal engineer at Mott MacDonald.

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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