Building services engineers - job description

January 24, 2021

A Building services engineer job description, so what does it look like? The role of the building services engineer is diverse and challenging, offering the opportunity to put analytical and problem-solving skills to use every day. Building services engineers plan, design and install cost-effective systems for new builds. This includes water, lighting, air conditioning, air filtration, heating, lifts and telecoms.

What does a building services engineer do?

New buildings require a range of services to make them functional and usable. A buildings services engineer will oversee the design, installation and maintenance of a range of electrical and mechanical services. This essential role will turn the bare bones of a building into a space fit for living and working. 

This could be on a smaller scale for a housing development, or on a large scale for a large space such as a factory or stadium. For smaller projects, one building services engineer may take the lead, but larger projects will involve teams of engineers working towards the same goal. Typical tasks could include:

  • Designing air conditioning and filtration systems for a new hospital.
  • Designing an energy-efficient heating and lighting system.
  • Distributing water supply to a new housing development.

A building services engineer could work across many different sectors, in teams of all sizes and on projects of all scales. It is a very diverse role which can vary between projects and employers. Specialist roles are available, and some building services engineers will focus on the mechanical or electrical side of the role.

Your day-to-day work activities could involve any of the following tasks, depending on the project and the employer.

  • Designing the layout of key building services, including water, ventilation and heating.
  • Identifying the materials for a project, keeping them on-budget and ensuring adherence to energy-saving commitments.
  • Checking building services meet health and safety regulations.
  • Carrying out routine maintenance on lifts and escalators.
  • Coordinating with construction professionals, plumbers and electricians to organise installation work.
  • Preparing reports and presentations outlining the energy-saving measures used in your projects. This is more typical for architecture firms.
  • Negotiating contracts and establishing budgets for building services engineering work.
  • Creating plans using CAD software or creating technical drawings for documentation.
  • Monitoring the installation of the building services and creating maintenance schedules.

Where does a building services engineer typically work?

The majority of building services engineers will work in the following sectors:

  • Private construction companies and organisations.
  • Property development firms.
  • Facilities management companies and agencies.
  • Local authorities or government agencies.
  • The NHS or higher education establishments.

If you are searching for a role in building services engineering, you could explore general job boards, specialist job sites and employer websites. Jobs may also be advertised through specialist newsletters, on social media, or through professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineering (CIBSE).

As this is such a diverse sector, you may find that roles are advertised in different ways. This could include the following titles. Electronics engineer, communications engineer, design engineer, maintenance engineer, site engineer or water engineer. By taking an open-minded approach to this career path, you can broaden your prospects.

Qualifications and required training

There are many different routes into this sector of engineering. Many employers will require workers to hold a degree in a relevant subject, such as building services engineering, mechanical engineering or electrical engineering.

Before choosing a study route, you should ensure that the qualification is recognised by the appropriate governing body. This could include CIBSE or IMechE. Once you have achieved your BEng (3-4 years full time) you will have the choice of working towards two professional qualifications. 

You could apply for incorporated engineer status with one of the professional engineering bodies, or you could continue your studies to achieve an MEng or masters. After you have achieved your masters, you can apply for chartered engineer status. This is one of the most sought after qualifications.

Alongside qualifications, employers will expect to see some relevant work experience. Many BEng degree courses have the option of a year-long placement in a relevant workplace. This can help enhance your application for jobs after graduation.

There are routes into building services engineering for school leavers, including apprenticeships. You will typically need 4 or 5 GCSEs at grade 9 to 4 (A* to C). Subjects should include English and Maths. For a higher apprenticeship, you will need A levels or equivalent in relevant subjects such as Maths and Design.

Key skills and competencies

To succeed as a building services engineer, you should have the following key skills. These will often be included in most job descriptions.

  • Analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Design skills and good attention to detail
  • Technical drawing skills
  • Strong numeracy skills and the ability to identify mistakes quickly
  • Excellent communication skills, including with fellow engineers and non-engineering personnel
  • Time management skills
  • Team management skills
  • Effective team player
  • Familiarity with industry software and the ability to quickly learn new systems

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