Building Services Engineer

Building Services Engineer

Become a Building Services Engineer

Building services engineers install, maintain, and often design cost-effective systems such as heating, lighting, ventilation, air-conditioning, electrical, and water that contribute to the functionality of a building.

Sustainability is a very important aspect of their job with having to design, develop, and manage new technologies that reduce a building’s carbon emissions.
They work in collaboration with architects and other construction professionals on various commercial projects including offices, schools, shopping centres, hospitals, and stadiums, along with residential developments, and often specialise in one field such as electrical or mechanical engineering.

 

Skills

There is a certain skill set required to have what it takes to be a building services engineer. You’ll need:

  • Excellent mathematical knowledge
  • Good grasp of science and technological concepts
  • Strong understanding of buildings and construction
  • Critical thinking
  • Numeracy and budgeting skills
  • The ability to use your initiative
  • Problem-solving
  • Great attention to detail
  • Communication skills
  • Time management skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • The ability to analyse large amounts of data
  • Familiarity with industry-specific software and programmes
Qualifications

There are a number of ways you can become an Building Services Engineer, as a minimum you will need 5 or more GCSEs grades A-C (9-4) and a minimum of 2 A Levels or BTEC equivalent.

Level 3

You can study a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma or a relevant apprenticeship.

Level 4, 5 & 6

You can study a HNC, HND, Higher or Degree Apprenticeship or a Degree.

With experience you could work towards Technician membership with CIBSE.

Salary

Starting salaries are between £20,000 and £24,000 a year.

Experienced engineers can earn between £25,000 and £35,000.

Senior engineers can earn up to £50,000 a year.

What does a Building Services Engineer do?

Building services engineers work on a variety of tasks such as the planning, design, implementation, and monitoring of systems within a building.

The focus of the work, however, varies according to the type of employer, for example, building services engineers who work for a construction consultancy are more geared towards the design process, those working for a construction contractor oversee the design implementation, and those employed at a facilities management firm work on the maintenance and repair of systems.

As a building services engineer, your responsibilities will include:

  • Consulting with clients regarding their budgets and requirements
  • Advising clients, architects, and builders on issues related to building services to minimise costs and carbon emissions
  • Negotiating and developing project contracts
  • Forecasting and managing the time and budget
  • Developing detailed designs and blueprints using computer software (CAD)
  • Designing site-specific equipment according to the requirements
  • Supervising the installation of building systems
  • Monitoring building systems and their processes
  • Testing and quality control
  • Specifying maintenance, repair, and operating procedures
  • Hiring and supervising contractors, along with assessing their work
  • Ensuring that the building systems meet building, and health and safety requirements
  • Coordinating with other professionals including architects, structural engineers, builders, and surveyors
  • Attending meetings and presenting ideas and progress reports
  • Working on a variety of projects within a short period of time.

How to become a Building Services Engineer

There are several ways you can become a building services engineer: through a college course or diploma, a university degree, or an apprenticeship in Building Services Engineering.

If you are in Year 11 or recently left school, to start your career as a building services engineer, one of the best routes is selecting a career based course such as the BTEC Extended Diploma, or a T Level.

You can do a:

The minimum requirements are:

4 to 5 GCSEs (or equivalent), including English and mathematics, at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C)

Working hours and what to expect

The average working week for building services engineers is 39-41 hours long with working hours usually exceeding regular office hours. Some roles may also require having to be available on call to respond to emergencies.

As a building services engineer, your time will be divided between working in an office and on a construction site, and the amount of time you spend in either place will be determined by your role and the type of job.

When working on or near a construction site, safety helmets (hard hats) and protective clothing must be worn at all times due to strict health and safety regulations.

Projects include working on various small and large-scale buildings including both brand new developments and existing structures. You might also work on ancient heritage buildings in restoring and preserving them if it falls under your area of expertise.

With UK-qualified building services engineers in demand all over the world, there are many opportunities to develop specialist skills in addition to working and travelling overseas.

How much do building services engineers earn?

The expected salary for a building services engineer depends on many factors such as where you work, the size of the company you work for, the type of job and its requirements, and how skilled and experienced you are.

The average yearly salary is between £20,000 for starters and £50,000 for experienced building services engineers.

The starting salary for newly trained building services engineers is around £20,000 to £24,000, rising to £25,000 to £35,000 for trained building services engineers with some experience, and senior building services engineers earning up to £50,000 a year.

Work experience

Relevant work experience can be very useful in putting you on the right track. You could study part-time for a degree and begin your career as a building services engineer.

College recruitments and placements can help you find a good job or you can directly apply for one if you have some relevant experience in fields such as electrical, mechanical, and environmental engineering.

You can apply for short-term work experience and summer placements and internships with both small and large companies to kickstart your career.

Working in the field can help develop contacts and provide a variety of opportunities for new entrants to develop their networking circle and build on their knowledge of the building services industry.

Typical Employers

Building services engineers often specialise in a certain area of expertise such as electrical or mechanical engineering. The field, however, is becoming increasingly diverse and multidisciplinary with the opportunity to choose more than one specialism.

Typical employers include:

  • Building services consultancies
  • Building contractors
  • Architectural firms
  • Facilities management companies
  • Construction companies, consultancies, and contractors
  • Engineering consultancies and contractors
  • Property firms and developers
  • Utility companies
  • Government agencies
  • Local authorities

The different areas of specialisation that you could work in are:

  • Electrical engineering: the design, installation, and management of all building systems along with their components related to electricity that include lighting, lightning protection, power distribution, fire detection and protection, security and alarm systems, communication lines, and building automation.
  • Mechanical engineering: the design, installation, and management of all mechanical building systems such as the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system that largely affects the energy usage of a building. It includes maintaining air quality and regulating internal temperature and humidity. Other systems include energy supplies such as gas, electricity, and renewable sources, and escalators and lifts.
  • Public health: the design, installation, and management of all building systems related to water, drainage, and plumbing. It includes the removal of surface or sub-surface water and designing systems that allow the movement of fluids involving working with pipes and plumbing fixtures.
  • Façade engineering: the design of the façade, frame, envelope, or enclosure – whichever name you want to call it – of a building that enhances its performance, sustainability, airtightness, water resistance, and energy-efficiency. It is the most important aspect of a building from a design standpoint responsible for setting the tone for the entire structure.
  • Sustainable and renewable energy: the incorporation and promotion of sustainable and renewable solutions in buildings minimising the overall costs and adverse effects on the environment. Since sustainability is a huge part of the job, every building services engineer, regardless of their specialisation, must focus on reducing a building’s carbon footprint.

Professional Development

Building services engineer must undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) through various courses to ensure their knowledge and skills related to the profession are up-to-date.

CPD has become an integral part of a professional career due to an increased rate of change in technology, best practices, and regulations, along with an increase in the number of specialisms. You can no longer obtain a professional qualification and then work for the next 50 years without any advancement or learning.

Once you have completed your training as a building services engineer, the next step is to become a professionally registered building services engineer. To do this, you must register yourself with the Engineering Council and become a member of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

The CIBSE offers a guide for CPD with current practices and how to make your training as effective as possible.

To acquire the title of Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng) you must demonstrate professional competence in:

  • Knowledge and understanding of design and development of processes
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Accountability and responsibility
  • Management and leadership
  • Professional commitment.

Professionals need to keep up with the advancements in technology and processes in building services engineering. They can do this by taking up professional courses, attending conferences and workshops, or pursuing further education.

If you’re interested in working on historical structures and their conservation, you can do a specialist course with the National Heritage Training Group.

Career Prospects

A building services engineer’s career generally begins as a graduate engineer, progressing to senior engineer with bigger projects and teams to work with.

With adequate skills and experience, you can move into senior project management, quantity surveying, or engineering design.

The typical career progression for building services engineers follows the pattern of: graduate engineer, senior engineer, project manager, senior manager, and finally building services director.

Career patterns aren’t fixed and you can find opportunities to develop your career according to your field of interest and the employer you work for. It is very important to be well-informed and well-researched about the industry you choose to enter, along with the cultures and working environment of different companies.

Promotions are dependent upon skills and experience, which is why it is important to undertake CPD both on and off-the-job. Working for an employer who allows you to choose your area of specialisation can help you develop your skills with more opportunities to work overseas.

Alternatively, you could impart your knowledge and experience by teaching at a college or university, or become self-employed where you will have the freedom to grow, set your own timings and rates, and look into more specialised work.

Higher Education

You can apply to study a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Diploma (HND) in building services engineering, or related subjects.

The minimum requirements are:

  • 1 or 2 A Levels (or equivalent) for a HND

You could also go to university and study a degree in building service engineering.

Apprenticeship

Doing an apprenticeship with a building services or wider construction company will help you make your way into the industry. During an apprenticeship:

  •  You will be fully employed,
  •  You will be expected to work a minimum of 30 hours per week,
  •  Your time will be divided between work and college.

The minimum requirements are:

  • GCSEs (or equivalent), including English and mathematics, at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for level 3 apprenticeship.
  • For a level 4 apprenticeship, a BTEC Extended Diploma, Diploma, Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship or one/two A level (s), in a relevant subject such as Maths or Science.

Study options include:

Find the perfect career for you

There are hundreds of job roles in construction, from site work to office work or a combination of the two. Some of the many careers are listed in our careers A-Z, simply click on the letter of the career you are interested in to find out all about it.