Why are building services engineers scarce when the world population is soaring and most people use buildings every day? Could the answer be as simple as the language we use to describe ourselves? Could we attract more young people into the profession by changing the name?… Cathie Simpson suggests that this would be a good place to start.

Wherefore art thou, Building Services Engineers?

Pat Lehane June 10, 2016 , ,
Cathie Simpson is a chartered engineer and a Fellow of CIBSE. She is also the owner of Building Simulation Ltd, a specialist company focusing on building investigation using on-site measuring and monitoring, infrared thermography and building modelling.

Cathie Simpson is a chartered engineer and a Fellow of CIBSE. She is also the owner of Building
Simulation Ltd, a specialist company focusing on building investigation using on-site measuring and monitoring, infrared thermography and building modelling.

The works of William Shakespeare are written in a difficult, 16th century language and yet 400 years later are thriving because they are relevant and accessible via a range of media and language. However, I feel this is something that can’t be said for the term building services engineering.

The profession of “engineer” has changed since the heady days of Victorian Brunel and now has a lower and more varied status compared to that of “architect”, “accountant”, “solicitor” or “doctor”. In Ireland and the UK the word engineer has its origins in the word engine. This is associated with oily rags so, is it any wonder that the word engineer describes a range of activities covering everything from those who have artisan skill sets all the way through to those who sit behind desks undertaking highly-complex calculations that enable rockets to land on the moon? Few other professions experience this breadth and variety of their professional description.

But what about the “building services” element … this is where the analogy with Shakespeare resonates with me. Building services was originally about ducts, pipes and wires and, while these are still relevant, they are no longer new and exciting. This is equivalent to 16th century language which just does not connect or create excitement in the 21st century – wouldst thou not agree?

Building services now encompasses so much more and, as economies and communities flourish, the richness and scope of building services is ever broadening and includes lighting, public health, local extract ventilation, façades, renewable energy, sustainability, controls, indoor air quality, health and well-being, resilience, flexibility, etc.

Perhaps it’s time we recognised that we need to use modern language to attract more young people into our profession and go with the flow or, as Shakespeare wrote: “There is a tide in the affairs of men”.

You can read more articles like this in our latest issue

March/April 2018

About the Author:

Pat Lehane