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A Building Engineer From the Military Onward

Perspectives From Mario Wright

A building engineer is an expert in technical and maintenance aspects of office buildings and other properties. Commercial building engineers work on the operation, renovation and maintenance of buildings as well their efficiency and environmental impacts.

Mario Wright entered the civilian building engineering profession in 1992 after discharge from the U.S. Navy where he had performed similar work. “Buildings are pretty much ships that are vertical, so I was pretty familiar with the equipment and how things work” says Mario. When he first entered the building for his new job he saw lots of pumps and thought, “I can turn a wrench. This is for me.”

Before entering the Navy, Mario lived in Delaware and worked at a company that made parts for refrigerated trucks. He also tinkered with cars as a self-described “wrench money” who likes to take things apart. He was attracted to the building engineering field because it allowed him to work with his favorite kinds of mechanical equipment and to deal with people as well. “I’m a people person also” he says.

A career as a building engineer offered Mario the opportunity to work with people who tell you their problems, and you can assist them and “make them feel comfortable in their environment.”

One of the unique aspects of the job that Mario enjoys and highlighted for us is dealing with contractors and learning from their expertise in the mechanical, construction, electronic, and electrical domains. One day a building engineer might be helping with the installation of doors. Another day it might be maintenance of pumps. Mario explains that building engineers examine equipment regularly to anticipate how it’s trending so they can make data-driven judgments about the timing of needed repairs or replacement.

Mario says he relies heavily on technology, including computer controls for regulating much of his building’s equipment. “We can view temperatures, and our environment all over the building” so we can know what happening on a top floor “from a computer down in the print room.” Mario told us he and his colleagues use their cellphones and iPads and can tell you from across town what’s going on in real time on the 52nd floor.

We asked Mario to describe the kind of person who excels as a building engineer. He replied, “You have different types of personalities. There are some people who are task people, some people are planners and some are ‘people’ people…We have a need for all three of those, so there’s not really one particular type. If you have a building our size…it’s best to have one of each of those types of people.”

Mario said, “Being in the building engineer field has allowed me to do what I like to do. The pay is pretty good. So I’ve been able to do some things like traveling or golf… It’s a very good field to get into and also helps you to become more marketable. There are buildings up all around here. If you see cranes going up around here, there’s a need for a building engineer.”

Mario’s advice for kids in school is that if they’re interested in mechanics, electronics, or electrical work and can’t ‘sit at a desk’ then they should “work on your math skills” and “improve your [computer] programming skills.” He recommends getting that basic education even if a person is not going to a 4-year college.

Of the building engineer profession, Mario says, “This is a great field to be in. One of the important skills for young future building engineers is programming, programming, programming. It’s in our lives and that’s where we’re headed. And I would definitely suggest that if you have a strong programming background, you can go a very long way in this field and many others if you choose to do so.”

Finally Mario left us with these words of wisdom: “Everything we do is done by computer programs” from turning the lights on and off to turning on the pumps, and controlling the heating and air conditioning, all on a daily and weekly schedule. So it’s clear that programming skills can give people a competitive advantage if they want to become a building engineer.

Ricardo Ibarra