The Building Engineer Experience
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.
Bryce Jacobson is an assistant chief engineer with Wright Runstad & Company. He discovered his current career track ten years ago when he told a friend about having reached his full potential in a parallel industry. The friend suggested that he should become a building engineer. Bryce found the idea of working ‘behind the scenes’ in beautiful modern buildings to be “intriguing.”
After researching various opportunities, Bryce took his first job in the industry, and has enjoyed his work ever since. He especially loves the combination of working with his hands and working as part of team, rather than going it alone. He says “I’ve got tons of support from folks around me in the industry that I can reach out to, whether they’re actually in my company on my team or … vendors or manufacturers or whatever that are always willing to jump in and help us out and collaborate with us.”
The career change expanded Bryce’s horizons long term because it provided hands-on skills training, more income, improved benefits and more geographic mobility. He’s now able to consider moves within his company locally or even to another city.
Bryce notes that no two days are the same for a building engineer. Scheduled filter changes and other routine tasks are mixed in with all sorts of unexpected challenges that might be weather related or systems related or something else you’ve never seen before. Reordering priorities on the fly make the job very dynamic. The team gets together to talk through a new problem “and come up with good solutions. So it’s exciting.”
“This industry is a service industry primarily,” Bryce continues. “We are here because we have tenants that occupy these buildings and they have work to do, and so we’re here to serve them and make their office space comfortable and efficient… we’re here to support them…every day.” Bryce says that his tenants typically are very glad to see the building engineers in person and are grateful for their service, making it easy to be “a total rockstar.”
In terms of technology on the job, Bryce told us, “We have mobile devices, we have radios so that we can talk locally. We have systems in the building that are all controlled by computers.” That includes lighting controls, HVAC controls and building access controls for security. He suggests that anyone who is savvy about technology and can work with servers, computers, switches and networks brings important skills to the building engineering field.
Bryce advises people who want to become a building engineer to be flexible enough to ‘change gears’ at a moment’s notice because every day on the job will be unique. He encourages prospective building engineers by calling it “a fantastic industry” and saying “you don’t know what you’re missing until you get in here and…do all sorts of cool fun stuff.” You might even have a choice of whether to focus primarily on upfront customer service or working on equipment behind the scenes, whether it’s computer technology or plumbing.
Finally, Bryce shared his perspective on how working as a building engineer has impacted him personally in life. He says he thinks it has made him a better person because it has stretched and challenged him in ways that caused him to grow. He has learned the psychology of de-escalating situations, for example, when diagnosing the root cause of tenants’ concerns about their building environment and solving the underlying problem. Further, Bryce feels like his ten years as a building engineer have allowed him to contribute more to his community and to be a better technician when working at home on his own house.