A flying start

A whirlwind couple of months after Ryan Rodrigues of HurleyPalmerFlatt won the 2015 Graduate of the Year Award at the CIBSE Young Engineers Awards, we caught up with the young electrical engineering consultant to get his perspective on life as a newly minted engineer

When I first started off as a building services graduate engineer, I was advised to replicate the mechanism of a sponge and absorb every bit of information I could. That is the attitude with which I approached my role and any projects I worked on. As most of my colleagues have a wealth of experience, there was a huge knowledge pool and an environment to ask questions about the way things were done. 

This has helped expand my very own knowledge base and allowed me to work on multiple projects, each more diverse from the next. Graduates are often seen as an extra pair of hands within businesses as they can quickly move from project to project as and when required. 

To be honest, it was rather overwhelming at the start, as I had to play catch-up on design principles and relevant standards prior to developing working designs. However with the right direction, support and mentorship, businesses can mould graduates into the ideal building services engineer.

Ryan collects his 2015 Graduate of the Year Award
Over the past few years I have been working on commercial and residential projects, some of which are in its design stage while others are on site. Key projects of mine have varied from a listed building in Paddington station, the iconic colourful Central Saint Giles, Imperial College halls of residence at White City and even a London city skyline skyscraper at Bishopsgate. I have also had the pleasure of working with multiple engineers, architects, cost consultants and clients as a result of a diverse array of projects with each individual showing me a new and unique way of tackling a problem.

The unique role of a building services engineer is that it is never repetitive as each project is unique and different at each stage. One morning I can be at the office doing design drawings, another day at a client or design team meeting / workshop and later donning a high-vis jacket with a hard hat and being on site.

However the role is not without its own challenges. 

The industry is slow to change and often things are done in a particular way only because that is how it has been carried out on previous projects. Hence I have to demonstrate the pros and cons for each solution with more focus on new and growing technologies.

Another challenge I face is something most university graduates come across when joining the industry without site-based experience. Without site exposure it is often difficult to visualise services in a building particularly while developing design drawings at the office. This challenge for me was resolved by asking for more site based work to understand and integrate the practical side of design with the theoretical element.

The ever-changing London skyline
Some of the most exciting opportunities I have had since I have joined the industry are site surveys in unique projects and location. A few examples come to mind such as a survey in a Middle-Eastern embassy and a couple roofs of some famous skyscrapers that offer thrilling views of the London skyline. Once projects are complete, a simple walk around the city to see the finished product being used by people day in day out gives me a sense of self-satisfaction that truly makes me proud to be a building services engineer.


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