The life & times of an HVAC Engineer

{May 9, 2012}   Happy Happy Joy Joy

The irony of blogging is that when you have things worth blogging about you’re too busy to blog, and things have been pretty busy for me lately. After about 8 months of working on oil & gas projects as a project engineer, and a couple more months working on technical audits & quality procedures, I’m now back in the familiar territory of pharmaceutical HVAC. I can’t talk specifics as, like so many other pharmaceutical projects, it’s confidential. What I can say though is that I’ve loving it, I’m back being involved in my favourite part of a project: identifying all of the requirements, and starting to find concept solutions.

The last couple of weeks have been jam-packed (not literally, it’s not a preserve factory) with site visits to discuss the client’s needs, reading through URSs (User Requirement Specifications) to glean as much information as possible about what we need to provide and going over Part L of the building regulations and the BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Energy Assessment Method) guidelines with a fine tooth comb to ensure our designs will be compliant. It makes for a steep learning curve on every project to get the whole team up to speed with what the purpose of the project is, what the client wants and what the constraints of the site and the funding is, it can be (and certainly has been on this occasion) quite an intensive time.

ImageFor me though, it’s a happy time, I like working out a precise brief, and I really love figuring out how we’re going to meet that brief. Also for this project I’ve had the mixed blessing of working with both a highly experience Pharmaceutical HVAC consultant, and having an equally highly experienced Sustainability & HVAC lead engineer. I say it’s a mixed blessing because though I’m benefitting hugely from their knowledge, they’re never in the office at the same time. This can be an interesting problem as they both approach the project from very different view points so I’m not just an engineer – I’m the diplomat & go-between for our talented founts of information. Hopefully though, by having my consistent presence to play the go-between role we’re able to take on board both knowledge sets, giving us a final solution that is both pharmaceutically sound and environmentally friendly – ideal since that’s the career specialism I aspire to!


{September 23, 2011}   What’s-a matter you Hey!

I went to a seminar about anaerobic digestion recently, it was very interesting hearing about how we could be using our waste to generate electricity. It’s certainly something we should be considering to improve the sustainability of many engineering projects. Did you know that you can use the solid output of the digester to make tiles that grass will grow on to make a green roof? I really enjoyed the evening, it was absolutely fascinating. What I particularly enjoyed however, were two things that the scientist who was giving the presentation said:

“Engineers are great, you go to them with a problem and they solve it for you”


“I was working on a project with WSP, and they were all so positive.”

I loved those moments, I loved the little bit of an insight they gave into how the outside world views us, both engineers generally and WSP specifically. The best bit of all is that he’s right, WSP guys & gals are really positive, upbeat folk, at least when we’re speaking to the client or other ‘outsiders’, and it’s also true that engineers solve all sorts of problems and make loads of people’s lives better. I’m sad to say though, we’re not always brilliant at solving our own problems, or those of our team/department/company. Our outstanding professional pride means we’re so focussed on providing the client with a first class service, on solving every niggling little problem on the project, and on making the world a better place that we sometimes forget to make our own little niche in the world a better place.

So in the spirit of ‘physician heal thyself’ I give you, the happy flowchart:

The incredible Maya Angelou, poet, author & civil rights activist once said “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain”. It’s an approach we often take on projects, that’s how we as engineers have gained the mantle of being able to solve any problem, and why we as WSP are known for being positive and high quality – because if it’s not right, we make it right. It’s just what we do.

But for all that incredible problem solving ability, for all the pleasure we take in problem solving, and for all the drive we have to get things right, we don’t do that for ourselves. There’s no reason for that, though. Engineering gives you amazing skills at problem solving, and although we’ve been trained to apply that to buildings, structures & technology the logical thinking and creativity can often be applied just as well to things closer to home. Why not give it a try? Grab that flowchart, listen to Maya, and go engineer a solution that will make you happy…

et cetera
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