ISSUE: 2019, Volume 16, Issue 2
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Engineering covers a wide spectrum of occupations in various fields. The definition of an engineer is given as ‘a person who, designs, builds or maintains engines, machines or structures’. The field of engineering in which I am employed falls into the latter category of structures. Building services engineering is responsible for the design of the services contained within a building in order to maintain a comfortable and safe environment. Building services itself tends to be split into the two sub-disciplines of mechanical and electrical services. Mechanical services deal with the design of plumbing, drainage, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, as well as renewable technologies. The electrical services include power, data, lighting, fire and security systems. Building services is part of a larger collection of professions including architects, civil, and structural engineers that, as a group, form what is referred to as the ‘Design Team’ for a specific project.
The origin of intelligent design can be traced back to the opening words of the Bible – ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. The following verses detail the awesome work of the great Creator in forming a source of light, a source of heat, and a breathable atmosphere, the fundamentals that make earth sustainable for human life. 1 There are many examples of builders and engineers throughout the scriptures from Cain, who constructed the first city on earth, 2 through to Nehemiah the architect, 3 leader, and site foreman of the restoration of Jerusalem. After a thorough survey of the ruins, Nehemiah presents his plans to the Jews, priests, nobles, officials and labourers. The response of the people is, ‘Let us arise up and build’ 4 and so they strengthened their hands for the good work. Notable builders and engineers in the scriptures include Noah, 5 the marine engineer who built the first known ship having never set eyes on one before, and King Solomon 6 who constructed both the house of the Lord and his own dwelling, projects the likes of which have never been repeated.
In most accounts of building projects in the scriptures, there are those who seek to oppose the building process, and those who would seek to build are often faced with adversity. A Christian who seeks a career in the modern building industry will no doubt face some challenges and adversity as they seek to live out their life as a believer in the workplace.
Building services engineering involves office-based design work, together with visits to building sites for various meetings and site inspections. Office hours are typically adhered to, although the company which I work for permits flexible working hours. This generally allows me the freedom to attend my local assembly and to structure my hours so that I can help out in some local summer Bible ‘kids clubs’ held in the evenings. I have never been called upon to do any work on a Sunday, and Sunday working in the industry would be the exception rather than the norm. As design project deadlines occur, occasionally some overtime has to be worked to enable projects to be completed on time. In the majority of cases, workload is such as can be carried out in the typical 37.5 hour working week. As seniority within the company increases, I have found that expectations become higher – to do whatever is necessary to complete work on time. It does take a little care and management to ensure a healthy balance between work-life and assembly, family, and social commitments. In a time where instant communications have become the norm and work emails are accessible from your phone, it can take some discipline to switch off from the office and leave work in work. Many of the projects with which my office is involved are located in the UK mainland, and therefore some travel is required. Typically, this involves an early start for a 6 a.m. flight, usually returning the same day. Whilst this occurs not more than a couple of times per month, it can mean missing mid-week meetings, if the trip falls on the same day.
Working in the building industry you meet people from all walks of life. As perhaps is typical of building sites in what is still a predominantly male environment, you will encounter those whose language, jokes, etc. will be particularly unsavoury. This is perhaps more limited to encounters on building sites, rather than interactions within the office environment with colleagues or members of the design team. Over the years since commencing my career in this industry, I have been fortunate to have one or two other Christians working in the same firms. Currently, I work in a reasonably large firm with around sixty-five employees in the Belfast office and whilst I was disappointed when one of the Christian colleagues that I’d worked closely with left, another Christian joined the firm shortly after. 7
In the building services industry, work is designed to specific standards, regulations and specifications. I have never been called upon to misrepresent calculations, finances, installations, etc. that would compromise my beliefs as a Christian.
This has been my personal experience working in the building services industry and there may be others within the industry who have had different experiences to myself.
1 Gen. 1. 1ff.
2 Gen. 4. 17.
3 Neh. 2. 5.
4 Neh. 2. 17.
5 Gen. 6. 14.
6 2 Chr. 3. 1.
7 Deut. 32. 6.