Mechanical and plumbing engineers, and commissioning agents, are involved in the design and testing of mechanical and plumbing systems and devices, which translates to many different roles in the green building industry.
|Quick facts: Mechanical engineer|
|2019 Median Pay||$88,430 per year; $42.51 per hour|
|Typical Entry-Level Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Number of Jobs, 2019||316,300|
|Job Outlook, 2019-29||4% (As fast as average)|
|Employment Change, 2019-29||12,400|
In the planning and design phases, their duties typically include creating drawings and diagrams of building HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), and refrigeration, and plumbing systems. The HVAC and refrigeration systems include chillers, boilers, air-handling, ventilation, pumping, exhaust systems, cooling towers, and more. The plumbing systems typically include plumbing fixture selections and water, gas, and sanitary piping design.
In the construction and verification phases, commissioning agents confirm the architects’ and engineers’ designs meet the owner’s project requirements, and that the contractors have installed and programmed systems correctly according to the design. These tasks are performed through rigorous testing of the building equipment and systems before occupancy to ensure that everything performs as expected. In the post-construction occupancy phase, mechanical engineers provide services for buildings that are in-use through operational maintenance as well as retrofit services to increase performance and reduce energy consumption. The construction and post-construction roles have more on-site responsibilities while the pre-construction roles have responsibilities that are typically performed in an office.
There are buildings and systems which may require specialized plumbing system design professionals, for example, manufacturing piping systems which include hazardous chemicals.
Additionally, mechanical engineers can perform Commercial Building Energy Modeling, which constructs engineering and economic models to represent the performance of buildings in order to evaluate and quantify the impact of policy, design, retrofit, and operational decisions. This role is often referred to as energy engineer. All of these positions have an impact on the process of producing efficient and sustainable buildings.
Role on a LEED project
LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building types, LEED provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.
How to become a mechanical engineer
Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. All states and the District of Columbia require mechanical engineers who sell services to the public to be licensed. Mechanical engineering programs usually include courses in mathematics and life and physical sciences, as well as engineering and design. Mechanical engineering technology programs focus less on theory and more on the practical application of engineering principles. They may emphasize internships and co-ops to prepare students for work in the industry. Skills recommended for mechanical engineers include math, mechanical, problem-solving, listening, and creativity.
- Education courses
- Intro to HVAC: Designing for Comfort
- Part 1: Existing building commissioning (Virtual Energy Efficiency Forum: Dialing it in - building tuning strategies)
- Passive Cooling Techniques
- Comparing mechanical systems in passive house multifamily
- HVAC Retrofit Best Practices for GHG Emissions Reduction
- From Testing to Mitigation: Resources for Reducing Lead in School Drinking Water
- Boost Happiness and Save Energy with Adaptive Thermal Comfort
- Electrification of Buildings
- Professional certifications and credentials
- Knowledge-based badges
Green building profile: Mechanical engineer
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