Five minutes with Katarzyna Stacel, Building Services Engineer
We talk to Katarzyna Stacel to find out what it's like designing HVAC systems for pharmaceutical facilities and how this experience influenced her university studies.
What does your role involve?
As a building services engineer, I work on HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system designs for a range of new build and refurbishment projects. I ensure all the systems within the facility are coordinated and meet the standards required, using software such as AutoCAD and IES VE.
Every day is different, and I love this about my job! I could be surveying a building site one day, wearing overalls taking measurements and pictures of the existing services in a pharmaceutical facility the next, or meeting clients and contractors to talk about a new project. However, my ‘typical’ day is in the office, working with the design team, producing drawings, providing calculations for systems, taking part in design meetings, answering emails, and writing reports, specifications and schedules.
How did you get into building services engineering?
At school I was always good at maths, physics and languages, so my older brother, who is a civil engineer, suggested I look into engineering as a career. I found the problem solving and science of it really interesting, so I applied for an engineering course at university in my home country (Poland) and loved it. Because I always enjoyed languages and was keen to learn to communicate with people around the world, I also attended extra English classes throughout my degree. I now combine the two as a building services engineer in the UK.
What are the challenges of working on building services designs?
With every design we always have to think about long-term operational cost and how the building might be used in the future. This makes each project a challenge in its own way. There’s also a real focus on sustainability, which requires us to be up to date with the latest regulations and creative in our designs to achieve optimal energy performance. A big part of overcoming these challenges is working closely with the wider design team, and the sooner on in the process we can do this the better. Getting the design right up front and thinking outside the box are essential.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
For me, the best thing about my job is that I am constantly learning. Every project is different, which is great as it gives me the chance to work on so many different types of buildings and continually expand my technical knowledge. Alongside this, the people I get to work with are incredible. I’ve met so many great characters and smart minds through the projects I’ve been involved with, which can only be a good thing!
Finally, what would you say has been your biggest achievement so far?
I think the thing I am most proud of is that I have been able to contribute to the design of high-value, complex pharmaceutical facilities. For a building services engineer, the fact that these buildings are some of the biggest consumers of energy means they require a lot of technical skill, and often creativity, to design a sustainable system. Working on these facilities has really challenged me as an engineer and opened my mind to new techniques and approaches.
This experience also inspired the other thing I am particularly proud of, my Masters degree (I graduated this week!). I studied alongside working at BakerHicks, who supported me through the whole process, which meant I was able to bring my experience on projects to my studies, especially in my dissertation. I chose to look at the influence of design parameters in cleanrooms and how fine tuning the ventilation system can lead to substantial energy savings, which was fascinating to work on. I got a distinction as well, so all the hard work paid off! And I can now bring what I have learnt through my studies to the projects I am working on.