Building engineers, also known as building superintendents, or supers, make sure buildings are livable for tenants, are safe and meet all legal requirements for a dwelling or business, according to Zippia. In many cases, building engineers perform a variety of repair and maintenance functions. In other situations, they oversee contractors who do the work.
Understanding what a building engineer does will help you learn what you need to do to prepare yourself for one of these jobs, and whether this is a good career choice for you.
Basic Job Description
Much of the role of a building superintendent is preventative maintenance and repair, explains ZipRecruiter. This means that the super regularly inspects HVAC units, elevators, water heaters, electrical and plumbing systems, lighting, smoke detectors and other physical plant aspects of a building.
In many cases, the repairs a building engineer makes come at the request of tenants, which can include apartment or condo owners, or individuals who work at businesses. When repairs reach a certain dollar amount, the super usually has to get approval from the building owner.
Just like you perform regular tasks in your homes, such as replacing air filters and smoke detector batteries, checking the exterior paint, re-sealing your deck and having pest control performed, a building super also manages regularly scheduled maintenance.
Knowledge and Skills Needed
Building engineers need a variety of skills to be successful. They should have basic repair and maintenance skills to help get broken items fixed quickly. If most of the work on the building is done by contractors (such as hiring a local plumber or electrician), supers must at least be knowledgeable about what repairs need to be made so that they can oversee the contractor and inspect the work.
Building engineers should also know state and local safety and building codes. This will ensure the owner of the building isn’t cited and/or fined and the that structure passes all building inspections. Building engineers often work with insurance companies, fire marshals, building inspectors and security consultants.
Finally, building supers should have good people skills. If the job is in an apartment building, the super represents the owner/landlord of the building and has to deal with tenants whenever they have a problem.
The more hands-on maintenance and repair experience a job applicant has for this position, the less college education will be needed. Becoming a licensed painter, electrician or plumber can improve your chances for landing a building super job, and so can getting certified in HVAC or other building systems.
You should also be able to keep accurate records of all repairs, inspections, expenses and other information that provides a historical record of all work done on the building. This means that having some computer experience, including using spreadsheet software, is helpful.
Compensation for These Positions
The pay for building engineers will vary widely, depending on the type of building, the person's skill level and area where they work. For example, a building super of a small apartment building in Ames, Iowa, who does basic maintenance will make much less than the building engineer of a large office building in Chicago.
The best way to learn what these positions pay near you is to use a salary aggregator website and do a search for the job title you want and city or state. For example, according to ZipRecuiter, the average national salary for a building superintendent as of August 2, 2021, was $59,994. The average salary for this position in Atlanta during that same time period was $49,829, similar the pay for building supers in Chicago, which was $50,902.