- Course: Environmental Science BSc
- Year of graduation: 2017
- Nationality: Estonian
- Job title: Senior Building Physics Engineer
- Company: CGP MEP Ltd
What have you been doing since finishing your studies?
After undertaking a placement year with Couch Perry Wilkes (Year in Industry) I was offered a part-time position at this company as a Trainee Energy & Sustainability Engineer throughout my fourth year of the university and a full-time position post-graduation. My role included development and simulation of energy and thermal models (IES Virtual Environment software) to demonstrate compliance with Building Regulations standards. These models are used to predict and analyse how buildings will perform once completed, and to inform design teams and building occupants how they can improve building performance and meet specific energy targets.
After gaining an in-depth knowledge of energy and thermal modelling I decided to undertake a BREEAM Consultant role to develop my project management skills. As a BREEAM Consultant I was directly involved in the management of BREEAM assessments, collation of BREEAM evidence, formal report writing and submission of documents and certification to the BRE.
Recently, I accepted a senior building physics engineering position at CGP MEP to lead the company energy and sustainability team. At CGP I use my project management and modelling experience to drive the energy and sustainability agenda within the business and on construction projects.
Could you tell us a little more about your current role?
I work at CGP MEP Ltd as a Senior Building Physics Engineer in their Leeds office.
CGP MEP is a practice of building services consulting engineers specialising in mechanical and electrical services design with a focus on energy and sustainable construction. CGP MEP have an office in central London and Leeds.
As a lead Building Physics Engineer I develop, co-ordinate and manage energy and thermal models to demonstrate compliance with Building Regulations and industry standards, such as Part L, TM52, TM54, TM57, TM59, BB101, BREEAM, WELL, etc.
Energy models are typically referred to as SBEM (Simplified Building Energy Models) or DSM (Dynamic Simulation Models). SBEM/DSM are physics-based software simulations of building energy use. When constructing SBEM/DSM models the program requires detailed input data such as a description of the building geometry, construction materials, lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning), refrigeration, water heating, and renewable generation system configurations, component efficiencies and control strategies. Models take descriptions of the building’s use and operation including schedules for occupancy, lighting, power demands, and thermostat settings. SBEM/DSM programs combine these inputs with information about local weather and use physics equations to calculate thermal loads, system response to those loads, and resulting energy use, along with related metrics like occupant comfort and energy costs. SBEM/DSM programs perform a full year of calculations on an hourly or shorter basis. They also account for system interactions like the ones between lighting and heating or cooling.
When assessing existing buildings, I survey building fabric and mechanical services to record existing installations for incorporation in to building energy models. Additionally, I prepare passive design and low zero and carbon technology reports, BREEAM evidence reports, RIBA stage reports (energy and sustainability sections) and energy and sustainability planning strategy reports.
Furthermore, I carry out whole life-cycle carbon assessments to quantify carbon emissions resulting from the materials, construction and the use of a building over its entire life, including its demolition and disposal.
What experiences at Leeds do you think have particularly helped with your career?
I believe undertaking a year in industry in Leeds offered me a chance to ‘road-test’ a construction industry and consequently pursue a career in this industry. In particular, my placement experience helped me to realise that as interest in protecting the environment grows, sustainable and energy efficient buildings have become more commonplace. Creating these new buildings requires skilled workers — such as architects, engineers, energy assessors, environmental advisors — with knowledge of sustainable design and construction techniques.
My placement experience in Leeds also provided an insight into other possible career paths, which can be pursued by an environmental science/sustainability graduate, such as sustainability construction manager, ecologist, energy trader, environmental protection officer, solar panel engineer, landscape designer and air quality specialist.
Why did you choose to study your particular course and why did you choose the University of Leeds?
I decided to study the environmental science course, as I feel passionate about the future of the environment and I am keen to accelerate the transition to environmentally sustainable economies, practices and societies for all. I also believe that more and more businesses are switching to greener and more sustainable practices, which creates an increased demand for green jobs in numerous sectors with medium to long-term career building and training opportunities, while also reducing energy use, CO2 emissions and pollution. This includes but not limited to food, water, air, habitat, textiles, commerce and trade, travel and transport, security, science and technology, energy, education, arts and entertainment, and communication sectors.
I chose to study at the University of Leeds because the environmental science degree offered a good choice of modules, which cover a broad range of environmental issues, such as the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. Having this choice from a variety of modules allowed me to tailor my degree to my interests. At the beginning of my studies I did not know which career I wanted to pursue, so the variety and choice of modules was very attractive to me. By selecting modules covering different environmental issues I was able to determine which topics and sectors were best suited to me.
What was the best aspect of your course?
Surprisingly, I believe that the best aspect of the course were the geochemistry modules taught by Dr Caroline Peacock. Even though I did not pursue a career in geochemistry I am certain it is Dr Peacock’s ability to deliver complex concepts in a simplified manner that made me pursue a career in a science related sector. Dr Caroline Peacock also became my role model as a female in STEM (science, tech, engineering and maths) field, which gave me a boost of confidence even though this field has remained predominantly male dominated and there is still a lack of women’s interest due to stereotypes.
Thanks to Dr Peacock’s modules I learned about numerical modelling (which is my current job!!!) and I became competent in problem solving, numeracy, report-writing and IT based numerical modelling.
Where did you undertake your year in industry?
In my third year I undertook a placement at Couch Perry and Wilkes. This is an engineering consultancy company with a focus on design and integration of mechanical and electrical services; daylight and lighting; and sustainability services. In total there are eight offices around the UK with the main office located in Birmingham. My workplace office was in Leeds City Centre. The company is proud to specialise in contemporary engineering techniques to deliver sustainable solutions focusing not only on energy efficiency, but also on financial and environmental aspects to fulfil client’s needs.
What was the best aspect of the year in industry?
In addition to developing professionally, I really enjoyed the social aspect of a professional life. In my first month of my placement there were two staff night outs, which were full of fun and excitement. This was also a good way to build networks with Couch Perry and Wilkes employees as well as with architects, project managers and engineers from other companies.
Another good point is that the company is keen on providing Continued Professional and Personal Development to its employees, and it is great that the majority of the skills and knowledge gained from training and seminars were relevant to my course and I am still applying this knowledge to this day..
There was also a lot of sport involved. Every Monday the bravest of us gathered to play football with a local architect practice. This was a good way to improve team working skills and build relationships and contacts in the industry.
Do you have any advice for students considering taking a year in industry?
Probably the largest benefit of doing a placement year is the increased chances of employability. Most students graduate with little to no work experience relevant to their degree, so having a full year of experience is guaranteed to put you in a better position ahead of the competition.
In my opinion, a year in industry is a fantastic way to trial a career before jumping head-first into a permanent graduate job. Most of the students undertaking a placement find a sector they would like to pursue further. In the worst-case scenario, a year in industry will help you decide that particular path is not for you. Even if that happens, you will still have gained a great amount of valuable and transferrable skills.
The application process for bigger companies tends to have many stages and can span the course of months. When you reach the final stages, typically consisting of face-to-face interviews and assessment centres, this will involve travel and potentially missing lectures.
What activities outside of your studies were you involved in?
At Leeds University I started Jitsu, because I wanted to learn something new. I was not a big fan of Martial Arts before, but after a couple of sessions I fell in love with it. Thanks to Jitsu my confidence and self-discipline improved considerably. Jitsu took me out of my comfort zone and forced me to deal with problems, and consequently helped character to grow.
The great thing is that I also met fabulous people and still keep in touch with them, even though most of them are now all over the world.
What would you say to students thinking about studying your course?
Leeds University is perfect for students seeking excellent education facilities and opportunities as well as a multi-cultural and diverse social life.
Education-oriented students will without a doubt acquire and excel at a broad range of key graduate skills, which will make them extremely employable upon the graduation. These include but are not limited to intellectual, practical, laboratory and fieldwork, communication, numeracy and IT, interpersonal/teamwork, self-management and professional development.
With regards to social life and activities, Leeds University Union offers more than 300 clubs and societies to choose from, where students from all around the world can meet and exchange skills, learn new things and have fun!
In addition to this, there is an excellent choice of bars and clubs all within a walking distance from the University.