Reimagining education for building services engineering

University courses will have to evolve if they are to ensure the next generation of building services engineers have the skill sets to deliver healthy, net zero buildings. Dejan Mumovic FCIBSE summarises a recent REHVA Journal special that addressed the issue

The role of buildings in the transition to net zero carbon emissions and the wellbeing of human society has increased significantly in importance since the turn of the century.

Transcending multiple disciplinary boundaries is becoming necessary for devising solutions that create healthy and sustainable buildings. As a result, the role of building services engineers has extended to every stage of a building’s life.

Responsibilities are wide ranging and now include preparation and briefing, concept design, spatial coordination, technical design, manufacturing and construction, handover, operation and reuse.

Undergraduate building services engineering programmes play a critical part in developing new competencies and attributes necessary for the built environment professional of tomorrow.

To understand the necessary skill sets needed by the next generation of building services engineers, the Federation of European Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Associations surveyed 46 industry professionals and university staff from 14 European countries. The results were published in June 2023 in a special issue of REHVA Journal on educational challenges and opportunities for sustainable development. 

New approaches to engineering education

What educators should be discussing to prepare the next generation of engineers

  • Preparing students for the challenges of the 21st century
  • Making engineering education more accessible and inclusive
  • Using technology (including AI methods) to enhance engineering education
  • Engaging students in social and environmental issues
  • Addressing the climate emergency and net zero in teaching, research and application
  • Engaging students in real-world projects
  • Leveraging resources across (CIBSE) accredited centres of education to benefit society
  • Sharing pedagogical knowledge and skills across educational providers
  • Increasing reputation and visibility of outstanding teaching staff and students in the UK and across the globe.

We aligned the survey results with common learning outcomes of national engineering councils across Europe covering science and mathematics, engineering analysis, design and innovation, the engineer and society, and engineering practice. We then evaluated the extent to which climate change, health and wellbeing, decarbonisation and energy flexibility have been integrated into accredited university courses. 

The conclusion was a call to evolve undergraduate HVAC programmes to meet the needs of the new roles in building services.

The profession is facing a number of challenges, including a shortage of qualified engineers, the need to adapt to new technologies, and a need to address social and environmental issues. Therefore, it is essential we improve the way we educate engineers.

In the UK, there is evidence of flexibility embedded in the Higher Education Institutions enabling access routes into university, and there is potential for combining courses from different disciplines and mixing full-time and part-time experiences.

CIBSE has the opportunity to bring together engineering educators from a range of backgrounds to develop new approaches to engineering education. It can be a bridge between universities in industry to explore various related topics (see panel ‘New approaches to engineering education’).

Whatever vehicles are used to develop student knowledge and skills, all these challenges will require collaborative learning environments that encourage interdisciplinary approaches by integrating knowledge from various disciplines and working with students and practitioners from different fields.

CIBSE has an important role to play in reimagining the role of building services engineers, improving engineering education and ensuring the building services engineering profession is ready to meet the challenges of the future.

Papers from REHVA Journal’s education issue

  • Inspiring and preparing the next generations of the built environment professionals for a net zero future: revolutionary evolution. Professor Mumovic Dejan
  • Delivering sustainable, safe and healthy buildings for a net zero future: educational challenges and opportunities. Dejan Mumovic, Duncan Grassie, Elizabeth Cooper
  • Teaching the fundamentals of building performance simulation in the 21st century. Ian Beausoleil-Morrison
  • Mainstreaming education for sustainable development: vertically integrated projects for sustainable development: a case study from the University of Strathclyde. Scott Strachan, Louise Logan, Stephen Marshall
  • Integral design: a necessity for sustainable building design. Wim Zeiler
  • Advancing transdisciplinary architecture and engineering education: defining the needs of a new multidisciplinary built environment design professional. Elizabeth Cooper, Sonja Oliveira, Dejan Mumovic
  • A new learning programme to facilitate nZEB Implementation. Florin Bode
  • A structured approach to online education of future HVAC and energy professionals. Laure Itard, Philomena Bluyssen, Paula van den Brom

  • If you are interested in the topic please get in touch at

Dejan Mumovic FCIBSE is professor of building performance analysis, and director at the UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering