Duties: Oversees mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection operations
Alternate Title(s): Director of Engineering; Building Engineer Salary Range: $9+ per hour; $19,000 to $85,000 annually
Employment Prospects: Excellent
Advancement Prospects: Good to excellent
Best Geographical Location(s): Any area with hotels or resorts
Education and Training—Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or equivalent
Experience—Several years’ work in such trades as electrical operations, plumbing, carpentry, and maintenance
Special Skills and Personality Traits—Technical, maintenance, repair, and mechanical skills; leadership ability; organized; able to handle multiple projects and tasks simultaneously
Licensure/Certification—Requirements vary according to local jurisdictions for electricians, plumbers, and other maintenance personnel
Chief Engineers oversee the installation, operation, and maintenance of the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection components of a hotel, resort, casino, or other lodging facility. Their responsibilities might include negotiating with local utility companies; coordinating safety and risk management personnel to ensure compliance with insurance underwriter requirements for all new projects and renovations, and reviewing individual projects to comply with MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) guidelines. The Chief Engineer ensures that all regulations are met, including those from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); national and regional building, fire, and electrical codes; and Building Officials Code Administrators, Inc. (BOCA).
The Chief Engineer may prepare requests for proposals (REPs) and contracts for various construction projects, according to company policy and procedures manuals. This includes outlining plans and specifications for new construction and renovations, working with subcontractors, and completing purchase orders, submittals, and change orders.
The Chief Engineer interviews, hires, trains, and supervises the maintenance staff. The Chief Engineer makes sure that every light bulb, toilet, and shower/tub works; the sprinkler system is functional; the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning and heating plants (HVAC) perform. properly; all locks are functional (and rekeyed after each guest checks out); supplies are ordered and stocked; walls are painted and repaired; carpentry is maintained; and that anything else that needs it receives the attention of the maintenance department.
As part of the hotel management, the Chief Engineer takes part in the manager of the day or manager on duty (MOD) program, meeting and dealing with the guests to assure any problems are prevented or resolved. As a hotel operates 24 hours a day, a Chief Engineer can expect work that includes evening, weekend, and holiday shifts. Most Chief Engineers do not have travel as part of their job description, although they may travel for industry and corporate meetings. Jobs are sufficiently available, so transferring to another part of the country is fairly easy.
Engineers may start at minimum wage; generally earn $9 an hour or more as an hourly employee, and may earn up to $85,000 plus bonuses annually as full-time employees. Benefits usually include health and life insurance and sick and vacation leave and may include retirement and investment programs. When working for a hotel chain, the Chief Engineer receives free or discounted lodging, food, beverages, dry cleaning, and laundry. Educational assistance may be provided. Engineers working at a resort may have use of the resort amenities. Relocation expenses are rarely covered.
Hotels, resorts, conference centers, and other public and private buildings are almost always looking for engineers who can handle all aspects of building maintenance and for trades people who specialize in electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and heating and air conditioning.
Engineers can advance to more supervisory positions, such as directory of maintenance, or start their own businesses.
Education and Training
A degree in electrical engineering or similar training usually is required for managerial positions.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
The Chief Engineer of an establishment must have the ability to give and follow directions, supervise personnel, and notice and repair problems before they become serious. Chief Engineers should have an excellent background in electrical, HVAC, and plumbing maintenance work, and a history of increasingly more responsible supervisory positions.
Local jurisdictions may require and issue licenses for HVAC, plumbing, and electrical personnel.
Unions and Associations
The Building Officials Code Administrators association provides training, code updates, conferences, and other information to all engineers in the various trades. Some areas have unions for specific trades, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors.
Tips for Entry
1. Learn the maintenance business from the ground up, taking courses in electrical engineering, plumbing, air conditioning, carpentry, and related fields.
2. Talk with Chief Engineers, asking their advice about career choices, internships, and apprenticeship programs.
3. Establish a network of people in the industry by attending local functions of the Building Officials Code Administrators.
4. Subscribe to trade publications or read about current trends and developments on-line.