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‘Engineering is art’ says new CIBSE President

Peter Y Wong, the new President of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), has used his inaugural address to change perceptions about building services engineers and argue that they should see themselves as artists and practitioners.

Speaking at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, Peter drew analogies between the principles of art that went into creating some of the world’s great masterpieces, and the principles that go into creating high performing buildings such as Hong Kong’s International Commerce Centre and Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay.

The new CIBSE President called on Engineers to see their work as an expression of the principles of integrity, professionalism and the public interest, and to be proud of creating buildings that perform well as a mark of their craftsmanship rather than for compliance or to meet minimum standards.

As well as his statements on engineering principles, Peter Y Wong also referred to his status as the first President from the Hong Kong region, he called for CIBSE to reach out to engineers outside the UK and the established regions in order to deepen its pool of experts, and provide more knowledge on topics relevant to an international audience.

Peter Y Wong, President of CIBSE, said: “My presidential pledge is to inspire the industry to embody the spirit and values of being a CIBSE member and to promote the positive message of the values we believe in, the professionalism we treasure and the aspiration of exchanging best practice among like-minded professionals worldwide.

“Building Services Engineers are one of the most important professions for the future health of the planet, and the world is depending on what we do to ensure that we have healthy and productive places to live and work for generations.”

Taking a cue from famous artistic movements, Peter used his speech to explore the core mission of CIBSE: To promote the science, art and practice of engineering, with an emphasis on the art. He argued that the art is the most important of those three ambitions, because it is the structured and principled nature of the art of engineering that separates competent engineers from truly great engineers.

Peter then defined the different types of art present in a building by looking back at previous CIBSE Building Performance Awards winners. All of these buildings represented the art of building engineering in different ways, from physical beauty to the beauty of their complexity, to the beauty of their function and their positive effects on their occupants.

Rounding off his address Peter explained how, by defining themselves as artists and living out the role, building services engineers can improve their profession and strengthen CIBSE as an organisation. By following the structure and values of the Chartered Engineer, the Engineering profession can become a byword for integrity and professionalism – which will boost their own businesses, and make Chartership a more attractive option.

Peter Y Wong is a Hong Kong engineer with more than 40 years of experience in the electrical and building services sectors. Graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1976, he became a director at Yook Tong Electric Company in Hong Kong – a position he still holds. He was elected President of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers in 2008, and was announced as the CIBSE President-Elect in 2016, having founded the CIBSE Hong Kong region and acted as its Chair.