Kenya’s construction industry is awash with professionals and of course quasi-professionals who are involved at one stage or the other in turning dreams to realities. Quasi-professionals do it magically while professionals do it scientifically but that is a story for another day. Today, we look at a section of these dreams and who is responsible for their realisation.

Who doesn’t want to live in a well lit, well powered environment?

We have all been to that living room that leaves us with a sensation of fatigue rather than invoke relaxation or that office which makes a simple task such as reading and writing appear to be an onerous task. Then again, we have been to that joint that brings out the best in us. As we have a cup of coffee and erroneously believe it is the caffeine working its magic while in fact it is simply the art and science that is illumination engineering. It is the role of the Electrical Engineer to double up as a lighting designer and design a building’s lighting system to guarantee visual comfort, energy efficiency all the while being visually pleasing. As we sit in that well lit environment, we are most likely utilizing devices that need to be powered. But we all know of that awkwardly placed socket that makes powering our devices a tad inconvenient. It is the role of the Electrical Engineer to design electrical power distribution in a building to enhance its utilization. Most of these devices we use need to be connected to the outside world, be it the TV or the telephone. There needs to be a means to achieve this and it’s the role of the Electrical Engineer to make provisions for these means to be achieved.

Loss of life and property

For those of us who have been robbed we are all too familiar with the feeling, for those of us who have experienced a break-in it’s even worse. I do not know which one is worse than the other though, losing property through theft or through fire. What I do know is all these can be prevented and it’s the wish of every property owner to have his/her property protected against such loss. It’s the role of an Electrical Engineer to design building protection and alarm systems for fire and theft. This may be anything from an electric fence to CCTV networks. However, it’s not only human factors that are of concern; sometimes natural events such as lightning can cause damage to property and loss of life. The low-laying regions of the highlands west of Rift Valley, the south rift region of Kericho, Kisii region, South Nyanza and along the shorelines of Lake Victoria are some of the areas in Kenya prone to lightning strikes. Any construction of buildings in these areas must take into account the risk of lightning strikes and measures put in place to guard against lightning strikes. Electrical Building Services Engineers are tasked with the design of lightning protection systems for buildings.

Then there is the law

There is always the law. After all we are not a lawless society. While it is the responsibility of the building owner to engage professional services, it is the responsibility of the Electrical Engineer when engaged to ensure conformance to local regulations and standards. This should extend not just in the design of the building services but in their eventual installation. It is the responsibility of the Electrical Engineer to represent the client on site and guarantee that the client’s wishes and needs are met all the while maintaining the appropriate standard and conformance to the laws of the land. An Electrical Engineer’s responsibility does not stop at supervision of installation works. It extends to the operation of these installations. Operations have an economic implication and it is the responsibility of the Electrical Engineer to ensure that the installation is not only economically feasible at installation but also during the operation and maintenance period. Yes, period. Electrical installations have a lifetime within which they must provide a certain minimum level of service to the building occupants before they require a complete overhaul. They do not exist perpetually. It is the responsibility of the Electrical Engineer to ensure that each installation will live to see the end of its intended life long after it has given its return on investment.

What about sustainability?

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is a technical balance between the present and future needs and most importantly it is the responsibility of the Electrical Engineer to ensure that this balance is achieved.

Electrical Building Services Engineers are responsible for the design, installation, operation and monitoring of the electrical systems required for the safe, comfortable, economically feasible and environmentally friendly operation of modern buildings.

[Image Credit: Texas A&M University]