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A day in the life: building engineer

| Categories: Our People, Our people

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There are many different staff roles in the Vancouver School District that help to keep a school functioning, including many often behind the scenes. Employees focused on the operations of a school are essential to keeping buildings and grounds in the District healthy and safe places. Norquay Elementary’s building engineer, Bal Dhaliwal, shares details of his role and responsibilities.

What is your name and how are you today?

My name is Bal Dhaliwal and I’m doing well. I’ve been with the VSB as a building engineer for over 28 years.

Please describe your job.

I work as a building engineer at John Norquay Elementary School and have been working there for the past 9 years. The premise of my job is to maintain the heating and ventilation of the school as well as the overall cleaning. I’m also in charge of making sure the building is in working order and running safely.

How has the pandemic impacted your job?

COVID-19 has affected my job in a big way. We’re doing enhanced cleaning of high contact surfaces within common areas such as handrails and doorknobs in classrooms and washrooms to ensure the safety of staff and students. This is an extra task that is added to my daily routine. I also have to wear a mask wherever I go.

What is the favourite part of your job?

I enjoy communicating and interacting with staff, students, and tradespeople. I’m a people person and like talking to other people. I also like how every day is different and unpredictable. One day could be running smoothly and another day could have challenges.

What is your daily routine?

My shift is from 7am to 2.30pm.


My job in the morning is to get the school ready prior to staff and students arriving. I start off the day by opening the building, turning on all the lights, and doing cleaning. Then I walk around the building to check for graffiti or vandalism. Since the heating season has started, I make sure the boilers are on and running and that the ventilation system is working. I also ensure that the building is at a comfortable temperature at all times.


At this point in the day, I do my enhanced cleaning of the school. I walk throughout the building and thoroughly disinfect all the high contact surfaces. I then go on the computer to check my emails, request any requisitions, and look at the heating to make sure the system is running adequately. I also do minor tasks that staff ask for.


After lunch, I would usually clean the student lunchroom. However, with COVID-19, the student lunchroom is closed. Instead, I help out my evening crew by putting extra supplies in classrooms and washrooms so they have more time for thorough cleaning in the evening. Before I leave, I talk with my evening crew about how the day went and what else needs to be done.

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