Last edited 09 Aug 2016

Environmental engineering

The challenge of adapting building technology to the environment has been one that has faced all civilisations. Throughout history, civilisations have had to provide reliable sources of clean water, dispose of waste, prevent soil contamination and pollution of the air.

Environmental engineering is concerned with applying engineering principles to the protection of the environment and human populations from environmental hazards. Environmental engineering aims to optimise the use of natural resources, maximise the use of materials, and develop renewable energy sources and remediation techniques to improve environmental conditions.

As a discipline, it involves many other aspects of engineering, such as mechanical, electrical, aeronautical, civil, energy, microbiology and chemical.

One of history’s most celebrated environmental engineers is Joseph Bazalgette, who oversaw the construction of the first large-scale municipal sewer system in mid-19th century London. This was vital as a means of preventing cholera outbreaks due to sewage contamination of the Thames River. As a more modern example, environmental engineers have been tasked by leaders in China to try and provide remedial measures to tackle the pervasive and life-threatening problem of smog in cities such as Beijing.

Broadly, the areas that are involved in environmental engineering include:

Environmental engineers measure, model, control and simulate types of environment as a means of providing solutions and designing systems. They often work closely with government bodies to develop regulations for industry.

Some of the responsibilities of an environmental engineer include:

  • Preparing, reviewing and updating environmental investigation reports.
  • Designing project solutions for protecting the environment.
  • Maintaining and updating plans, permits and standard operating procedures.
  • Monitoring and reporting on the progress of environmental improvement programmes.
  • Carrying out inspections to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.
  • Providing advice to companies and government agencies about remedial procedures for contaminated sites.

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