What is Environmental Engineering?

Ball Shaped glass reflecting the greenery around it.

Ball Shaped glass reflecting the greenery around it.


Environmental engineering is a branch of civil engineering that aims to solve environmental problems through the application of biology, chemistry and soil science.


The following list details a range of ecological factors that environmental engineers aim to reduce, preserve or make efficient:


  • Water pollution – environmental engineers ensure that water is contaminant free and safe to drink.


  • Water treatment and supply– this involves the assessment of available water and the processes used to improve its quality, depending on end-use.


  • Air pollution – the design of combustion processes to help ensure air pollutants remain at acceptable levels in the atmosphere.


  • Waste disposal – the safe disposal of waste materials produced by human activity.


  • Waste water management – the production and maintenance of sewers and drains to effectively manage waste water.


  • Recycling – encourages the re-use of waste to reduce its impact on the environment.


  • Radiation protection – aims to minimise the risk of radiation exposure, as a result of our increased reliance on new technologies.


Ultimately, environmental engineers are concerned with improving the environment in an effort to protect people from environmental risks to health.


A Brief History of Environmental Engineering


The sea with an oil rig in the distance


“Water is the Giver of Life” – Sir Peter Bazalgette


The introduction of environmental engineering began with Joseph Bazalgette, who is said to be the first environmental engineer.


In the mid-19th century, Bazalgette was famous for spearheading the construction of the first large-scale municipal sewer system in London.


The construction of 82 miles of underground sewers and 1,100 miles of street sewers succeeded in eliminating cholera, by removing the contamination in the water.


As a result, mortality rates decreased and London became a more efficient and safer environment to live in.


Sanitation has been a human necessity for decades – the reduction and elimination of water-borne, pathogenic micro-organisms is crucial in reducing the spread of illness.


Amidst an escalating global population, it remains an ever-growing problem for environmental engineers.


The Role of an Environmental Engineer

 A group of wind turbines in a hilly landscape


Environmental engineers use elements of engineering, biology and chemistry to find solutions to environmental issues and public health problems.


Fundamentally, they analyse how technology effects the environment.  A priority for environmental engineers is to prevent the release of harmful chemicals and contaminants in water, air and soil.


This was a top priority during HLN Engineering Ltd’s involvement in the development of Roath Basin, Cardiff Bay.


Environmental Engineering at HLN Engineering Ltd


An aerial shot of Roath Basin and Tiger Bay, Cardiff, where HLN Engineering Ltd were commissioned for a range of environmental engineering services.


Appointed by Igloo Regeneration, and in conjunction with Dean and Dyball, our award-winning team of structural, civil and environmental engineers worked in unison to assess the environmental impact of the re-development of Roath Basin, Cardiff Bay, and the subsequent construction of the BBC Roath Lock studios.


Tasked with the design and supervision of the first phase of the development, we began by initiating land remediation activities and material recycling. Ensuring materials could be recycled was essential considering the potential impact of the development on the surrounding area.


Our environmental engineers’ success in material recycling reduced the overall cost of the development, whilst reducing the impact of waste on the environment.


Following our involvement in the enabling works, our engineering team worked on the following key elements of the BBC Roath Lock development:


  • Design of the main highway
  • Management of the sewer requisition process
  • Design of the drainage infrastructure
  • Supervision of the Earthworks and Remediation Contract
  • Design of the BBC production building and all external areas


It was imperative that we maintained close links with Cardiff City Council and the Environment Agency throughout, to ensure disruption and the environmental impact of the project was kept to a minimum.

The Future of Environmental Engineering

A group of environmental activists at a protest

A group of environmental activists at a protest


Due to the rise of industry, manufacturing and the development of cities, the importance of environmental engineering cannot be overstated.


The exponential growth and use of technology has taken centre stage in our everyday lives. However, despite its positive impact, such proliferation of technology continues to have an adverse effect on the environment:


  • Between 20 and 50 million tonnes of electronic equipment and peripherals are discarded each year;
  • Most of the electronic equipment discarded by US consumers is transported to Asia, where it is dismantled and recycled. The resultant waste, which contains mercury and lead, is a threat to the local ecosystem;
  • According to Huffington post, ‘the production of a single computer and monitor consumes, on the average, 530 pounds of fossil fuels, 48 pounds of chemicals and 1.5 tons of water’.


Human health and the maintenance of ecosystems is a priority.  it’s therefore evident that the role of environmental engineers is essential in the continued growth, development and sustainability of our environment.

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