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Environmental Engineering Overview
Treat ‘em green, keep ‘em keen…
Ok, so we know that engineers are problem solvers, but can they really solve the world’s many environmental problems? Well, yes they can actually! Even if they can’t solve them all at once, environmental engineers are trying their hardest to curb the detrimental effects that human activity has on the environment.
Environmental engineers are the technical wizards who are researching, developing, designing and producing solutions to environmental issues; from air pollution and water contamination, to fuel consumption and recycling.
Why is it important? What does it involve?
Where would be without environmental engineers? Well, in a much more polluted environment, that’s for sure! The world would still be relying entirely on fossil fuels for energy, we wouldn’t even know what a wind farm looks like, hydroelectric dams would be non-existent and hybrid cars would purely be a figment of our imagination.
Environmental engineering is a broad term and it actually incorporates many different engineering disciplines in its quest to make the world a more environmentally-friendly place, including mechanical engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering, automotive engineering and even aeronautical engineering.
With growing environmental concerns across the world, the important work of environmental engineers is becoming more and more prevalent. Usually, these guys will be commissioned by governments, large companies and other organisations to help solve specific environmental problems.
You could be specialising in the chemical side of environmental engineering, developing a more environmentally-friendly fuel for companies such as Shell and ExxonMobil; you could be focusing on the mechanical side of things, designing new turbines for a hydroelectric dam; or alternatively, you could be working in the exciting world of automotive engineering, manufacturing the new breed of electric cars.
Break it down for me a little bit!
The majority of environmental engineers work for engineering consultancies and will work on a variety of projects for different clients. Obviously, their responsibilities and activities will vary from project to project. However, they will typically follow the same process.
First of all, the environmental engineer will liaise with their client to understand and assess the environmental problem that needs to be solved. They will then conduct meticulous research and develop a technical solution. Once this has been signed off, the design process begins. If the solution is mechanical or structural, this will usually be designed using computer-aided design (CAD) techniques. If the solution is chemical, this will be designed using advanced chemistry and scientific principles. Once the design has been rigorously tested, production begins. The solution will then be installed and maintained throughout its operational lifecycle.
Some environmental engineers may offer consultancy services to companies that are looking to make amendments to existing products. You could be altering anything from food packaging to the blades of a wind turbine.