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The Built Environment sector is about the design, construction and management of our human-made surroundings. Projects can range from building a single home to multimillion pound large-scale projects such as building a new infrastructure or eco-town. This industry is not only about materials, engineering and architecture, but also has a cultural element: you may be building new neighbourhoods or effecting existing communities. For this reason, work in the industry can become highly political and emotive.

Current key issues include how to stimulate the industry post-recession; tackling climate change through better design, practices and use of materials; reaching current housing targets, and in a way which helps communities grow.

There are a number of professionals involved within this sector, including engineers, architects, surveyors, lighting specialists as well as landscape architects, urban designers and planners. There may also be project managers, lawyers and other admin staff involved to help make the projects run more smoothly. Some of these are outlined below.

Civil engineers

Graduates in this field will design, build and maintain major infrastructure projects. Closely aligned with town planning, civil engineers are involved in all stages of a project, from feasibility studies, through construction, all the way to completion.

What to expect…

“Civil engineers can either be in the office, working on designs at a computer or ensuring the client is kept up to date, or on site, leading teams and solving problems.”
Tom Foulkes, Director General, Institution of Civil Engineers

Structural engineers

Structural engineers also have a huge role to play in the built environment. Their main function is to assess the safety of a project, making sure everything is structurally sound. They will work with architects in the initial design stages of a project, so the scope for creativity is huge. They must ensure foundation structures are properly calculated and that the floors, stairs and ceilings do not collapse. Projects could include a new pedestrian bridge, a high-rise apartment building or a new theatre. Work on the renovation of older structures can also be involved.


Architecture is still a relatively small profession, so opportunities to work on diverse projects are readily available. An architect makes the initial plans for a project and works with civil and structural engineers to ensure these designs are achievable. One of the main challenges of the role is balancing aesthetic considerations with safety, sustainability and cost issues. For instance, you may create an incredibly beautiful building, but it may cost a fortune to light and heat or have hazardous aspects that could cause accidents.


A general surveyor will plan renovation, repair and maintenance work and a quantity surveyor will monitor costs and check amounts of materials needed. They are a hugely important part of the construction and renovation process.

Building Services Engineers

Imagine yourself in the most fabulous building in the world. Now take away the lighting, heating and ventilation, the lifts and escalators, acoustics, plumbing, power supply and energy management systems, the security and safety systems…and you are left with a cold, dark, uninhabitable shell.

Everything inside a building which makes it safe and comfortable comes under the title of ‘building services’. A building must do what it was designed to do – not just provide shelter but also be an environment where people can live and work.


Engineering graduates sometimes decide to join the light and lighting industry, helping to promote the benefits of good lighting as consultants, designers, installers, lighting entertainment specialists and more.

What to expect…

“As a lighting designer, no two days are the same. One day you might be designing a school, the next performing a site trial on one of the country’s landmark buildings. It’s an exhilarating job!”
Liz Peck, Director LPA Lighting, and Secretary of the Society of Light & Lighting

Façade engineering

Façade engineering is the ‘art of resolving aesthetic, environmental and structural issues to achieve the enclosure of habitable space’. For buildings to achieve a high energy efficiency and create a comfortable environment for occupants, there must be appropriate dialogue between architects, façade engineers, building services engineers, structural engineers and contractors.

What to expect…

“The design of the building envelope impacts on building performance and architectural expression. Façade engineering is an exciting new discipline, which is increasingly important as façade technology develops in response to the need for architectural solutions for a sustainable future.”
Dr Mikkel Kragh, Associate, Arup, and Chairman of the Society of Façade Engineering

Public health engineers

Public health engineering affects us all. Clean drinking water supplies and adequate sanitary/drainage provisions are of the highest importance in terms of human health and wellbeing. Many challenges lie ahead in meeting and maintaining good public health engineering design standards within the built environment.

What to expect…

“As a key member of the building services engineering design team you will be challenged on a daily basis to provide both water efficient designs along with effective drainage systems to meet with current legislation requirements. During your career progression you will use both technical and practical knowledge-based engineering solutions in order to provide the highest levels of public health engineering design for all projects.”
Chris Northey, Honorary Secretary, Society of Public Health Engineers

Facilities Management

Effective facilities management, combining resources and activities, is vital to the success of any organisation. At a corporate level, it contributes to the delivery of strategic and operational objectives. On a day to day level, effective facilities management provides a safe and efficient working environment, which is essential to the performance of any business – whatever its size and scope. See for more details.

What to expect…

‘Building Services provides a great opportunity for designing and managing buildings. Services are at the forefront of facilities management especially with the future challenges of energy, sustainability and ongoing life cycle cost associated with buildings moving forward. There has never been a better time to get involved.’
Geoff Prudence, Chairman, CIBSE Facilities Management Group

Energy Assessors

Engineering professionals can be trained and accredited to become Energy Assessors – carrying out and producing Energy Performance Certificates, Display Energy Certificates and Air Conditioning Inspections as required under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

Experience is vital, so energy accreditation can be a long–term career aim for graduates, but is a great addition to the skill-set of a building services engineer. It also adds the potential for increased earnings and a wider client base.

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