Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineering at Birmingham embraces the key topics of water engineering (its purification and how we manage the natural water cycle to serve our needs), geotechnical engineering (engineering in harmony with the ground) and, more generally, urban living (managing and designing effective cities which will serve us in the future). Underpinning all of this activity, we are looking for solutions for a sustainable, resilient future – one where scarce natural resources are used effectively and where the ever-increasing urbanisation of the world means we have cities which work for their inhabitants, not the other way round!

Environmental Engineering - imaginary city

Research activities in Water Engineering

The grand challenge of this century is how to enable nine billion people to live well within the confines of a single planet, given that we have drained it of easily extractable mineral and energy resources, polluted vast areas of land and water and are being subjected to the problems associated with a changing climate, which brings further threats to food and water security. Indeed, the combination of climate change, population growth, urbanisation and pollution means that society faces an urgent need to adapt to reductions in natural resource availability and reductions in energy consumption.

Environmental Engineering - river

At the very heart of this is the availability, management and security of water. It is water that binds the food, energy, climate, economic and human security challenges we face in the future. Without enhanced knowledge of water security and resource efficiency (including energy, bio-energy, nutrients), our adaptation measures will have limited success, and so will our ability to survive. 

We lack a cohesive, integrated approach to water security, energy management and resource efficiency and the Birmingham Water Group focuses its research on these issues. In particular, we focus on experimental and numerical approaches to address the challenges which we face in managing water security and resource efficiency and the associated links with energy management

Environmental Engineering - drinking water

The breadth of our staff expertise means that we operate in a diverse range of fields, usually based either in:

  • river hydraulics (open channel flow, river mechanics, conveyance capacity, physical and numerical modelling) 
  • water quality and public health engineering (water quality monitoring, water treatment, wastewater treatment, resource efficiency, including anaerobic digestion, nutrient supplementation, phosphorus recovery, bio-energy, and energy extraction in sewage treatment).

Our work is funded by research councils, the EU, industry and charities, and recent examples include:

River hydraulics: 

Research in water quality and public health:

Water resource planning;

Research activities in Future Cities and Infrastructure Engineering

The city of the future is an unknown quantity, but what we can be certain of is that the way in which we live, work, travel, communicate and use information will be different from today. The space in which we do this – predominately cities – needs to be able to adapt and keep our lives on track, whether this is to do with how we design and construct our buildings or how we manage and maintain infrastructure.

Environmental Engineering - Birmingham mailbox

Urban-environmental research at Birmingham is led by Professor Christopher Rogers , together with Dr Nicole Metje and Dr David Chapman and a large team of post-doctoral and postgraduate researchers.  A few of this group’s current and recent world-leading projects, some of which are in collaboration with practitioner and other stakeholder partners in order to maximise the impact of the work, include :

Environmental Engineering - mapping the underworld

Research activities in Geotechnical Engineering

It is often said that the world is built on the output of Geotechnical Engineering: understanding the ground upon which the built environment is created. Birmingham’s Geotechnical Engineering research group is a comprehensive team which works closely with Industry to produce unique, world-class knowledge in foundations, soils and geology-related subjects. Dr Ian Jefferson, Dr Gurmel Ghataora, Dr David Chapman and Dr Alexander Royal are core members of this group, working with PhD and doctoral researchers, in close collaboration with the Midland Geotechnical Society

Recent successes, in addition to the infrastructure engineering projects above, include

  • projects on railway geotechnics;
  • Geotechnical asset management, creating an asset management tool in conjunction with Amey plc for transportation;
  • Mechanics of soil collapse (pdf)
  •  The effect on the mechanical properties of soils of the presence of key elements and the composition; changing composition to improve soil behaviour;
  • Collaboration with Atkins to create an earthworks practice guide for working with collapsible soils (LOESS), with particular reference to central Asia;
  • Ground improvements, investigating the cyclic behaviour of vibro stone columns, of particular application where there is dynamic loading, e.g. railway sub-grade treatments;
  • Internal erosion in clay embankments; • Improving the ground using stone columns;
  • Exploring underground space utilisation to improve sustainability;
  • Deformation and Hydraulic Conductivity of Cement-Bentonite Slurry Cut-Off Walls (pdf).
Environmental Engineering - geotechnical engineering

Opportunities relevant to this theme

This active research group is always looking for good postgraduate research candidates. For general enquiries, please contact us (details below) or search on the Postgraduate Research Degrees web pages . PhD and MPhil opportunities are available.

We also offer taught postgraduate programmes, including

Staff in Environmental Engineering

Enquiries to

For postgraduate research opportunities, please contact
Ms Helen Booth, Tel; +44 (0)121 414 4160, Email h.r.booth@bham.ac.uk

For postgraduate taught courses and MScs, please contact
Ms Sarah Williams, Tel +44(0)121 414 5136, Email s.l.williams@bham.ac.uk

To discuss a new research project or to explore applying the group’s research to your business, please contact
Dr David Boardman, Knowledge Transfer Manager, Tel +44(0)121 414 5086, Email d.i.boardman@bham.ac.uk