Built Environment Essay

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The built environment consists of all elements of the human-made physical environment. Commonly treated as wholly discrete from and in juxtaposition against the ”natural environment, Dunlap and Catton s (1983) distinction between the ”built, the ”modified, and the ”natural environments critically captures the intermediate and continuous possibilities between and among these divisions.

Use of the term commonly diverges across disciplines, applications, and intended scale. Within engineering the built environment typically references infrastructural elements, technology, and systems (e.g., roads, bridges, depots; activities, technologies, practices, and structures implicated in the generation, transmission, and delivery of energy, sewerage/sanitation, communication, information). The building trades and applied architects and designers more narrowly address site planning, design, and materials. Alternatively, planners, urban designers, developers, and social scientists frequently use the term in a more inclusive, aggregated, and theoretical manner.

In recent years, two broad themes have gained prominence vis-a-vis the discourse of the built environment: an environmental imperative concerning development and sustainability that addresses its consequences for the natural environment; and its role in shaping human behavior.


  • Crysler, C. (2003)  Writing Spaces: Discourses of Architecture,   Urbanism, and the Built Environment, 1960-2000. Routledge, New York.
  • Dunlap, R. E. & Catton, W. R. (1983) What environmental sociologists have in common (whether concerned with ”built” or ”natural environments”). Sociological Inquiry 53 (2/3): 113-35.

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