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What Does an Environmental Planner Do?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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An environmental planner is a type of architect that formulates developmental plans that take environmental impact into consideration. Most professionals in this field possess at least a bachelor's degree in a related subject, though many also have graduate degrees in architecture, environmental studies, or similar fields. Jobs for environmental planners can be found both with public and private agencies, and may include the design and development of environmentally-conscious new buildings and recreational areas, the retrofitting of existing developments, and the creation of environmental policy.

Most environmental planners undergo several years of training to become a professional in the field. University degrees in environmental studies, environmental planning, urban and rural architecture, and engineering can all be excellent pathways to a future career. Some may go on to receive graduate or doctoral degrees in planning and development, which can allow them to enter the field at a higher level. After graduation, new planners may need to spend some time working in associate or entry-level jobs before being able to start a full time career as a planner.

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The basic job duties of an environmental planner include finding contracts and developing a plan for a proposed site or retrofitting project. In the formulation of a development blueprint, planners may conduct a variety of studies to analyze the land, drainage, and ecosystem of the site in question. If there are risks to the environment posed by the development, a planner may try to find ways to counterbalance or reduce these concerns. For instance, when creating a new park through an existing natural area, a planner might consider the ranges and habitats of local wildlife, and design paths and structures that allow visitors to access the area without disturbing the animal residents.

As an environmental planner develops ideas for a new building or complex, he or she incorporates materials and technology that will ensure the finished development is environmentally. The plans for a building created by an environmental planner might include features such as recycled material insulation, wood sourced from sustainable tree farms, and clean energy alternatives like wind and solar power. When retrofitting an existing building, the planner might look for ways to replace environmentally unsound materials, such as lead-based paint or chemically treated carpeting, as well as incorporating new technology that makes the building more energy efficient and environmentally sound.

In the public sector, an environmental planner may also work to create new policies that focus on sustainable development. They may work with various government departments, including housing, interior, and government environmental agencies, to replace outdated pollution and building standards with new policies that help reduce environmental damage without inhibiting necessary development. Planners employed by the government may also work to design and maintain public recreation areas, such as national monuments, protected wildlife preserves, and national parks.

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