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The difference between Construction and the Built Environment? They are the same… but not.

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Construction site next to a completed tall building

In Summary

No, well kinda, this example explains it all:

  • You have a field that is untouched and decides to build some houses on it

  • Once the build starts this would be classed as the construction phase (and this field is now part of the built environment)

  • When the houses are complete and signed off, this is no longer construction but maintains part of the built environment

  • Once the houses come to the end of their lifespan unless the field is restored back to its natural state, then this area of land will be part of the built environment.

  • If they are knocked down and built again, a new construction phase begins.


The terms "construction" and "built environment" are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion about whether they refer to the same thing or not. In reality, while they are related concepts, they are not the same thing. Understanding the difference between construction and the built environment is important to gain a better appreciation of the impact of human development on the world around us.


Construction refers to the process of building structures such as buildings, roads, bridges, and other physical infrastructure. This process involves the use of heavy machinery, tools, and equipment to transform raw materials into a finished product. Construction is a crucial aspect of urban development, as it provides the physical foundation for human habitation, transportation, and commerce.

Built Environment

The built environment, on the other hand, encompasses everything that has been constructed by human beings, including buildings, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, as well as the natural surroundings that have been modified or impacted by human activity. The built environment is the product of construction, but it also includes the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of human life that are shaped by the built environment.

The Difference

So, while construction is the process of building physical structures, the built environment encompasses a much broader range of elements. The built environment is the result of human activity over a long period of time, while construction is a more specific and short-term process that contributes to the built environment.


By recognising the broader social, cultural, and economic dimensions of the built environment, we can make more informed decisions about how to develop sustainable and resilient communities that balance the needs of humans and the natural world.

Putting it into Context

Let’s just say there was a vast, untouched field on the outskirts of a bustling city. It was a beautiful area, filled with grassy meadows, wildflowers, and tall trees that swayed in the wind. However, as the city's population grew, more and more people needed homes to live in. The city planners looked at the field and saw an opportunity to provide housing for the people (shame on those pesky city planners)!

They decided to build a new housing development in the field, and the construction phase began. The first step was to clear the land and prepare it for building. Once this initial first step started, the once lush field becomes part of the built environment.

Bulldozers and diggers moved in, and the trees, grass, and wildflowers were removed. The area was flattened, and the ground was levelled. The construction workers then started to build the houses, brick by brick. It was a slow and meticulous process, but eventually, the houses started to take shape.

Once the build was complete, the houses were signed off, and families moved in, eager to start their new lives in their new homes. The once empty field was now a thriving community, filled with life and activity (ah, s those pesky city planners had a….. plan)!

As the years went by, the houses started to age, and some needed to be replaced. When a house was knocked down, a new phase began (we’re back to construction time again). The process of demolition, preparing the land, and building a new house started all over again. However, instead of building newer than the old new houses, if the field was not restored back to its natural state, then this area of land would still be part of the built environment, even when the houses had reached the end of their lifespan.

In the end, the field was no longer untouched and became part of the built environment long after the houses were built. The construction phase was just that, a phase - but there would be no built environment without construction.

Built Environment v Natural Environment

This story highlights the delicate balance between progress and preservation in the built environment and construction world. As cities grow, there must be space for people to live, work, and play. However, it is important to consider the impact that development has on the NATURAL environment. There are ways to build new communities while also preserving the beauty and integrity of the natural world. By doing so, we can ensure that both the built environment and the natural environment can thrive and coexist in harmony.

If for nothing else but the bees, but not for wasps, wasps are just evil.


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