Coastal and maritime engineering

The coastal zone is a highly complex and dynamic environment. Intervention in the coastal zone disrupts the sensitive balance of the physical environment; changes that are often difficult to anticipate. The purposes for such intervention can be multiple; development for residential or commercial use, flood and erosion defence for existing development, public amenity improvement, or even environmental enhancement or restoration. 

The coastal zone is a highly dynamic environment with the sea as its engine, creating waves and currents that erode and move rocks and sediments in relatively short timespans, and often in a sudden and unexpected way. It is therefore much about risk management, assessing what are the prevailing conditions to create a usable and amenable environment, whilst also evaluating the extreme conditions to ensure developments are robust and avoid creating unsafe environments.

The challenge is to create and sustain development spaces, secure new developments, and enable existing ones to become more resilient, whilst also protecting sensitive natural environments typical at the shore edge. Over 20% of the world’s population already lives both within 100 km of the coast and <100 m above sea level, with many of the world’s largest cities and densest population centres in low-lying coastal areas. Predictions vary, but all are agreed that such areas will grow due to population growth and migration to the coastal zone, people attracted by the economic activity and the marine environment, putting more at risk and increasing the pressure on the natural coastal systems. This risk is compounded by expected climatic changes, with mean sea levels predicted to rise 0.5-1m over the next century, with extreme storms becoming more frequent and intense.

BuroHappold is helping to meet this challenge worldwide, through effective shoreline planning, flood control, and harbour design, leading to the creation of robust but appealing building, land, and water spaces for residential, amenity and commercial use. 

Our expertise in coastal and maritime engineering includes:

  • Wave and extreme sea level (surge) analysis
  • Sediment processes and dredging assessment
  • Water quality assessment, including modelling
  • Coastal flood and erosion defence
  • Seafront amenity
  • Marina and jetty design
  • Breakwaters, revetments and beach control structure design
  • Quay wall design
  • Navigational assessment
  • Environmental conservation
  • Climate change impacts
  • Public safety at the seafront

Key contact


Paul Brenton

Associate Director

  • work+44 1225 320600

Matthew Vaughan-Shaw


  • work+44 1225 320 600