Hard and soft engineering

Hard and soft

  • Created by: Ollie
  • Created on: 15-05-11 16:34

Soft engineering

There are many soft engineering methods:

Using natural features (Retreat the line) - Abbots Hall Farm

This is where hard engineering is moved or breached to allow natural mudflats and salt marshes to develop

Sand dune stabilisation

This is when sand dunes, that would naturally shift along the shore as a result of wind or wave power, are artificially held in place.  Stabilising dunes, using sand fencing or vegetation, increases their effectiveness as a sea defence.  It also stops the dunes 'migrating' into developed backshore areas.

Beach recharge

This is when the beaches are built up again or restored using sand from elsewhere. It is also called beach re nourishment

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About them

Soft engineering is designed to work with nature, and use nature as a defensive to nature.

This brings many advantages:

  • It is a lot cheaper
  • It is more predictable and so flood preparations can be made
  • They attract wild life
  • Work with nature, trees and plants are planted
  • Soft engineering is a lot more sustainable as it does not require heavy maintenance or costs
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Hard Engineering

Hard engineering is designed to stop nature in the long term


  • Levees - Mississippi
  • Dam - Three Gorges and Hoover
  • River channel straightening - Mississippi
  • Spillway Channel -  Jubilee River and Morganza Spillway


  • Sea wall - Keta Ghana and Japan
  • Groyne - Bournemouth
  • Revetment - Keta, Ghana
  • Rip Rap - Holderness and Mappleton 
  • Gabions - Keta, Ghana
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About them

Hard engineering is used when ther is a more desperate need or a town or city is valuable and under threat


  • Stop the sea well
  • Reduce wave power
  • More permeant
  • Can control nature to an extent
  • Can be used to generate power 


  • Expensive
  • Can result in consequences elsewhere
  • May not keep up with sea level rise
  • Eye sores (Some of them)
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Defences can be used in 4 ways

  • Hold the Line

Retain the current coastline using defences

  • Do nothing but monitor

Leave nature to take its course, but monitor carefully

  • Retreat the line

Actively manage the rate of retreat

  • Advance the line

New defences seaward ahead of existing defences 

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