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Smeaton Lecture 2023 - sustainable development: from Smeaton to the 21st century

Event organised by ICE

11 December 2023
18:00 - 19:30 GMT
Institution of Civil Engineers
One Great George Street
London, SW1P 3AA
United Kingdom
Add to Calendar 11-12-2023 18:00 11-12-2023 19:30 false Europe/London Smeaton Lecture 2023 - sustainable development: from Smeaton to the 21st century Institution of Civil Engineers, London


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The term ‘sustainable development’ entered the policy lexicon with the 1987 report Our Common Future, by the World Commission on Environment and Development. Historically, civil engineers have always held the future of their work and its wider societal impact as a central tenet of their profession, and this consideration has become even more important against today’s background of climate change.  

The engineers that shaped the Industrial Revolution also faced unprecedented challenges. Among the most influential of these was John Smeaton (1724-92), who was responsible for a series of bridges, canals, harbours and lighthouses, beginning with Cornwall’s Eddystone lighthouse in 1759. Twelve years later, Smeaton and six fellow practitioners of the new profession of civil engineering formed the Smeatonian Society to discuss matters of common interest.  

This lecture will explore the basis on which Smeaton and his contemporaries made their decisions, and considers the very different and more complex environment in which today’s engineers operate. Sustainable development now demands the explicit consideration of the impact of schemes on the environment, society and the economy, as well as an assessment of the effects on climate change. Today’s civil engineers require a broad range of expertise, reflecting the holistic approach of engineers in the 18th and 19th centuries.  

Peter Guthrie, professor of engineering for sustainable development at the University of Cambridge, will draw on the lessons from Smeaton’s era, as well as developments of the past 50 years, to propose what civil engineers must address as the global target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 approaches. He will also reflect on the need for the engineering profession to show leadership in sustainable development and will address the question of what it means to be a civil engineer. 

Please note:

Due to the planned rail and tube strike action on 04 October, this event has been re-scheduled to Monday 11 December 2023.


Institution of Civil Enigneers
One Great George Street


17:30 - 18:00

Registration and refreshments

[Registrations will begin at 17:30 for those attending in person. Those joining online should log into the platform at 17:45 to test connections.]

18:00 - 18:10

Chair's introduction

18:10 - 19:10

Presentation by Professor Peter Guthrie, professor of engineering for sustainable development, University of Cambridge

19:10 - 19:30

Q&A session


Event closed


Prof. Peter Guthrie OBE FREng

Prof. Peter Guthrie OBE FREng

University of Cambridge

professor of engineering for sustainable development

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Prof. Peter Guthrie OBE FREng

Peter is professor of engineering for sustainable development at the University of Cambridge. A civil engineer with geotechnical specialisation by background, Peter was a practising engineer on infrastructure projects before coming to Cambridge in 2000, and has worked extensively in Africa and Asia.  

He developed approaches to integrating social and environmental considerations into engineering design on projects such as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, international airports, nuclear decommissioning, the London 2012 Olympic Park, Orange County Great Park in California and new cities in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. His research is focused on energy efficiency and sustainable development in infrastructure projects internationally.  

In 1980, Peter founded RedR Engineers for Disaster Relief, of which he is now a vice-president. He is a non-executive director of Buro Happold. Previously, he was a member of the UK Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Science Advisory Council from 2004 to 2011, and was a member of the UK government’s project board for the Severn tidal power study. He is a member of the Global Agenda Council on Catastrophic Risks in the World Economic Forum. 

Prof. Anusha Shah

Prof. Anusha Shah

Institution of Civil Engineers

president 2023/24

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Prof. Anusha Shah

Anusha is a senior director-Resilient Cities at Arcadis. She is also a Royal Academy of Engineering visiting professor at King’s College London on Climate Adaptation, Sustainability and Inclusive Design and a non-executive director at the Met Office. A Fellow with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), she is the third woman and only BAME succeeding Vice President in over 200 years of ICE’s history and is set to be President in 2023 (subject to final council approval). In 2021, she was conferred an honorary professorship for knowledge transfer by University of Wolverhampton and Doctorate for her services to climate change in engineering by University of East London.

She has specialisation in Water & Environmental Engineering with 22 years’ experience in designing, managing and leading projects and programmes both in the UK and internationally. Anusha is also past chair of the Thames Estuary Partnership Board, a charity working towards sustainable management of the Thames Estuary. She has held various roles at the ICE including youngest and first female chair of ICE London and Co-Chair of ICE London & South East Diversity Task Force. Anusha sits on various industry NetZero groups and represents Arcadis at the London Climate Change Partnership and 50L Home Initiative of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. A recipient of several awards including 2020 - Top 50 UK Women Engineers Sustainability Award and CECA FIR Inspiring Engineers Award 2019, Anusha is regularly invited to panel discussions, media interviews and for delivering keynote speeches at various high profile industry events. In 2020, she was recognized by Climate Reframe as one of the UK’s leading BAME voices on climate change.