Smeaton Medal 2.jpg


The origins of the Smeaton medal date from the 1970s and were associated with the 250th anniversary of the birth of John Smeaton. The Society decided then to award a medal annually to a distinguished engineer at the peak of their career. Three such medals were awarded between 1974 and 1977 to top engineers of the day for their outstanding engineering achievements. These were to Geoffrey Morse Binnie (1974), Sir Stanley Hooker (1975) and Sir Leonard Renshaw (1977). A second series of medals was launched in 1999 with an annual award being made to a final year student or researcher nominated by a university selected by the Society. The second series of medals concluded in 2020.

The current, third series of medals has been commissioned by the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers to commemorate the 250th anniversary of formation of the Society in 1771. The third series is intended to recognise engineers in the early or mid-stage of their careers who have demonstrated outstanding engineering achievement in hostile environments, such as windstorms, earthquakes, the human body, space, cyberspace, the deep oceans or under extreme chemical, biological or nuclear conditions.

The Award consists of the medal, in hallmarked sterling silver with a gilt finish. There is no accompanying certificate or gift. The medal is presented at an event hosted by the Society in London in October or November each year.

Click here to see the winners of the second series of medals (2009 - 2020).



Joshua Macabuag and Vita Sanderson

The judging panel for this year’s award set the following criteria for the assessment and evaluation of the nominations. The criteria reflect the challenges which Smeaton himself had to contend with particularly in the design and construction of the Eddystone Lighthouse.

  • Achievements and any innovations

  • Involvement in saving lives and the protection of lives

  • Achievements in reducing Risk

  • Personal exposure to working in a hostile environment

  • The degree of hostility in the environments encountered

  • The environmental impact of the work 

The Society wished to make awards in the 3rd series of the Smeaton Medal to engineers who are in their early to mid-career. The two engineers recommended for the award of a Smeaton Medal were both considered by all members of the Panel to be outstanding in meeting the challenges posed by each of the judging criteria and felt that the experiences of each nominee brought exceptional benefits to society and communities in difficult environments. They have both demonstrated an overriding commitment to reducing risk for the inhabitants of less developed countries where the effects of natural disaster or conflict impacts mortality in a big way and are excellent role models for future engineers entering these important areas of work.

Dr Joshua Macabuag

Josh is a structural engineer with 13 years’ experience. In his early career he worked on the design of major projects in the UK and the Middle East. He became committed to working in Overseas development using his engineer training and following on from this became involved in earthquake engineering and how to extend the collapse time of non-engineered buildings under Seismic Loading in Latin America as well as Nepal. He was deployed to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011 as part of the IStructE’s Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team. He became a Chartered Member of the ICE in 2012, and completed an EngD. in 2017.

He decided to dedicate is future career to Disaster Risk Engineering and became involved with UK charity work. For SARAID (Search and Rescue Assistance in Disasters), he carried out field investigation work following several disasters around the world, the most recent being the Earthquake in Haiti

Josh now has two main strands to his work

  1. As an Engineer in the field in the immediate post disaster phase undertaking hazardous search and rescue operations in hostile environments

  2. As an innovator and leader in disaster risk reduction and recovery

A significant achievement has been the setting up Damage Assessment and Co-ordination Centre (DACC) following several disasters and his team, SARAID, is supporting the UN to adopt this concept in international guidance.

Josh is now the Engineering manager for SARAID and chair of the IStructE Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team (EEFIT). He works for the World Bank as an Independent Consultant to help governments and decision makers protect people from disasters.

Josh has made many contributions through publications and short films.

Vita Sanderson

Vita is an outstanding Structural Engineer who qualified in 2015. She has used her training and experience to help communities impacted by natural disasters, conflict and most recently by the Covid Pandemic.

Since qualifying Vita has worked continuously in challenging and hostile Environments in Bangladesh, Nepal, South Sudan for front line Humanitarian Agencies and on large scale construction programmes in Nepal and Peru, ensuring schools “are built back better”. Last year she developed guidance for Covid Treatment centres in low source environments and is advising the WHO in the Rohingya Refugee camp, Cox’s Bazaar in 2019 vita was elected to the UK board of Médecins Sans Frontières. She lectures on Warwick University’s Humanitarian Engineering Course.

In 2013. following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh Vita she worked for ACCORD, an alliance of European companies-to undertake the structural Inspection of many garment factories in that country.

She then became involved with UNICEF, constructing Transitional learning Centres in a remote area of the Himalayas after the 2015 Nepal earthquake.

In South Sudan she has led a 60 strong team constructing a new 160 bed field hospital in harsh environmental conditions with heavy rainfall and poor ground conditions. This work included the provision of sanitation arrangements, water supply and Power generation. The interviewers were particularly impressed with her clear, concise and detailed answers around these arrangements which showed a deep personal involvement as well as strong leadership and a willingness to work in the field in an area known to be hazardous for westerners.

On return to the UK Vita joined Arup in their International Development Team. She is now focussed on improving safety (principally earthquake survivability) of Schools and has managed a large- scale retrofitting programme for 250 Schools in Western Nepal, and a large school retrofitting programme in Peru.

She has led the development and guidance for implementing rapidly deployed Covid treatment centres in low resource contexts, called “Care Box Low Resource” On this she has been working with the WHO.  She is currently contributing to the update of the Engineering in Emergencies textbook published by Red. Vita has written several papers based on her experiences.