Dr Colin Smith

Senior Lecturer

Department of Civil and Structural Engineering
Sir Frederick Mappin Building
Mappin Street, Sheffield, S1 3JD

Telephone: +44 (0) 114 222 5717

Email: c.c.smith@sheffield.ac.uk
Room: E106




My research focuses on the development of optimisation-based geotechnical analysis and design tools in order to make the best use of our resources and minimise environmental impact.

dr colin smith


Colin Smith graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1987. He joined the Cambridge Soil Mechanics research group in the same year and completed a PhD in 1991. Following two years as a research associate at Cambridge he joined the Department in 1992.

His research aims to improve the design and efficiency of fundamental geotechnical structures, such as foundations, retaining walls, slopes/embankments and tunnels.
His work focuses on:

  • Limit analysis and optimisation in geotechnics: providing tools for engineers to identify critical collapse mechanisms and associated margins of safety.
  • Low-carbon geotechnical construction through numerical design optimisation and the application of low-impact construction techniques.
  • Masonry arch bridge analysis, modelling and assessment.
  • Identification methods providing new image based approaches for characterising soil properties.

He is co-developer of the novel Discontinuity Layout Optimisation numerical method, which underpins many of the developments in his limit analysis and design optimisation work. His experimental work has a strong basis in physical modelling, supported in particular by innovative digital imaging techniques. His research at Sheffield has been funded by EPSRC, NERC and industry.

He is co-founder and director of University spin-out company LimitState Ltd, specialising in the development of novel ultimate limit state analysis and design software that rapidly analyses geotechnical constructions and predicts the conditions under which they would collapse. The software is now in use by over 100 companies and ~240 Universities across the world.

Activities and Distinctions

  • Member of the editorial advisory panels of 'Computers and Geotechnics' and 'ICE Journal of Engineering and Computational Mechanics'. Past member of the editorial advisory panel of 'Geotechnique'.
  • Secretary to the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering Technical Committee TC205 'Limit State Design'.
  • Awarded the 2007 ICE Baker Medal for the paper "Load carrying capacity of flooded masonry arches.", Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Bridge Engineering.

Selected Publications

Journal articles