Six talented students scooped first prize for their timber-based housing scheme design at the TRADA University Challenge 2020. Kyle Crossley from Leeds Beckett University, Ryan Jessop from the University of Hertfordshire, Aslinn Aijian Zha from Cardiff University, Kai Yusaf Chelliah from the University of Bristol, Kat Cookes from the University of Gloucestershire and Aaron Shaw from Sheffield Hallam University overcame nine rival teams to win a cash prize and walk away winners.
The competition, which took place 17–19 February, saw 58 students from universities across the UK gather at Cardiff University and compete to design, cost and engineer the best low-carbon, energy and water efficient timber community housing in less than 48 hours.
A brief given by Wales & West Housing Association for a large rural site at Adams Drive, Narbeth, laid out real-life constraints for the students to address and design to. The brief, which included a combination of homes for social rent, low-cost home ownership and open market, required low or zero carbon buildings with a fabric-first approach, sensitive place-making and a hub around which a community could be created.
Judge Rob Wheaton of Stride Treglown commented that competitors were tested by interpreting ‘a really challenging technical brief in such a short space of time’. He stressed the difficulties of both finding innovative ways of using timber and incorporating Passivhaus principles, all while meeting the client’s definitive requirements and working to the constraints of the site.
Each team consisted of student engineers, architects, architectural technologists, quantity surveyors and landscape architects, and received hands-on support from pioneering design professionals and industry members, including judges from Mikhail Riches, Cullinan Studio, Stride Treglown, Ramboll, BuroHappold, Entuitive, Gardiner & Theobald and PLAN:design.
All six teammates contributed their win to an excellent team dynamic in which the four disciplines harmonised towards a common vision, resulting in a finished design which emphasised community, green space, and minimalist design.
Ryan Jessop, one of two architects within the winning team, confessed: ‘This is the first design competition I’ve done, so to come first is just astonishing. If we didn’t have the quantity surveyor and the engineers giving their justifications, we would probably have done something a bit madder – but [based on their input] we designed something realistic, which is why we very quickly established a building thumbprint we could hand to the engineers. Once they made it work, we then worked on the room layouts.’
The panel of judges were unanimous in their decision to award the team top prize. Several commented on the team’s brilliant model, which they used to demonstrate a great lighting strategy during their 10-minute presentation; the in-depth, landscape-first approach which integrated allotments and swales; and the team’s strong technical analysis that revealed an excellent understanding of the client’s brief.
Tabitha Binding, Manager of the University Engagement Programme at TRADA, said: “It is always an honour to organise the annual TRADA University Challenge. Each year I am delighted to witness first-hand the dedication and passion of everyone involved. The judges were amazed at how individuals from different universities and disciplines came together to form cohesive design teams in such a short space of time. Congratulations must be given to the winners and runners-up – their hard work and vision resulted in thoughtful and environmentally friendly timber-based designs, which we so currently need. Thanks to our sponsors, supporters, and Cardiff hosts for helping make the TRADA University Challenge 2020 a huge success.”
The 2020 competition could not take place without the kind support of major sponsors STEICO and Arnold Laver, sponsor Stora Enso, and supporters PEFC UK, Passivhaus Trust, WTTA and Wood for Good.