Students design “healthy” student multi-storey accommodation from timber as part of two-day charrette-styled competition that invited architects, architectural technologists, engineers, landscape architects and quantity surveying undergraduates from UK universities to participate.
G&T’s Oliver Booth was on the judging panel for this year’s event, helping teams find solutions to the brief - ‘To design “healthy” student accommodation predominantly from timber’. The challenge took place 8–9th February at the University of Sheffield’s Diamond building. 60 students from 25 universities split into 10 teams of six - competing to see who could design, cost and engineer accommodation that used timber and timber products to emphasise health and wellbeing, energy efficiency, and building to budget. An existing site in the heart of Sheffield’s shopping district grounded and gave real life constraints to the project brief.
"The degree of imagination that went into each teams’ designs was amazing. The knowledge gained of how and where to use timber and timber products is both practical and useful as students head out into the professional world."
Tabitha Binding, TRADA’s University Engagement Manager
The competition kicked off early Friday morning and continued until Saturday afternoon, where students collaborated in designated design teams. Each team included two architects or architectural technologists, two engineers, a landscape architect and a quantity surveyor, none of whom had met before – creating situations and relationships comparable to real world project teams.
Throughout the two days teams had open access to the judging panel of pioneering design professionals, knowledgeable industry sponsors and the University of Sheffield’s exceptional facilities.
When 29 hours were up, #tomorrowstimbertalent teams had 8 minutes to present their designs to the expert panel of judges - who were unanimous in naming Team 9 the winners, citing their innovative approach and attention to future adaptability.
Team 9 scooped the top prize of £1200, closely followed by Team 3 in second place and Teams 4 and 7 in third and fourth. Quantity Surveyor student Andy Freeman (Team 6) from Sheffield Hallam University was Highly Commended for impressing Oliver Booth and the judging panel with his knowledge, enthusiasm and application.
The multidisciplinary team of six that aced this year's TRADA University Challenge ignored the convention of the red line boundary and changed the arrangement of buildings around the site. Their innovative approach led to a design that combined post and beam with a modular volumetric structure. Slotted and stacked into four frames of differing heights, which maximised sunlight and ‘CLT room pods insulated with wood-fibre’ accessed through the communal central areas that would add to student community engagement. Each studio included a shower room and a study area with external windowed views. Communal areas at both roof and ground level encourage further interaction. Total costs were estimated at £33 million with an 18-month programme.
"We had a really strong team and worked really well together and we were the only team to disrupt the original footprint of the site"
Isaac Palmiere-Szabo, Leicester School of Architecture, DMU
The Winners: Team 9
- Arnas Mikalauskas, University of Sheffield
- Aleksandra Ziembinska, University of Strathclyde
Architect / Interior Architect:
- Isaac Palmiere-Szabo, Leicester School of Architecture, De Montfort University
- Louisa Keighley, University of Derby
- Emma Beaumont, University of Sheffield
- Cameron Timms, Coventry University
Isaac Palmiere-Szabo, Leicester School of Architecture, DMU, commented:
‘I was pushing to design something a bit more experimental and different to standard student typology, which I know can be easy to get wrong – surprisingly, we were the only team to disrupt the original footprint of the site. We had a really strong team and worked really well together; although at first there was a communication barrier between the different disciplines, after an hour we were all on the same page’.
Louisa Keighley, University of Derby, commented:
‘[Working with engineers] was very new and really enlightening. It was quite daunting to discover how much information they needed. I’ve never worked with a QS to that level before either and it was really interesting to see how they worked. I think the knowledge gained in the TRADA University Challenge will be invaluable when I go out into the workplace. I’ll know what is required of me and what information the other disciplines will need from me’.
Tabitha Binding, TRADA’s University Engagement Manager, shared:
‘I am absolutely delighted with all the students who participated in this year’s University Challenge. The degree of imagination that went into each teams’ designs was amazing. The knowledge gained of how and where to use timber and timber products is both practical and useful as students head out into the professional world. The multidisciplinary aspect has given them an understanding of how working holistically is beneficial to designing, engineering and constructing quality buildings.
'Congratulations to Team 9 for their deserving win and congratulations also to all sixty students who took part. I would like to thank the University of Sheffield and our excellent team of hands-on sponsors, judges and ambassadors who worked tirelessly engaging, enthusing and educating.
Thank you also to Wood for Good, who provided participants with The Modern Timber House in the UK'.
If you would like to get involved please contact Tabitha Binding, TRADA’s University Engagement Manager on firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The University Challenge was a really good opportunity to spend time with some TRADA members and meet lots of students."
Oliver Booth, G&T Partner
‘When you’re at work, you get almost blinkered with how architecture needs to fit in with so many fixed issues and fixed challenges. To spend a couple of days engaging with students, who are all about creativity is really exciting. I’ve never come across a competition, which involved such a diverse range of different disciplines. It’s brilliant.’
Patrick Usborne, dRMM Architects
‘Having worked with the University of Sheffield quite recently, the TRADA University Challenge continues that involvement – promoting the use of timber to students. When I was at university we didn’t receive formal timber training or have this kind of competition. Everything I’ve learnt [about timber] has been post education. The students have come up with some interesting and unusual solutions.’
Tom Harley-Tuffs, Ramboll
‘The University Challenge was a really good opportunity to spend time with some TRADA members and meet lots of students. I like that format and setup – I think it’s conducive to team building and showing that QSs are an essential part of every building project.’
Oliver Booth, Gardiner & Theobald
Universities involved in the competition included:
The Universities of Bath, Bristol, Derby, Dundee, East London, Liverpool, Reading, Sheffield, South Wales, Strathclyde, Wales, Trinity St David, West of England Bristol and Hertfordshire; Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh Napier, Leeds Beckett, Newcastle, Nottingham Trent, Salford and Sheffield Hallam Universities; and Arts University Bournemouth, Leicester School of Architecture DMU, Norwich University of the Arts, and the University for the Creative Arts Canterbury.
2nd place: Team 3
- Eleanor Harris, Coventry University
- Stephen Johnson, Norwich University of the Arts
- Jack Schroeder, University of Liverpool
- Mateusz Szulca, Newcastle University
- Wingsze Yuen, University of Sheffield
- Isla Thomas, University of South Wales
3rd place: Team 4
- Aston Oakes, University of Reading
- Freddie Solman, Sheffield Hallam University
- Joanna Kaye, University of Sheffield
- Dachi Khutsishvili, Edinburgh Napier University
- Fergus Paske, University of Sheffield
- Carys Ann Richards, University of South Wales
4th place: Team 7
- Elliott Wang, Cardiff University WSA
- Adam Moss, University of Derby
- Alexander William Mead, University of Bath
- Naveera Fasahat, Salford University
- Russell Giblett, University of Sheffield
- Charlotte Orr, Coventry University