Riverside Sunderland: University Design Challenge

TRADA image

This competition has now taken place. Please see the winners here 


TRADA is delighted to introduce Riverside Sunderland: University Design Challenge, an exciting competition for both current built environment students and 2020 graduates from across the UK.


In inter-disciplinary design teams of 4–8 members, you are invited to produce a masterplan for one area of the Riverside Sunderland development which will include a mixed and vibrant ‘village’ community of around 100 desirable homes with green and open spaces on the riverside site.


This is a thrilling opportunity which also involves the Sunderland City Council and their Riverside Development Team, George Clarke's Ministry of Building Innovation and Education (MOBIE), the Confederation of Timber Industries (CTI), and the University Engagement Programme scheme sponsors Timber Trade Federation.


The challenge

MOBIE and Sunderland City Council together with TRADA’s University Engagement Programme have launched an exciting Urban Living Design Competition with major sponsor the Confederation of Timber Industries (CTI).


Riverside Sunderland is redefining the city and transforming a spectacular site into a unique, carbon neutral urban quarter – an extraordinary place to live, work and play.


We are inviting built environment students and 2020 graduates from UK universities to take part in this exciting and fun challenge, where you will have the opportunity to: collaborate and work as a member of a design team; learn from a host of professionals at the forefront of modern construction; shape the way we live and work in the future; have your work published online, in print or displayed at shows; and win cash prizes.


As a team, you will be tasked with designing one 3-bed family home in detail; and an indicative masterplan which includes landscape, streetscape with green and open spaces, and 100 homes.


The main material focus and specification for the homes will be timber and timber hybrid systems. Housing typologies should be designed and engineered to be manufactured locally, utilising modern methods of construction (MMC). Homes should meet or exceed the RIBA 2030 challenge and must be adaptable to meet the needs of living and working now and in the future.


Work together in teams

Why inter-disciplinary teams? A housing scheme that is fit for purpose, on time and on budget is delivered by a good interactive multi-disciplinary design team. They design and build great schemes because they find efficient and economic solutions to any design challenge through understanding, appreciating and learning from each other.


Business as usual is no longer an option. We need great inter-disciplinary teams to create carbon neutral, desirable homes and vibrant communities.


We would encourage you to form inter-disciplinary teams that consist of at least four members with a maximum of eight members per team. You can self-select and form your own teams, or we can help you form a team from registered individuals. Team registration opens in February.


Team members will take on the different but essential roles required to design and deliver a holistic scheme. Within your team, you should assign roles for the following core professions:

  • Architect or architectural technologist
  • Structural or civil engineer
  • Quantity surveyor or project manager
  • Landscape architect or urban designer


When in teams made of more than four, you may want to include:

  • Building services engineer
  • Interior designer
  • Graphic designer
  • Illustrator
  • A second member from the core professions above
  • Another distinct role relevant to your scheme


You will be asked to identify the roles that team members have assumed and demonstrate how your various disciplines have collaborated to produce your designs.


Exclusive & interactive webinars

In order to design, specify, manufacture and construct high quality timber homes that are carbon neutral, desirable, long lasting, economic to construct and economic to run, inter-disciplinary design teams must be climate literate, understand what sustainable timber is, what timber and timber products are available, and how to use them effectively.


However, don't feel overwhelmed! TRADA's Tabitha Binding has put together a comprehensive series of webinars, which will introduce you to associations, professionals, resources, research and products in order to increase your knowledge and confidence. 


These online evening webinars will run throughout February and introduce the following:

  • The climate challenge
  • Routes to carbon neutral and net zero homes
  • Sustainable forestry and timber products
  • Offsite and modern methods of construction
  • Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) and carbon calculation tools
  • A network of professionals
  • Inter-disciplinary design teams
  • Actual and theoretical award-winning timber homes
  • The benefits of timber and where caution is advised in use
  • Essential resources


These are exclusive to the challenge participants, so make sure you enter to find out more. 



There are four winning places, with cash prizes for each team member:


  • 1st team members receive £250;
  • 2nd team members receive £150;
  • 3rd team members receive £100; and
  • 4th team members receive £50.


All participants will also receive a certificate for participating.


Entry requirements

To participate in this challenge, you must be a current UK student or a 2020 UK graduate of a built environment subject. This includes students and graduates of architecture, architectural technology, structural or civil engineering, surveying, landscape architecture, and interior design.


However, this list is not exhaustive so please get in touch with TRADA's Tabitha Binding if you are unsure whether you are eligible to participate.


How to participate

Fill in this form to register your interest


Once your registration has been accepted, you will receive all the information you need to know via email. This includes invitations to the series of exclusive, interactive evening webinars, where you will meet other participating students and graduates, and access to the full brief once it becomes available. At this point, you can either create your own team, or wait to be placed into a team with other participants, and begin the challenge.


Please note that the competition formally launches on on Monday, 1 February, at 18:00, although you may continue to register your interest until 26 February 2021.


You must submit your completed team entry before 23:59 on Friday, 28 May 2021. Judging will then take place during June 2021.



Resource pack 1: Riverside Sunderland in context

Resource pack 2: Historic photographs, archive images and historic maps 

Resource pack 3: Site photographs including Galleys Gill

Student brief (Short version) 

Terms and conditions 



If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch with Tabitha Binding, TRADA's University Engagement Manager, on tbinding@trada.co.uk


Special thanks to our gold sponsor CTI, our silver sponsors Rothoblaas, Accoya, PEFC UK, and TDCA, and our bronze sponsors ASBP, BSW, and Wood for Good