University Challenge 2020 – Call for entries

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TRADA's University Challenge 2020 will ask students to design sustainable community housing from timber in multi-disciplinary groups of six.


60 students from 30 universities will descend on Cardiff University’s School of Engineering Queen's Buildings for an intense ‘charrette style’ challenge 17–19 February 2020. The students will form 10 multi-disciplinary teams to compete for generous cash prizes and the prestige of winning the TRADA University Challenge.


The competition, which brings together final year undergraduate students of architecture, architectural technology, engineering, quantity surveying and landscape architecture related courses, is about creating opportunities for students to interact with timber industry forerunners and design professionals while gaining valuable practical experience.


Timber is increasingly the material of choice for innovative designers and often lends itself to ground-breaking design when utilised alongside technological developments. This year students will be challenged to look at timber in a brief which challenges their preconceptions – both about timber and its potential, and conventional social housing.


The University Challenge is one major part of TRADA’s larger University Engagement Programme, which aims to inspire the architects and engineers of the future to design iconic buildings and engineering solutions in wood.


Tabitha Binding, TRADA’s University Engagement Manager, adds: ‘TRADA’s focus has always been the support and empowerment of individuals and companies within the timber industry. The University Challenge is a fundamental part of our strategy to that end. Every year we introduce undergraduate final year students from across the UK to timber, our industry sponsors and our judges – and this is the turning point for some of those students, who we are delighted to see proceed onto timber-specific research or careers’.


The challenge

This year students will be asked to design timber community housing which is low-carbon, energy and water efficient, climate resilient, healthy and desirable! A live site has been chosen to give the challenge authenticity – with the real life constraints delivering a beneficial and meaningful experience. On- and off-site construction will be considered.


'We are in a climate emergency; the building sector is one of the worst offenders contributing to this crisis. The next generation of architects & engineers must be equipped with skills to tackle this challenge and knowledge of how to critically assess the impact of their buildings. The Passivhaus Standard eliminates the performance gap and provides a robust route to achieving zero carbon buildings. Passivhaus along with other ecological issues must become taught as a core part of the built environment curriculum across all disciplines.' – Jon Bootland, Passivhaus Trust


The TRADA University Challenge 2020 could not take place without the kind sponsorship and support of major sponsors STEICO and Arnold Laver, sponsor Stora Enso, and supporters PEFC UK, Passivhaus Trust, WTTA and Wood for Good.




To apply for entry, you must be studying at a UK university, in your final undergraduate year, and studying architecture, architectural technology, engineering, landscape architecture or quantity surveying. One student and one reserve per course, per university, will be selected via the official entry form. Support by your course lecturer is required. To get involved, contact Tabitha Binding on



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