03 February 2020

TRADA University Challenge – 2020 Supporters

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On 17–19 February 2020, 60 UK students will descend on Cardiff for a charrette–style challenge to design timber community housing that is low-carbon, energy and water efficient, climate resilient, healthy and desirable. 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.


The TRADA University Challenge has attracted sponsorship from top timber industry members who understand the need to engage, encourage and educate our future professionals. 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.


Nick Grant, Board Director of the Passivhaus Trust, and Sally Godber, a member of its Technical Steering Group, says:


'Design as if no one is watching.


'"We don’t do art, we solve problems" is one of our favourite quotes by Ray and Charles Eames. As engineers, this is how we were taught design. The creativity and pleasure in solving problems gets us out of bed in the morning. The final form, whether a piston or a racing car, a door threshold or a house, is born of this process. The result is often beautiful or at least elegant. Beauty is not guaranteed but the result will not be a cliché and it will work. Defining the problems to solve is the starting point, and in building we have no shortage of problems. Keeping weather out and heat in, providing good ventilation, daylight, views, thermal comfort, acoustics etc. And we must do all this using minimal resources for construction and operation.


'In nature there are no designers. That the results are mostly seen as beautiful by humans is remarkable. Timber is an example we take for granted. No mere material, it is a composite structure with amazing physical properties. From cradle to coffin we depend on wood. We invite you to put aside concepts, identify problems and embrace constraints, understand who the building is for and don’t even think about what it would look like on Instagram.'


Mark Wayne Probert, Chairman of Western Timber Trade Association (WTTA), says:


'The Western Timber Trade Association (WTTA), formerly known as WTA, is an association of around 50 members including sawmills, agents, importers and merchants in the South-West of England and South Wales. As part of the Timber Trade Federation, we trade in legally sustainable softwoods, hardwoods & panel products.


'We believe that to meet the significant carbon reductions required to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, there must be a significant transformation of the construction industry, and current outputs, to both lift productivity, as well as the quality and efficiency of houses built. Homes designed and built well, to high energy efficiency standards, and using sustainably sourced timber and timber products will reduce the embodied carbon in our buildings. Timber's innate ability to adsorb and desorb moisture along with its thermal performance, if used well, can increase the health and wellbeing of occupants and reduce energy usage – reducing operational carbon. The APPG Timber Industries report How the timber industry can help tackle the housing crisis provides information on the challenges and solutions that the timber industries are currently adopting.


'We at WTTA are keen to support the TRADA University Challenge, and to directly engage and provide first-hand knowledge to our future professional designers, engineers and specifiers. Timber provides a myriad of solutions that are not yet taught at university or college in the UK and we are taking the lead in changing this.'


Christiane Lellig, Campaign Director of Wood for Good, says:


'If we want to meet future needs, we first have to understand what these will look like and whose needs we’re actually talking about. Do we focus on future residents’ lifestyle aspirations in a material-hungry individualistic society; one planet living as a framework to secure life on earth in the future; society’s needs across socio-economic boundaries, e.g. healthier lifestyles, community and neighbourhood creation, etc. With aim and objective clarified, we can start designing with human behaviour in mind – a plea for transdisciplinary team collaboration. Get social scientists on board to help with behavioural data, understanding of social challenges and potential design interventions in the built environment. Timber is one of the few building materials that not only provides a versatile and low-carbon solution; forests are nature’s most effective carbon capture and storage system. By nurturing forests and maintaining woodlands, a whole range of other ‘services’ are unleashed: jobs in forestry and processing; space for leisure and recreation; biodiverse habitats; fresh air and clean water; flood protection; and many more. Like all natural materials it needs to be used efficiently and intelligently. So apply yourself now!'


Alun Watkins, Executive Director of PEFC UK, says:


'Architects, public sector and private developers around the world are increasingly turning to timber as their material of choice to build with. They recognise the many benefits of wood as a construction material. Wood is renewable, recyclable and a great environmental choice. Building with wood can help mitigate the effects of our changing climate as well as contributing to a reduced ecological footprint. However, it’s important to ensure that the wood we use comes from sustainably managed forests and is certified to a global sustainability standard such as PEFC’s. This will help ensure that forests provide us with timber and other forest products now and into the future.


'One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – SDG 11 – highlights the importance of sustainable cities and communities. With more than half the world’s population now living in urban areas, sustainable, affordable housing is likely to remain a priority. PEFC sees huge potential for certified wood from responsibly-managed forests to play a key role in helping to re-shape our cities. We are therefore pleased to see this year’s competition challenging tomorrow’s construction professionals to design sustainable community housing from timber and look forward to seeing their designs.'


Find out more about the University Challenge 2020 



If you would like to get involved with future challenges or academic engagement, please get in touch with our UEP manager Tabitha Binding