Meet the judges – University Design Challenge: Climate Responsive Retrofit

On 14 July the four shortlisted teams for #TDChallenge23 will present their final designs to an expert panel of judges who will determine the winning projects.

Responding to a brief to retrofit and extend an existing timber frame building – the cricket pavilion in Hereford – the participating teams have developed an inspiring range of fabric-first, community-focused solutions.

Across their design proposals, the challenge participants have incorporated key principles of high-quality retrofit – skillfully putting into practice the technical training they have received on the adaptive reuse of timber buildings.

With nine leading professionals from across the industry, the jury panel brings a great range of expertise to their deliberation of projects.

Ahead of next week’s judging and awards event, we caught up with the judges to find out more about their specialisms and what they will be looking for in a winning project.

The 2023 judging panel

Dr Rachel Mitchell, Passivhaus designer and owner at Greenbox Associates, explains that she is looking for retrofits that are sympathetic to the existing building, that use the principals of Passivhaus design, and show the collaboration of skills within the team. “The design should give new life to the building: making it flexible and useful to the local community.”

Longevity of the building and the use of low carbon materials are top priorities for AECB expert advisor and expert in CO2 calculations for buildings Tim Martel.  “I know a lot about PHribbon and will be looking to see what teams have included in those calculations.”

Having worked in local government in the property profession for over thirty years, Sarah Jowett currently manages Herefordshire Council’s property service. Hoping to see the challenge building form part of the council’s portfolio, Sarah is seeking innovative and realistic design options and opportunities. “I will be looking for ideas that are easy to implement, cost effective, fit for purpose and – most importantly – easy to maintain.”

As well as seeking designs that are aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sustainable, Rosalind Thorpe, director of education and standards at the Chartered Institute of Building, wants to see effective considerations of both buildability and accessibility.

Aled Davies, reader and director of Postgraduate Teaching at the School of Engineering at Cardiff University, explains that he will be looking for innovative ways that students have approached the retrofit scheme whilst challenging the brief. “I’d like to see a thought-provoking solution which invokes a change in expectations within society and our wider industry.”

Likewise, chartered structural engineer and teacher at the University of Bath Gavin Knowles is also looking out for schemes that simultaneously problem-solve and challenge the brief, as well as having a sense of fun and creativity.

How the teams have responded to the site is of particular interest to Matt Hayes, director at Arbor Architects and a certified Passivhaus designer – “both in terms of the adaptive reuse of the historic building, and the application of a historic/bio-based sustainable approach to any new build elements.”

Beth Williams, a chartered civil engineer, certified PassivHaus designer and an associate at Build Collective, is looking for a winning design with a clear structural strategy demonstrated through diagrams and sketches. “I’d like to see an understanding of how any architectural interventions have impacted the existing structure, as well as robust detailing, for example: how they’re managing moisture in the structure.”

Low carbon architect, Passivhaus designer and Green Register co-director Julia Bennett will be looking out for interdisciplinary collaboration and a good understanding of the AECB and EnerPHit retrofit standards.

Many thanks to all the judges for their support – and congratulations to all this year’s participating students!

“I’m delighted that our knowledgeable panel of industry, academic and professional judges are joining us to upskill and engage with our future professionals who are the future of construction.” Tabitha Binding, Head of Education and Engagement at Timber Development UK.

For more information on the Challenge, please contact Tabitha, on