Riverside Sunderland University challenge magazine

Timber Development UK has released the Riverside Sunderland University Challenge Magazine – looking back on the 2021 challenge, designs, webinars and successes of the students.

The world is warming. We are in an anthropogenic climate and biodiversity crisis. Business as usual is no longer an option – this includes the built environment sector.

When it comes to changing the way we build, it doesn’t start on construction sites, but with the students and recent graduates who will share the next wave of UK innovation.

“For a future built with timber, it’s essential we educate and upskill the students today who will become tomorrow’s specifiers, designers, engineers, project managers, quantity surveyors and contractors to understand timber and use it wisely,” Tabitha Binding, Head of Education and Engagement, Timber Development UK.

One of the key roadblocks to creating low-carbon buildings in the UK has been the educational gap around timber. The Timber Development University Engagement Programme, facilitated by Tabitha Binding, seeks to change this by making timber systems and technologies a core pillar of any built environment course in the UK.

The Riverside University Design Challenge (#RSUDC21) challenged the status quo. Three hundred students from 39 universities were split into 27 teams. Each team designed, engineered, planned and costed a three-bed family home along with an indicative masterplan for 100 homes that met the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge targets.

Timber Development UK together with MOBIE and Sunderland City Council challenged students to design to be carbon neutral, creatively employ sustainable building materials and construction methods, and be energy efficient. In addition, the designs needed to be technologically smart, focussing on the health and well-being of people, the community and the planet.

Across five months, participants collaborated to pull together entries of an exceptional standard. Throughout the challenge, the entrants joined together collaboratively online through a period of COVID-19.

A webinar series ran through the five months featuring 78 speakers across 12 webinars. Topics explored included but were not exhaustive to climate challenges, sustainable timber & offsite manufacturing, counting carbon, timber challenges and structural engineering. Speakers ranged from Sunderland City Council, British Woodworking Federation, Trada, PEFC, Edinburgh Napier University, Greenbuild Consult, Passivhaus Homes and Good Homes Alliance to name a few of the many.

These webinars were rich with exchange and dissemination that is essential if the build environment sector is to work together across disciplines to address the reduction in carbon at element, building and operational levels.

The designs of the twenty-seven teams were judged by Neil Guthrie, Sunderland City Council; Andy Von Bradksy, MHCLG; Kelly Harrison, Whitby Wood & Timber Development UK Board Member; Mark Farmer, Cast Consultancy & MOBIE Trustee; and Gemma Jerome, Building with Nature.

The designs and end results are nothing short of incredible and showed “how it is possible to design low carbon homes, for now, and for the future, without compromising on high-quality placemaking, respecting the need to create places for people and wildlife, which don’t cost the earth, or ‘break the bank’,” Dr Gemma Jerome.

Andy Von Bradsky, Head of Architecture, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spoke that the Riverside Sunderland Design Challenge is a “lesson for all places that they can raise the quality of place through engagement with young people. They have so much to offer”.

A special thanks to the #RSUDC21 sponsors: the Confederation of Timber Industries, Timber Decking and Cladding Association, PEFC, Rothoblaas, Accoya, Design PH, BSW, Wood for Good, The Alliance for Sustainable Building Products.

Students spoke with passion of the rewarding experience this was and the insight and skills they learned from this project. “We hope that architects and engineers continue to imagine, take risks and push boundaries,” Team A.

For the students reading this and graduates that go on to take an interest in building with timber, you give us hope for the future.

More information on this challenge including the designs, webinars, background and sponsors can be found here.

Following the success of this challenge, Timber Development UK and its partners launched Southside Hereford 2022 University Design Challenge. For more information on this challenge and to catch up on all the recordings, check out the highlights.