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Talented undergraduates compete in TRADA University Challenge 2020 at Cardiff University

10 March 2020

The winning team working on the challenge.

The TRADA University Challenge 2020 was hosted by the School of Engineering and took place from 17th to 19th February.

Some 58 students from universities across the UK formed teams and came together to take part in a competition to design, cost and engineer the best timber construction, low carbon, energy and water efficient community housing project.

The students had less than 48 hours to complete their projects. Each team consisted of student engineers, architects, architectural technologists, quantity surveyors and landscape architects, and received hands-on support from pioneering design professionals and industry members, including judges from Mikhail Riches, Cullinan Studio, Stride Treglown, Ramboll, BuroHappold, Entuitive, Gardiner & Theobald and PLAN:design.

They were given a brief by Wales & West Housing Association for a large rural site at Adams Drive, Narbeth, which laid out real-life constraints for the students to address and design to. The brief, which included a combination of homes for social rent, low-cost home ownership and open market, required low or zero carbon buildings with a fabric-first approach, sensitive place-making and a hub around which a community could be created.

Six talented students scooped first prize for their timber-based housing scheme design at the TRADA University Challenge 2020. Kyle Crossley from Leeds Beckett University, Ryan Jessop from the University of Hertfordshire, Aslinn Aijian Zha from the School of Engineering at Cardiff University, Kai Yusaf Chelliah from the University of Bristol, Kat Cookes from the University of Gloucestershire and Aaron Shaw from Sheffield Hallam University overcame nine rival teams to win a cash prize and walk away winners.

Judge Rob Wheaton of Stride Treglown commented that competitors were tested by interpreting ‘a really challenging technical brief in such a short space of time’. He stressed the difficulties of both finding innovative ways of using timber and incorporating Passivhaus principles, all while meeting the client’s definitive requirements and working to the constraints of the site.

Ryan Jessop, one of two architects within the winning team, confessed: ‘This is the first design competition I’ve done, so to come first is just astonishing. If we didn’t have the quantity surveyor and the engineers giving their justifications, we would probably have done something a bit madder – but [based on their input] we designed something realistic, which is why we very quickly established a building thumbprint we could hand to the engineers. Once they made it work, we then worked on the room layouts.’

Dr Aled Davies from the School of Engineering, who hosted the event, said: “It was fantastic to see so many talented undergraduate students from different disciplines working together and using a multidisciplinary approach to solve a real-life technical challenge. We were proud to be able to host this event here at Cardiff University.”

Tabitha Binding, Manager of the University Engagement Programme at TRADA, said: ‘It is always an honour to organise the annual TRADA University Challenge. Each year I am delighted to witness first-hand the dedication and passion of everyone involved. The judges were amazed at how individuals from different universities and disciplines came together to form cohesive design teams in such a short space of time. Congratulations must be given to the winners and runners-up – their hard work and vision resulted in thoughtful and environmentally friendly timber-based designs, which we so currently need. Thanks to our sponsors, supporters, and Cardiff hosts for helping make the TRADA University Challenge 2020 a huge success.’

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