Opening young eyes to the potential of timber

22 May 2017

TRADA’s Student Design Competition and University Engagement Programme are not only designed to encourage greater use of timber in the future, but to inspire tomorrow’s architects and engineers to push the boundaries of what’s possible with wood, says TRADA membership and marketing manager Rupert Scott

at TraDa, we believe in developing new talent. That’s why we started the University Engagement Programme – to foster, nurture and develop students working with timber today to be the timber engineers and architects of tomorrow.

The Student Design competition was an extension of this and a chance to give some of the most innovative and creative UK and overseas students the opportunity to create a timber-based design around a conceptual brief. This year’s challenging brief was to design a modular timber panel system for easy transport for re-use. Students are competing to win a valuable £1,500 first prize and several £500 prizes, as well as the attention of the industry in their innovative timber design.

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of this year’s entries, which do seem to go from strength to strength. The University Engagement Programme aims to inspire the architects and engineers of the future to design fantastic buildings in wood, and setting them tough challenges clearly helps students push the boundaries of what can be done in timber.

This year’s competition – dubbed CO2nnect - challenges students to think about the wider issues surrounding carbon sequestration and the possibility of re-using timber modular buildings.

The idea of plug and play wall panels is not new. The competition challenges students to think about the details of the connections and sub-assemblies, so that panels can be easily disassembled and moved to either other configurations within the building, or elsewhere for reuse in another building.

The possibilities of easier re-use allows the carbon locked up with the timber to stay sequestrated for longer. This improves the strength of the argument for using the sequestrated CO2 figures for timber when considering the carbon footprint of the building.

Heritage organisations are often challenged to provide building facilities such as restaurants and cafes at a low cost but which deliver value for money. By having a modular construction system that is both flexible and multi-use, as well as being able to be constructed quickly on site, they can erect buildings to bring in additional revenue to fund the continued protection of our national heritage.

This is therefore not only a challenge in creating a beautiful building which can be symbiotic with the historic buildings on the site, but considering the commissioning and decommissioning of the quick build wall panels themselves. It also highlights some of the challenges faced by the heritage construction sector. So encouraging students to see that cutting edge designs and application of technology apply equally to the heritage sector as well as new build sector is part of this year’s competition. It will hopefully open up students’ eyes to a greater number of opportunities for careers than they may have first imagined