An innovative modular design that uses a series of reconfigurable hexagonal shapes has scooped the top prize in this year’s TRADA Student Design Competition.


The team of four students from the University of Edinburgh impressed the judges with a design they said “demonstrated the most complete consideration of all aspects, from design through to how the building would be constructed and deconstructed”.


This year’s competition saw students face a challenging brief to design a modular timber panel system that can be easily transported for re-use. Dubbed CO2nnect, it also challenged students to think about the wider issues surrounding carbon sequestration and the possibility of re-using timber modular buildings.


The quartet from the University of Edinburgh - Adam Glew, Taavet Kutsar, Peter Openshaw and Magnus Thomson – were awarded the £2,000 first prize for their ‘Gateway’ design at a judging day that took place at the Institution of Structural Engineers headquarters in London.


Commenting on the competition, the team said: “It has been great to get to understand the use of timber more. This competition has really pushed our knowledge forwards.” Snapping at their heels were two entries from Coventry University – Kirsten Adjei-Attah and Piotr Bieluga – both of whom were awarded £500 Highly Commended prizes each.


Some entries


The judges this year represented a cross section of the construction industry - Andrew Wylie, Group Director of Buro Happold Engineering (Structural Engineer); Carol Costello, Practice Leader at Cullinan Studios (Architect); Robin Jones, from the Institution of Structural Engineers (Editor of The Structural Engineer); and Rupert Scott, TRADA’s Membership and Marketing Manager. Meanwhile, Timber Trades Journal was a media partner to the event, alongside The Structural Engineer.


This year’s industry sponsors – headed by the Timber Trade Federation - were extremely interested in the solutions the students devised for the CO2nnect challenge. Gareth Mason, business development manager at Stora Enso’s UK wood product division, said: “ I really enjoyed it and was very impressed by the level of entry.” Meanwhile, Peter Bullock, special products manager at MiTek Industries Limited, commented: “We are very pleased to have been associated with this competition at MiTek. These students are the future of the timber industry and it has been extremely encouraging to see the energy and creativity that they have applied during the whole process.” Other sponsors of the competition included Lonza Wood Protection and Timbmet.


Alongside the winner and the two highly commended entries were three other shortlisted projects, all of whom were recognised as making this the toughest year’s judging so far. The project were: Mako by Ahmad Belbeisi, Brian Chong, Yixin Lin and Jun Hao Lee (University of Edinburgh); Redwood by Alex McIntosh (University of Northumbria); and Modu Larch by Zuzanna Feliszek, Michal Jacubczak, Natalia Jesionowska and Olga Marszalkowska (University of Edinburgh).


As part of its University Engagement Programme, TRADA aims to inspire the architects and engineers of the future to design fantastic buildings in wood, setting tough challenges to help students push the boundaries of iconic buildings. Details for the 2018 Student Design Competition will be released soon.


Winning entry: Gateway
The winning entry was Gateway by Adam Glew, Taavet Kutsar, Peter Openshaw and Magnus Thomson, from the University of Edinburgh.


The Judges' Comments


Andrew Wylie

“We saw a great variety of entrants, ranging from those using different materials to complement timber and what it can do well, to those focusing purely on timber schemes. Enthusing future designers about the possibilities of timber and that it can be combined with other materials to really exploit the benefits of timber has been an exciting journey and to see the students enjoying the process is great. The winning scheme really demonstrated a good understanding of timber – how timber is put together. They also innovated in that field, realising how a modular building that gets disassembled needs specific focus on connections.”


Carol Costello

“It’s fantastic that the students have taken part in the competition. On top of their coursework, they have attempted to not only do practical design using timber but also some of the architectural issues that are really hard to balance. So well done to all the students.”


Robin Jones

“It’s been a pleasure to take part today. It’s nice to represent the Institution of Structural Engineers. Timber is one of the four key materials our members use. We have seen six very different approaches to the brief that was set – and the thought processes that have gone in to it. What impressed me most about the winner was that they’d really thought about all aspects of the brief – light footprint, the modular nature of the building, and that it can be assembled/disassembled by a largely unskilled team. It was this thinking that made it a deserved winner.”


For further details about the University Engagement Programme, contact Tim Belden on .

Carol Costello, Cullinan Studio

Andrew Wylie, Buro Happold

Robin Jones, IStructE

Rupert Scott, TRADA

Tim Belden, TRADA

TRADA Case studies


Major Sponsor

Timber Trade Federation



Lonza Wood Protection
Stora Enso


Media Supporters


If you are interested in supporting the competition in anyway, or want more information, contact our university liaison manager Tim Belden at


Past Competitions




Arboreal (2016)


The competition required students to design a brand-new flagship timber structure named Arboreal at the Sylva Wood Centre in South Oxfordshire. 


The following video is from our 2016 Arboreal Competition:



Airspeed (2015)


The competition tasked students with designing brand new landmark timber structures within the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington to celebrate the pioneers of aviation and provide secure accommodation for the largest jet and propeller-driven aircraft.


The following videos are from our 2015 Airspeed Competition:



Velocity in British Timber (2014)


The competition required students to design a cycling super-hub for Sheffield and proved hugely popular, with students from 18 universities across Britain submitting entries. 



Although these competitions are now closed, lecturers are welcome to use the briefs as practice for their students.

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