Focus on our centenary: Schools’ design competition

Posted on: 2019-08-19

In support of our centenary year and its ‘Built Environment of the Future’ theme, we ran a ‘Design a Building of the Future’ competition. Not heard of it? We bring you up to speed on the competition below…

What was it?

A national competition for secondary school students in Years 7-10 to design a building of the future including sustainable features designed to cope with the environmental challenges of the future.

Launched in February, entrants had until the beginning of April to submit their designs for consideration by UCEM’s team of judges.

Why bother?

The Built Environment is experiencing a skills crisis with not enough workers available to carry out all the jobs which need doing. The sector has an aging workforce and its career paths are not well known among school students. In our own small way, the competition was a fun, practical way to get young people actively engaged with the big questions our sector faces.

What was the incentive for the school students?

The six winners – three from Years 7-8 and three from Years 9-10 – would win a trip to the groundbreaking BRE Innovation Park in Watford and earn £50 for their school. They would also be invited to our centenary event at The Crystal where the Mayor of Newham would present them with a souvenir certificate.

Was there much interest?

Yes there was! The competition drew a lot of interest on social media with the competition being an opportunity for schools to run it as a class project and we received a large number of entries across England, from Chester to Croydon and plenty of towns and cities in-between.

What was the calibre of the submissions like?

Very high. Our judges were given quite the headache having to whittle the entries down into a shortlist and then, from that, select the six winners. There was a wide selection of designs from underwater houses to a revolving workspace for artists, an eco school to an ‘octopus’ office and a hospital with a slide for patients to go down when they’re able to go home! The submissions suggest that the imaginations of young people are alive and well!

Who won?

In the Years 7 and 8 category, the winners were Niamh Urquhart from Croydon’s Coloma Convent Girls’ School and Amelie Hubert and Lizzie Laurie from Thornton College in Milton Keynes. The Years 9 and 10 category was dominated by north London’s Dwight School with all three winners – Drake O’Neil, Nina Stremersch and Alma Ayadi – students there.

Well, show us then!

Alrighty then…

The first page of Niamh Urquhart's winning entry detailing key details of including bird feeders and houses, areas for flowers, solar panels and compost in the Eco School's design.

Eco School by Niamh Urquhart

Winning entry by Amelie Hubert. Two drawings detailing the interior and exterior of Amelie's 'Hospital of the future' which includes a solar panel roof, a slide wrapping around the building for patients to slide on when free to go home, flower baskets on the outside of the building and the various floors in the hospital.

Hospital of the future by Amelie Hubert

Winning entry by Lizzie Laurie for the Years 7 and 8 'Design a Building of the Future' competition. A glass house for sea animals.

Futureistic [sic] building by Lizzie Laurie

Page 2 of Alma Ayadi's entry - a drawing of the external apartment block including solar panels, solar glass and piezoelectric stairs

Sustainable apartment block by Alma Ayadi

Page 1 of Drake O'Neil's entry - a computer drawing of an apartment block.

Sustainable apartment by Drake O’Neil

The first page of Nina Stremersch's entry - the exterior of the home featuring photovoltaic cells, bamboo-reinforced concrete and e-vehicle charging points.

Sustainable home by Nina Stremersch

Pretty impressive! Can I see some more?

Of course! Head to our gallery to see a wider selection of submissions.

What next?

We were delighted by the engagement of schools and students with the competition; so much so that we may have to run it again next year. Watch this space…


For more about our centenary, visit