The Environmental Design Challenge asks students from multiple schools to form companies, to work collaboratively as designers of environmentally-friendly human settlements. The programme is designed to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and give students experience working in an industry environment.
Companies are presented with a Request for Proposal (RFP) which details the requirements for a solution to an environmental issue the students are tasked with designing. The RFP is broken down into 5 key sections which represent each department within the company. Whilst departments focus on their section of the RFP, successful designs require collaboration and communication between departments. The challenge highlights to students the value of combining ideas and perspectives to work towards effective outcomes.
Where is the challenge set?
Current EDC scenarios are set in shantytowns and other needs in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa. It shares similar parliamentary and administrative structures with UK (so it is familiar-enough for UK students) but it has significant geo-hazards (well-documented on internet) and economic challenges (tenth-lowest GDP). The solutions are not plug-and-play off-the-shelf solutions, so real design thinking is required. Sierra Leone is an optimistic country that is recovering from some significant setbacks.
Who's EDC aimed at?
A unique aspect of EDC remains its multidisciplinary Request for Proposal, which necessitates students of many disciplines to participate. RFP’s are designed to combine STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths & medicine) with various other specialties including business (finance and economics), arts (graphic design, communications) and humanities (history, culture, psychology and geography). The challenge is perfect for all skillsets meaning all students can participate side-by-side and thrive from the experience.
Students are presented with the RFP and work to a deadline to submit slides which they then present to a panel of judges formed of industry experts. Presentations are followed by a Q&A where students get the opportunity to defend their work and develop critical thinking and communication skills. Judges can award sub-contracts to companies for aspects of designs that stand out as well as awarding a prime contract.
Challengers are set by Alison Ahearn who coordinated the postgraduate “Project Management” and the “Business Environments & Construction Law” modules for taught MSc degrees in Civil & Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London from 2008-2022. She now works for SSEF, but volunteered for UKSDC since 2009.
Example of environmental issues
- Reducing heat islands in cities; creating shade and creating people-friendly environments through insulation, modern construction, earth-friendly designs.
- Conserving water (dry areas) and preventing contamination of water (flood areas).
- Preventing wildfires in and near forested territories; preventing pollution from cooking fires etc.
- Creating a future ocean-side community that averts flooding or copes with flooding.
- Creating ocean-friendly cities that do not pollute; fish-stocks and recovery; reef-protection and recovery.
- Examining best practices in agriculture to prevent topsoil loss, floods & droughts; deciding on whether/how farmers can assist biodiversity and still improve yields.
- Protecting animals from global warming; finding economic incentives for preservation (discincentivising poaching); food production, food miles and food standards for prevention of disease.
- Limiting human migration caused by climate change or handling migrations, channelling migrations towards settlements in need of economic opportunities and in need of labour providers; encouraging local enterprises and opportunities.