UCEM teams up with built environment peers to deliver largest-ever UrbanPlan workshop

Posted on: 20 April, 2022

More than 200 secondary school students grappled with built environment concepts during a day-long workshop in Reading.

The 240 Year 10 and 11 students from UTC Reading were split into 40 teams tasked with completing a complex urban planning project with the help of 50 volunteers and 24 built environment experts, including UCEM’s real estate and management tutor, Hazel Lobo.

Each team had to develop a low-value site in the made-up town of Elham, taking into account economic, social, political and environmental issues, to create a financially viable scheme including residential and commercial buildings.

Clockwise from top left: Hazel Lobo and other judges listen to a student’s pitch; the workings of one team; one team’s model town; UCEM mascot, Oswald the Owl, perches in between one team’s model buildings. Photo credits: Urban Land Institute UK/ Karla Gowlett Photography

The built environment experts helped the teams finesse their ideas and then swapped rooms to judge the developments before selecting four finalists who had to pitch their ideas to the three main judges, representing Legal & General, Urban Land Institute (ULI) Europe and Allianz Real Estate.

Almustrati & Co took home the win with the judges commending them for their teamwork, planning, a high spread of housing and a good return on investment.

As well as Hazel’s involvement as a helper and judge, there was a UCEM stand with members of the marketing team available to discuss careers in the built environment with the students and hand out goodies.

Hazel Lobo StaffHazel commented: “It was a very worthwhile event, for us as experts and especially for the young people we were working with. The takeaway for me was their level of enthusiasm and engagement. What they put together in a short space of time was phenomenal. I was inspired by what they came up with.”

Summarising the key themes of the teams’ designs, Hazel continued: “There was a strong emphasis on family and community. The students were focused on family-orientated communities, developing built environments which families would want to live and work in.

“Sustainability was the second main theme. It was interesting to see how the students perceived sustainability. For some, it was purely about transport – bicycles, electric cars, etc. Others brought it in more broadly. Happiness was another key theme. Grey water harvesting and green roofs were mentioned. Others thought of environmental and social sustainability but less so on economic sustainability.”

Hazel concluded: “The organisation of the event was superb. The students were impeccably behaved. They put a lot of thought into the day and were committed to what they were doing. Their enthusiasm and interest is positive for the future of the built environment; something we can nurture and capture.”

UrbanPlan workshops are organised by ULI for schools across the world though, prior to last month’s event, the most students involved in one session was 30.

Anette Simpson, chair of ULI UK, said: “This competition will inspire young people to be the leaders our towns and cities need for the future. The world is facing some big challenges – from decarbonisation and sustainability to affordable housing and AI – and we’re going to need visionary leaders to come up with creative solutions.

“UrbanPlan is about raising aspirations and helping young people understand the role of the built environment in reviving and regenerating urban areas. It also opens the real estate industry to an exciting, diverse generation of informed, engaged young citizens who understand the communities where they live.”

The in-person event was held at UTC Reading – a university technical college which specialises in engineering and computer science and caters for 14-19-year-olds in the catchment area.

UTC Reading principal, Jonathan Nicholls, said: “I could not be prouder of how our students rose to the challenge and demonstrated all three parts of our UTC Reading culture code: be ready, be respectful and be relentless.

“School is not just about turning up, studying subjects and getting grades. It is these experiences, these opportunities, these moments, that motivate, inspire and demonstrates to children what they can achieve when they are given an environment in which they can thrive.

“Our vision of ‘transforming lives through learning’ was delivered in a truly brilliant way.”

For more on UrbanPlan, visit https://uk.uli.org/programs/urbanplan/