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Design Competition: Conversations about Climate Change

1 Jun 2020

Conversations about Climate Change is a specially commissioned design competition, exhibition, and events series providing a platform for urgent climate debates.

The Building Centre in London, in association with the Timber Trade Federation, will showcase tropical timbers from responsible sources to demonstrate the importance of this natural resource.


2020: ‘Super Year’ for climate conversations

2020 had been designated a super year for climate conversations with COP26 scheduled to take place in November. Now postponed due to the global COVID 19 pandemic, the battle against climate change remains an urgent threat to humanity.

Conversations about Climate Change is a design competition that sets architects, designers, and craftspeople the challenge of creating ‘conversation pieces’ from responsibly sourced tropical timber.


UK & EU combats illegal logging

Responsibly forested timber is an essential solution to the emission reduction needed for mitigating the worst impacts of climate change. Timber is a low carbon material, with forests acting as the ‘lungs of the earth’ extracting CO2, regulating the earth’s temperature, and providing biodiverse ecosystems. However, tropical forests have often been undervalued and cleared for agricultural development, rather than sustainable forest management.

The Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) is the EU’s Action Plan to combat illegal logging, subsequent trade and deforestation. In return for aid, countries with tropical forests are overhauling their legal and regulatory governance frameworks to introduce forest monitoring, auditing, multi-stakeholder dialogue and engagement with local communities. This landmark shift in governance and procurement means FLEGT licensed timber is a safe, legal and responsible form of timber.


The Competition: stimulate climate conversations

Conversations about Climate Change asks designers to respond to this material, encourages them to think about the materials they usually work with, and to consider how their role as a specifier is vital for implementing change. Designs should stimulate conversation about material provenance and its place in the climate debate while revealing the aesthetic qualities of the palette of tropical hardwoods species selected.

The ‘conversation pieces’ could be furniture, sculpture, a model or functional design object – as long as it responds to the material provided, a range of tropical hardwood species, and can start a conversation about the climate crisis.

All entries will be shown in an exhibition at the Building Centre in London in November timed to mark the original date of COP26 and highlighting the vital role for tropical forests in the climate debate.

Six winners will be chosen by an expert judging panel to be fabricated for the show. All winners will be provided with sustainably sourced FLEGT tropical hardwood, a maker’s bursary, and matched up with workshops where their designs will be developed and made.


To enter please fill out the submission form below. Make sure you have seen the resources at the bottom of this webpage before submitting. 


We will need:

  • Your name
  • Contact details
  • An upload of your design with up to 250 word explanation of how it responds to the materials selected form the species fact sheets below and what conversation it encourages (pdf, jpeg or word doc)


The competition opens 1 June and closes 24 August 2020.

The six winners will be announced at the beginning of September.

All entrants will have their designs exhibited in an online gallery and a shortlist will be displayed in the exhibition, which will open 19 November.






At the bottom of this webpage you will find a selection of resources to download to help inform your design.


Below you can find factsheets for some of the hardwood species from tropical countries engaging with the FLEGT Action Plan. A full list of tropical hardwood species are available hereWe invite all candidates to review these documents to help select timber for their competition entries. For any clarification of available species please email


Learn more about Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) here. You can also find information about the countries participating here.

Useful articles: 

Responsible Purchasing Policy

The six competition winners will be provided sustainably sourced tropical hardwoods sourced from VPA countries through the Timber Trade Federation’s members to ensure the use of sustainably sourced timber. 




We are delighted to announce that Adam Brinkworth of Brinkworth, Yinka Ilori of Yinka Ilori Studio, Julia Barfield of Marks Barfield,  Andrew Waugh of Waugh Thistleton Architects, and Leah Riley Brown of the British Retail Consortium, will be joining Vanessa Norwood, creative director of the Building Centre, and David Hopkins, director of the Timber Trade Federation, to judge the entries. 

Conversations about Climate Change is a partnership between the Building Centre and the Timber Trade Federation




Supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office 




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