North East headquartered Building Design Northern (BDN) established a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Northumbria University in 2022, to enable the business to apply the latest insight and research to its work.

One year on, the partnership has made significant steps in driving innovation to enhance the quality of homes and care environments for older individuals in the North East.

The award-winning practice appointed Dr Faye Sedgewick as KTP Associate and Architectural Designer in 2022 to lead the future focused partnership.

In the first 12 months, BDN have collaborated with academic specialists around the world to implement a research-led design response onto their live projects to achieve sustainable, accessible and inclusive mainstream housing for their clients.

Dr Sedgewick said: “Only 9% of homes currently meet the accessibility standard – a chilling figure given that by 2050, 1 in 4 people will be aged over 65.

“We believe it is so important to promote healthy ageing in building design to enhance the everyday lived experience for all ages and abilities.

“The KTP has provided a unique opportunity for BDN to embed contemporary research into our architectural design to further enhance advancements and impact within the ageing sector.”

Funded by UK Research and Innovation, KTPs connect forward-thinking businesses with UK universities to work together on innovation led development projects which have a strategic importance to an organisation’s future.

In 12 months, BDN’s KTP team have grown a portfolio of 9 longevity housing projects in Sunderland, with their designs informed by visiting 10 national and international housing case studies.

A knowledge exchange with the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences was also established, exploring how to address contemporary needs in designing living spaces for older individuals, including accessibility, mobility, safety, and comfort.

The KTP partnership has also been integrated into a £59 million framework for Sunderland City Council for improved care and housing provision for older people in the city, with BDN pioneering a flagship supportive living scheme in Ryhope, Sunderland.

Due to begin on site in 2024, St Cuthbert’s Church is a new community of six high-quality one-storey properties and two staff hubs, designed to support improved health, wellbeing, and care.

Dr Sedgewick commented: “St Cuthbert’s has been designed to enable residents to carry out daily activities within the home.

“The cluster of homes embed BDN’s supportive design principles and ethos to ensure that the accessible homes are readily adaptable, enabling and connected to the surrounding community.

“Working with a multi-disciplinary research group at Northumbria University facilitated the implementation of specialist knowledge, regulations and good practice into the design of St Cuthbert’s – a key example in how the partnership is shaping developments in our local area, developing advanced solutions that will make a tangible difference to the lives of older people.”

The support offered by the research group, which brings together experts in architecture, housing, gerontology, nursing, and computer science, has contributed to BDN’s robust and holistic understanding of sustainable design, enabling this knowledge to be transferred to live developments.

Glenda Cook, Professor of Nursing at Northumbria University, said: “Collaboration between industry and academia is vital to drive forward innovation in housing with care in the context of an ageing society.

“All too often issues with housing negatively affect health outcomes and decreases quality of later life, whereas this partnership is reconceptualising housing with care and realising new solutions to this thorny societal problem.”

Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Adviser to the KTP project, John Clayton, commented: “This is one of only a few KTP projects in the Architectural domain and progress on the innovation and commercial deliverables for the project has exceeded expectations from the start.

“Dr Faye Sedgewick, BDN and Northumbria University continue to demonstrate outstanding commitment to the project and KTP best practice ideals and, as the KTA assigned to this project, it is a pleasure to be a part of the stakeholder team.”

In the next 12 months, the partnership will see further sites explored for Longevity Housing developments, with the practice eager to continue forward-thinking research.

Commenting on the success of the partnership, Paul Jones, Professor of Architecture at Northumbria University, said: “The KTP continues to be an outstanding collaboration between the very talented design team at BDN and Northumbria University.

“A year into the project, it is going from strength to strength. The research generated through the partnership is being directly inputted into the design of housing developments and care environments across the region that will improve the lives of older people.

“The team at Northumbria University are delighted to be able to support and offer multidisciplinary expertise to BDN, to build their growing portfolio of ground breaking projects.”

 To find out more about the KTP partnership, contact