Bridport building project
  • Enabling the green transition through design research in residence, injecting creativity in rural communities
  • Promoting social innovation from the engagement with materials, technologies and industrial legacies
  • Multi-project partnership supported by EPSRC, AHRC and the Forestry Commission
Rural coastal communities often feel “left behind” mainstream innovation and levelling up developments. This is exacerbated by lack of accessibility, and the move of high value skills and jobs to urban areas.
The 3-year partnership between the University of Plymouth and community organisations in Bridport has been supported by EPSRC, AHRC and the Forestry Commission, and has aimed to better understand social and creative innovation in rural communities. Through design research interventions using methods such as codesign, prototyping and hands-on building, we expect to support Bridport and similar communities on their green transition. This has been developed in partnership with Wessex Community Assets, Common Practice, Open Systems Lab, Woodlab, and Assemble.


This project follows a prior EPSRC-funded initiative on digital fabrication of housing building elements. Here we identified the need to address local challenges through place-based and multidimensional ‘systems thinking’ challenges, with design activity prompting and stimulating discussion and exchange beyond housing stock into environmental, social and material issues surrounding communities’ envisioning of local futures. 
The project will support Bridport’s transition towards a greener and more inclusive community housing delivery plan by stimulating place-based co-creation methodologies with designers, builders, local communities, and supply chain stakeholders involved in housing delivery. We have a track record of investigating sustainable architectural materials and making for local development, demonstrated by research outputs and partnerships supported by prior EPSRC and internal (University of Plymouth) funding, institutional strides towards green transitions in construction ( Sustainable Earth Institute) and coastal communities ( Centre for Coastal Communities and its ‘researcher in residence’ approach).
Materials bridport project
Bridport project
Materials bridport project
Building a wooden frame


To advance design research on systems thinking for sustainable design innovation within a coastal community discourse. 
To develop a novel place-based Living Lab methodology and two shareable case studies enacting green transition principles for the architecture and construction sectors.
To document and map our case studies against Bridport's human and environmental geographies. In doing so, capturing and effectively communicating our ‘systems thinking’ approach to wider audiences.

Design in residence

The need for a design research intervention responds to the place-based nature of our research and its fitness with a ‘designer in residence’ (DIR) approach. This follows a tradition of research-in-residence in the University of Plymouth’s Centre for Coastal Communities, advocating for more embedded research facilitating knowledge coproduction and mobilisation. 
Here, we don’t see a DIR approach exclusively as a means to gain access to communities and stimulate participation, but more ambitiously as a pathway to impact by directly designing with end users rather than waiting for research results to ‘find their way’ into the community. We expect this approach to additionally impact on interrelated issues such as development of local skills and capacity building, changes in ways of working, and influencing local policy and community housing delivery frameworks.
Nine young people working together around a table, writing on paper. Bridport project
Community builders bridport project
Two males and one female working with paper and paint materials around a table for the Bridport project