Ben Shirley, a Teaching Fellow in Architectural Practice at NMITE (New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering) has helped spread NMITE’s reputation in the field of engineering recently when contributing to a humanitarian project in Tanzania.

Ben joined NMITE’s award-winning Centre for Advanced Timber Technology (CATT) in October 2022 and quickly became involved with the Timber Engineering and Design (TED) courses, which are a series of specialised, concise programmes tailored for professionals within the UK’s built environment sector.

An evolution of the innovative twelve-week part-time courses (TED1 and TED2), this initiative reflects NMITE’s proactive approach to sustainable construction education, addressing the needs of learners to access short courses to suit individual circumstances.

Having recently been shortlisted for UK Construction Week’s ‘Rising Star’ award, Ben’s expertise has not only enriched NMITE’s curriculum but also extended beyond the UK to a humanitarian project in East Africa. AECB – the Association for Environment Conscious Building is exploring a new programme of work, connecting with experts and practitioners working in difficult socio-economic contexts in  climate-vulnerable countries.

An overheating global climate is posing new challenges for constructing (and retrofitting) buildings and an ‘Ecovillage’ project in Tanzania, two hours north of Dar Es Salaam, offered an opportunity for Ben to support the project, playing a key role.

The Ecovillage is a project by the UK based charity Islamic Help and aims to provide a sustainable living environment for up to 50 orphaned girls.

“Through our TED courses at NMITE, we are dedicated to fostering a deep understanding of sustainable engineering practices that can influence global initiatives. Participating in the Tanzania Ecovillage project allowed me to bring these principles to life, providing both immediate solutions and helping to educate on sustainable building practices” says Ben Shirley, Teaching Fellow, Architectural Practice, NMITE.

He was recruited for his extensive skills in travel, carpentry, and architectural design, by Andy Simmonds, CEO of AECB and Partner in Simmonds Mills Architects. Andy invited Ben to take on working with ecovillage staff in the refurbishment of a ten-person accommodation building, ‘House 5’, within the Ecovillage Ben’s efforts in leading the local staff team in rebuilding storm and wood boring wasp-damaged roofs have helped secure safe and sustainable accommodation for the orphaned girls. 

Beyond the practical aspects of construction, Ben also imparted essential carpentry skills to local workers, fostering long-term self-sufficiency and upskilling within the community. 

Responding to the industry’s demand for specialised knowledge, NMITE’s CATT team has segmented the comprehensive TED 1 and 2 curriculum into focused three-week modules. Endorsed by the CIOB, CIAT and TDUK for industry excellence, the courses are as follows:

  • Timber Sustainability (TED 1): Learn how to design and build in a highly sustainable way 
  • Timber Materials (TED 1): Delve into the nuts and bolts of traditional and engineered wood materials  
  • Timber Design (TED 1): Apply practical knowledge of timber to create real-world functional designs 
  • Timber Construction (TED 2): Develop new knowledge to specify construction methods for different contexts  
  • Timber Technology (TED 2): Delve into the digital technologies used in the timber construction industry 
  • Timber Design (TED 2): Explore construction with timber to reduce costs and create more sustainable environments 

For further details on the new short courses and enrolment information, please visit