Who we are

The Be First Design Team exists to work with the communities of Barking and Dagenham to build healthy and sustainable neighbourhoods where people thrive. We believe that great housing conditions, energy efficient buildings and a public realm everyone can be proud of will lead to healthy, happy and creative neighbourhoods. We are a team of passionate, skilled designers with a commitment to doing things better; with the backing of Barking and Dagenham, we have the unique opportunity to shape the Borough’s growth.

The team consists of architecture, urban design, landscape and sustainability expertise. We work in four key areas to deliver our services: strategy, planning, design and guardianship.

We make it happen through:

The Team

Architectural Designer

Betty Owoo


Lucy Steeden

Senior Architect & Innovative Sites Programme Manager

Selasi Setufe

Associate Architect

Emma Elston

Associate Director

Sarah Beth Riley

Associate Director

Amandeep Singh Kalra

Head of Design

Jacob Wilson

Junior Architectural Designer

Jasmin Yeo

Sustainability Associate

Amber Fahey

Our Work

Working in four key areas of strategy, planning, design and guardianship to deliver our services, we also manage and facilitate Be First’s Sustainability Strategy, Be First’s Design Guidelines, and Be First’s Designer Framework.


The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD) has declared a Climate Emergency and commtted to become a carbon neutral council by 2030 and borough by 2050. We are accelerating our roadmap towards zero carbon in operation whilst reducing our embodied carbon as much as possible. In 2022, Be First developed a sustainability framework setting out benchmark and stretch targets on all Be First developments. Our approach to sustainability covers three key pillars:

Mitigate: Reduce carbon emissions and waste to net zero and use resources efficiently (energy, water, materials)

Adapt: Build inclusive, joyful, future-proofed, healthy homes and neighbourhoods that are resilient to the impacts of climate change

Regenerate: Contribute positively to biodiversity and natural systems for the benefit of communities and nature.

Read more about the Sustainability Framework

Designer & Contractor Framework

Be First’s new Designer & Contractor Framework will procure design and contractor services to deliver 3,500 new high quality and sustainable homes over the next four years, with an estimated construction value of £1.1 billion and a design service value of around £35 million. These targets are indicative and subject to external economic, community and industry influence.

Read more about the Framework

Design Guidelines

Be First have worked to develop a suite of design and technical standards that drive a consistent approach to the design and construction of projects. We also have a robust set of Employer’s Requirements to ensure quality is embedded in the design and construction process. Read more about the Design Guidelines here:
Design Principles
Design Guidelines
Public Realm Guidelines

MMC Patternbook

The MMC Pattern Book presents a standardised, co-ordinated approach to supply chain engagement, managed through a design Pattern Book used across a buyers club of local
authorities. The Pattern Book will aid in developing a high quality and affordable public housing product, prioritise building performance and net zero, and leverage the purchasing power of large portfolios.

Innovative Sites Programme

The London borough of Barking & Dagenham’s Innovative Sites Programme (ISP) seeks to promote good design on small sites throughout the borough, help diversify the pool of developers working In the borough and promote high standards of sustainability and use of Modern Methods of Construction.

Several small sites in Barking and Dagenham willbe up for sale to help facilitate the creation of new homes for local people. The first tranche of five sites are now available to bidders who are small scale builders and developers

Read more about the sites here

Our Projects

Becontree Estate Future Neighbourhood

The Future Neighbourhood is a holistic report looking at mitigating environmental challenges in the Becontree including the climate emergency and toxic air quality, whilst creating jobs, developing skills and education and supporting a just transition to a low carbon circular economy.

Gascoigne West Phase 1

Tenure-blind new homes with high quality private and shared amenity in a climate resilient landscape.
Status: Completed


An innovative, stacked industrial development that densifies and diversifies industrial land use.
Status: Under Construction

Barking Energy Centre

A new energy centre for LBBD, bringing low carbon energy to Barking town centre.
Status: Detail Design

Dagenham Heathway

Mixed use masterplan for major town centre site to meets the needs of existing and new residents.
Status: Pre-planning

Becontree Model House

A model house to co-design and prototype retrofiing a net zero carbon home at various scales
Status: Ongoing

Becontree Design Code

A new design code for the Becontree Estate as part of DLUHC’s National Model Design Codes pilot.
Status: Ongoing

Arbor Court

Two large suburban villas containing affordable homes and community facilities in the Becontree Estate.
Status: Completed

A House for Artists

An ambitious model for affordable and sustainable housing tied to long-term public engagement.
Status: Completed

200 Becontree Avenue

Award-winning villas containing affordable homes and community facilities in the Becontree Estate
Status: Completed