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 About Co-DB
Your practical partner for learning and teaching space development 

 Co-DB provides joined-up consultancy, design and build, underpinned by in-depth, hands-on collaboration. 

Collaborative Design and Build (Co-DB) fills a gap in the market that has prevented educationalists getting the best out of their physical environment. We provide an intelligent, collaborative way to fit out your learning and teaching spaces. 


Whatever your situation, Co-DB provides the tools and energy to get your space working hard for you. We provide specialist consultancy, design and delivery of joinery based fit-out projects to leading educational, cultural and creative organisations across the UK.

With over 200 co-designed projects delivered to date, from £3,000 discovery pieces to £300,000 complete fit outs, experience spans the educational, cultural and creative sectors.


Every project is bespoke, with a tailored approach taken in each case. Our process is simple. We work with you to discover a solution together, and then help deliver it in the most cost effective and enjoyable way possible, involving all stakeholders.

Meet the team

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 Meet our founder, James Sale, a collaborator and innovator to the core. 

Growing up as a true 'Ikea kid' of the 80s and 90s I learned early on that, secretly, the big, complex world around us is actually made up of smaller, more manageable components, and that when broken down into simple actions even young children can have a powerful, tangible impact on their environment. At 16, after a solid and straightforward primary and comprehensive school experience, that revolutionary notion formed the basis of my scholarship application to UWC Atlantic College, where for two years as a sixth-former I lived with 250 other students in a 12th century castle on a windy Welsh coastline. There, bringing young people together from over 80 different countries to learn collaboratively from each other and the environment around us was at the heart of an ethos that seeks to make 'education a force for world peace'1. This combined passion for working together with the materials around us to make the world a better place has led to some amazing opportunities, including: studying architecture and urban design at UCL and London Metropolitan universities; winning commissions and bursaries for travel and research in Italy, Finland and Japan; working as an architectural interpreter at the Sorrel Foundation during the Building Schools for the Future years and at architects and urban designers Adams & Sutherland on complex public realm schemes; co-founding the critical-thinking young people's program Critical Engagement; developing and co-running the award winning street play service Pop Up Parks; leading the disability design group MyDesign at the Bromley by Bow Centre; and working on early incarnations of the now re-named Institute of Imagination in London. All the time honing my co-design practice and use of space, making and materials within it. In 2012 I helped incorporate the co-operative workshop RARA where I was based in Hackney, London. As a group we become one of an early wave of collectives working at the intersection of architecture, art, participation and making in the city at the time. As commissions mounted, I founded Co-DB in order to provide joined-up, participatory design and build projects to a wider, more institutional audience, by backing them up with professional level service and expertise. At Co-DB we work with innovators in the education, cultural and creative sectors to push the boundaries of what's possible with budgets and think spatially about their teaching and learning strategy. We bring the empowering acts of design and making to the people who use spaces, and translate their in-depth experiential knowledge into better learning environments for everyone. Now with my own children we play, learn and build together everyday. They are regular visitors to the studio and workshop and its a privilege to share my work with them as often as they are interested! As I've done from their age, we explore materials together, delighting in how they effect space and our experience of the world around us. We enjoy it on equal terms, as co-explorers, -learners and-teachers.


 Meet our advisory panel - highly experienced education professionals at the forefront of their practice. 


Mannie Burn

Mannie is a former primary school teacher and leader with extensive knowledge of Early Years education, the Reggio approach, leadership development, assessment and school improvement both in the UK and internationally. She is currently researching for a PhD in education and the arts.


Dr Hannah Fleming

Hannah is a child, community and educational psychologist working in a local authority and as a consultant to SEN schools. Her specialisms include the social, emotional and mental health needs of children & young people. She has contributed to publications and frequently speaks at seminars and teaching events around the country about her participatory research practices.

 Meet our delivery team - designers, makers and project managers at your service. 


Harry Butler

Harry oversees the smooth running of our in house joinery workshop. With a number of years in the windows and doors trade he’s pretty handy at installations as well. When not at work he is found paddle boarding and mountain biking.


Emily Somervell Hurst

Emily is our skilled account operations manager. With experience in both hands on joinery and in project management she co-ordinates both internal and external accounts. Emily is a mother of two and a passionate environmentalist.


James Nash

James heads up our production for every project. He is a highly experienced maker, combining skills in digital routing, spray finishing and traditional joinery. James is a father of two, a prolific illustrator of comics and a top notch skateboarder.

Who we work with

We work throughout the learning ecosystem


Early Years

With our particular experience in the Reggio approach and parent-led childcare we work with both new and established settings to explore options around their use of space to support play, learning and teaching. We design the details and deliver physical change, all the time involving owners, managers, staff, parents and children.


Schools & Trusts

Our experience across a spectrum of schools helps inform a uniquely sensory, spatial and hands-on way of working collaboratively with students, staff and families, as well as wider design professionals and contractors to fit out new and existing school buildings.


Higher Education

At universities and colleges we work directly with departmental leaders to translate academic expertise and rigour into world class learning environments. We support on branding and specialist technical requirements, and are used to working within the confines of large, centrally managed organisations.


Cultural & Creative

We work across the cultural, creative and commercial sectors wherever learning is important. Whether it be libraries, galleries or creative studios we are well placed to bring engagement expertise and practical delivery capabilities to any built environment project.

and with all types of stakeholder

We offer a tailored package of joined-up collaborative services



Discovery is at the heart of our strategic work. This includes the experiences and observations we make, insight you point us towards, and engagement with students, staff and families that we carry out together. The output of this stage of work will normally be a report that documents and translates all the learning into a clear brief, illustrated and annotated with examples, costings and early prototypes.



The design phase of work is all about turning great ideas into agreed, buildable plans, improving them at every stage. During design we work with whole learning communities to build skills in order to make informed decisions, as well as with other design professionals and project partners to co-ordinate all our efforts. From a design phase of work we will produce detailed drawings and bring together sample materials and finishes.



Our delivery team of joinery specialists ensure that the advantages of bespoke learning environments are available to all.
We provide you with a single point of contact, access to all the latests construction techniques, and the opportunity to visit and get involved in the installation and finishing of a project, ensuring that the sense of ownership and pride lies squarely with those who use a space every day.

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 Join us on our mission to 
build better learning and teaching spaces for everyone 

 Our values underpin 
everything we do



In a digital age physical materials and the qualities they hold have a valuable place for individuals, society and the ecosystem.



As a society we are stronger together, everyone has a part to play, and that good design is the product of great teamwork.



Everyone has the right to good design and the empowering acts of making.

Our promises make choosing to work with us easy


Keep in good company.
Join our growing community 
of repeat clients made up of 
top educational, cultural and 
creative innovators

Over 80% of our projects are with repeat customers.

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