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Competition: Resilient Homes Challenge

An international contest has been launched seeking proposals for modular, affordable and resilient homes for under $10,000 (Deadline: 30 November)

The competition is backed by the World Bank, Airbnb and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. It seeks innovative proposals for a $10,000 unit able to withstand natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, extreme heatwaves and droughts.

Organised by the Build Academy, the contest aims to identify a series of part-prefabricated structures which incorporate local building materials and could be harnessed for World Bank-funded reconstruction projects in the Caribbean, and south and east Asia.

Damage following the 2010 Haiti earthquake

Damage following the 2010 Haiti earthquake

Source: Image by UNDP

Damage following the 2010 Haiti earthquake

According to the brief: ‘Natural disasters are on the rise. Since 1990, natural disasters have affected 217 million people every single year. Hundreds of floods, storms, heatwaves and droughts have left about 606,000 people dead and 4.1 billion injured or homeless around the world since 1995. And it is often the poorest that suffer the most from these shocks.

‘As architects and engineers, we can design resilient and sustainable housing that both reduce the risk of damage and enables rapid reconstruction following a disaster. Winning designs will be published and winners will be invited to exhibit at the World Bank in Washington DC, USA and other select global venues.’

The contest features three separate scenarios, and submissions may respond to one or all three of the challenges. The first involves housing on island countries exposed to earthquakes and tropical storms where construction material costs are very high.

The second focuses on mountainous countries where catastrophic landslides often follow earthquakes, and the third covers coastal areas such as Bangladesh and the Philippines where tropical storms can result in major flooding.

Submissions should respond to local climatic conditions, incorporate a storage tank for rainwater collection, harness fireproof materials and feature environmentally friendly toilets.

Each 40-50m² structure should house a family of up to five members and include a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, bedroom and main living space which can double-up as an additional bedroom.

The competition is open to multidisciplinary teams featuring at least one member with either an architecture or engineering degree. Participating teams will be invited to work with experienced professionals to develop their ideas during the competition process.

The overall winners will be announced on 14 December and will feature in a public exhibition inside the World Bank in Washington DC.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 30 November

Contact details


View the competition website for more information

Q&A with Ivan Shumkov

The chief executive of build academy discusses his ambitions for the competition

Ivan Shumkov

Ivan Shumkov

Ivan Shumkov

Why are your holding an international contest for new modular, natural disaster-resilient, and affordable housing?

Natural disasters are on the rise. Since 1990, natural disasters have affected on average 217 million people every single year. Last year alone, 19 million lost their homes to natural disasters. As architects and engineers, we can design resilient and sustainable homes that both reduce the risk of damage as well as enable rapid reconstruction following a disaster. Ready designs are key in assisting governments with speeding up their reconstruction efforts. Having designs ahead of time allows communities to know what kind of homes they would be entitled to or could build from their own resources. This also allows masons to be trained in advance to reconstruct these resilient houses. Often, however, sourcing truly context-relevant, budget-appropriate designs in a timely manner can be a challenge for governments. Given that this is a global need the idea was to have an international competition that addresses disaster challenges across geographic areas and across multiple hazards.

Could architects and designers make their names on this project?

Yes. Winning designs will be published and exhibited at the World Bank in Washington DC and other prestigious venues around the world. They could eventually inform resilient housing or reconstruction work for World Bank-funded projects in places like the Caribbean, south and east Asia, etc. In other words, not just will the winners of this competition do get affiliated with some of the most known and influential institutions, but they could potentially see their designs built and save lives across the world. Of course, architects will retain the copyrights of their work and will always be credited when their work is published and exhibited.

Where did the idea for the contest come from?

The idea for the challenge has come from the post-disaster housing needs that we see growing every single year. The 2017 Hurricane season in the Caribbean, followed by disasters like the earthquake in Lombok, Indonesia, floods in Kerala, India, typhoons in Japan and the most recent storms hitting the Carolinas, USA and the Philippines further reinforce the urgency for this ambitious challenge.

Build Academy has been hosting architectural design challenges for years now. In the past we have crowdsourced designs for resilient schools for the Philippines, emergency shelters for war and climate migrants, solar lights for people who don’t have access to electricity, and more.

The World Bank, in partnership with GFDRR and Airbnb, came across our organization and approached us about organising a global challenge for the design of Resilient Homes in order to identify more innovative designs.

Destruction following a natural disaster

Destruction following a natural disaster

Destruction following a natural disaster

Is a contest like this the best way to approach this unique challenge and to promote new design talent? Why are you keen for local, national and international participation?

We have seen incredible designs emerge from our previous crowd-solving contests. We believe that a competition that is hosted online allows for wider participation and hence for a wider range of ideas and design approaches. Beyond the US, we are seeing numerous people from places like India, Philippines. Brazil, Indonesia, and Kenya show an interest and register for the challenge. This is fantastic because every participant has an understanding of local resources, local building expertise and constraints, living styles and culture that might escape someone who is not from said context. The challenge forums facilitate that dialogue and enhance each designer’s understanding of those different contexts. We believe that the sheer diversity of backgrounds and countries and the exchange of ideas that will emerge from that in the team formation and discussion forums on our challenge platform will fuel truly innovative designs.

In addition, our competition is unique in that it provides (optional) educational tutorials as well as regular access to experts for feedback sessions on the participants’ designs. This way, participants don’t just share their expertise but can also expect to learn and improve their skills and knowledge in the process. They can also meet other challenge participants and grow their professional network. A number of participants in the past have started companies together and found job opportunities through our challenges.

What is your vision for the new dwellings? What facilities or aesthetics might they provide? How big is the contest site and what are the potential constraints? Are sustainable issues an important part of the brief?

The homes are supposed to be highly affordable: total construction cost should be under $10,000. Each dwelling should accommodate a family of 4-5 people in about 40-50m2. They need to be designed for between one to three scenarios, ranging from island countries affected by earthquakes and tropical storms to inland or mountain areas affected by earthquakes and landslides as well as coastal areas affected by tropical storms and flooding. Designs should either be easily deployable or locally sourceable to allow a swift and sustainable response. It is important as well that designs are modular and sustainable; teams are encouraged to look beyond “fully prefabricated” housing designs in order to allow incorporating local building materials into their designs.

How important will design innovation and quality be to the end result?

Design innovation and quality are key to solving the problem of natural disasters. Innovation can mean, for example, unusual or new construction materials, technologies and methods that can make building more efficient and durable. In addition, innovation can mean an unusually high ease of construction, given the reality that in many post-disaster communities owner-driven reconstruction models are preferred to contractor-driven reconstruction models.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply? Is the opportunity open to smaller emerging practices and undiscovered talents? Do international teams need to collaborate with local firms to apply?

We are looking for professionals with a degree in architecture and/or engineering. The more years of experience the better, but we have also seen great design submissions from less experienced architects in the past. Architecture firms and architects who have dealt with this problem on the ground are also encouraged to participate and submit designs that may have been used in some specific place in the past.

Each team is required to have at least one graduate architect, but architects are also able to participate as an individual. Students of architecture are allowed to participate as part of a team which contains at least one graduate architect. There is no need to collaborate with local firms, but getting feedback from the local communities would be helpful. It is encouraged to have non-designers on the team who are social workers, economists, policy makers, developers, or business people who can integrate their knowledge and skills with the work of the designers.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured? Will there be any design contests for future buildings, green interventions, public realm improvements or other smaller commissions?

If this competition results in the high-quality designs that we hope to receive, then our collaboration with the World Bank will continue. We definitely hope to see future design contests for other areas of need, from green infrastructure to public buildings. Independent of our partnership with the World Bank, we will continue to host design challenges in the future, with the goal to empower a global community of professionals and companies in the building industry, by providing an online platform for collaborating, connecting, learning and developing essential skills and knowledge to implement high-impact projects worldwide.

What other schemes might you be moving forward in the near future?

We plan to grow our professional community by increasing the number of challenges we host each year and will continue to offer our online educational courses, for which we have seen a great turnout in the past. It must be innovation and access to our global community that attract people to our platform. We intend to become the biggest platform for professional solutions in architecture, engineering and real estate around the world in the next few years.

Are there any other recent modular, natural disaster-resilient, and affordable housing projects you have been impressed by?

In the past years, we’ve crowdsourced designs for resilient schools for the Philippines, emergency shelters and other homes. There were some excellent designs that came out of our international community.

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