Urbanarium’s affordable housing competition series returns for third installment

Urbanarium's Decoding Density competition offers participants a chance to make an impact on the city they live in.

Double Corridor Boxes (Photo courtesy of Urbanarium)

Urbanarium has announced Decoding Density, the third installment of Canada’s largest affordable housing competition series, with prizes totalling $44,000.

Urbanarium‘s Decoding Density competition offers participants a chance to make an impact on the city they live in. The competition also aims to explore apartment designs that emphasize outdoor space, communal-oriented features, and low-energy approaches to comfort and livability, and will highlight and challenge current building codes.

“This is a unique chance for residents to help shape the very neighborhoods in which they live,” said Amy Nugent, executive director of Urbanarium, a charitable organization dedicated to engaging Metro Vancouver residents in urban planning. “Our ideas contests make real-world impacts — the Missing Middle and the Mixing Middle Competitions helped inform new legislation that requires local governments to update zoning bylaws allowing small-scale, multi-unit housing. Decoding Density is seeking to innovate building codes at a time when BC has just announced that they are reviewing building codes in order to make more homes for people faster.”

The competition is currently calling on participants to consider six-storey plus wood-frame structures. The form has several benefits including simple, low-carbon construction, less excavation for underground parking, better contextual fit in low density neighbourhoods, and less shadowing than condominium towers.

(Photo courtesy of Urbanarium)

However, Urbanarium notes that there are several building code restrictions that make it difficult to build buildings that reflect the needs of individuals and families in present day.

“For example, cross-ventilation and access to sunlight are difficult to achieve within standard building footprints. Competition entrants are challenged to propose creative, liveable, and sociable housing forms, while highlighting the existing policies that are stopping their development,” said Urbanarium in a release.

The competition is open to students, young professionals, firms, and multidisciplinary teams worldwide. Final submissions may influence future policy changes and offer networking opportunities, such as a feature in Uytae Lee’s popular About Here series.

“We would like for the public to appreciate that the apartment buildings that are going to start appearing in their neighborhoods don’t need to be simple boxes that fail to optimize the value of their site but rather benefit from and contribute to their communities,” said Marta Farevaag, competition co-chair.

Competition registration closes on January 19, 2024.

Submissions will be due on April 13, 2024, and the winners will be announced on April 16, 2024.

For more information, click here.

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