Laneway House Design Competition

The Laneway House Design Competition is an open, two-stage competition organised by the City of Nelson and to generate high-quality, pre-reviewed laneway house building plans that will offer exceptional value-for-money for homeowners and make it easier for them to build a laneway house on their property, thereby increasing uptake of laneway housing.

The design competition seeks proposals from designers and architects alike with the goal of achieving the following design criteria:

  1. Design: successful designs will be high-quality, attractive, and practical
  2. Good home, good neighbour: successful designs will be appreciated by both neighbours and occupants of the laneway house.
  3. Affordability: in their use of materials, successful designs will strike a balance between affordability and sustainability that will be attractive to Nelson property owners
  4. Flexibility and longevity: the winning designs will be those that are the most elastic, meaning adaptable to and replicable across a variety of lots, neighbourhoods, lot configurations, and topographies in Nelson (which are often steep).
  5. Eco-Design: green materials are used where appropriate and maximum possible energy efficiency is achieved (strive to achieve the highest-possible step code level).

Three designs will be selected and cash prizes for the top three will be awarded. A “people’s choice” vote will also be held to involve all residents. Designers will receive a royalty of $1,000 each time the plan is purchased by a homeowner. The tentative timeline would see these plans available as early as February or March 2020.

For full contest rules and criteria, as well as to enter the competition, please see the Call for Submissions and the Entrance Form on the right-hand column of this page.

June 19, 2019  | Competition launch
July 31, 2019 | Deadline to submit questions
August 8, 2019 | Answers publicly provided to submitted questions
September 2, 2019
  | Deadline for first-round submissions
October, 2019 | Invitations to Round 2 sent to five entrants
December 31, 2019 | Deadline for second-round submissions
February, 2020 | Winners announced and the "People's Choice" vote will be held
March, 2020 | Plans made available to the public

Background Information

In April 2019, City Council approved a laneway house design competition (see Council report) that will commence later this year to generate high-quality, pre-reviewed laneway house building plans for Nelson homeowners. The City anticipates that pre-reviewed designs will be most popular amongst those who would otherwise design their own laneway house without hiring a professional or seek to purchase stock plans online. The objective is to provide easy access to high-quality designs and code-compliant plans that strike the right balance between affordable construction and ecologically-sound design. They will be plans designed for Nelson, offering exceptional value-for-money for homeowners and making it easier for them to build a laneway house on their property. The contest evaluation criteria emphasise adaptability to various lots and topographies.

The competition will consist of two rounds. The first round will consist of a call for prototypes. The second round will be an invite-only competition of up to five participants to produce design plans, selected from the top entries from the first round. 

In January 2018, the majority of the 270 respondents to the City’s survey on laneway housing were in favour of a pre-approved design competition and a quarter of them were interested in potentially purchasing a design.

Competitions give the community an opportunity to celebrate good design, are inexpensive to run, generate new ideas, can recruit both professionals and emerging talent (such as university teams), and can serve as a platform to promote laneway housing and local design talent. The program also incentivises laneway houses achieving Step 3 of the new BC Step Code for energy efficiency. Step 3 represents 20% greater efficiency than conventional building techniques.