Calling all creatives—there’s a new chance to inspire change in B.C.’s housing code.

 Urbanarium, a charitable organization dedicated to engaging metro Vancouver residents in urban planning, closes registration for their third installment of Canada’s largest affordable housing competition series, Decoding Density, on January 19. This competition highlights and challenges current building codes to explore apartment design that emphasizes outdoor space, communal-oriented features, and low-energy approaches to comfort and livability. As well, current building code restrictions make cross-ventilation and access to sunlight difficult to achieve for individual and family apartments. The competition will highlight these issues and potentially affect change in B.C.’s review of building codes.

“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,” says Amy Nugent, executive director of Urbanarium. According to Nugent, Decoding Density is seeking to innovate building codes at a time when B.C. has just announced they are reviewing codes to make housing construction faster. Participants are asked to consider six-storey plus wood-frame structures which have the benefit of being simpler, low-carbon in construction, require less excavation for underground parking, fit in lower density neighbourhoods, and create less shadows than condominium towers, and are challenged to propose creative, liveable and sociable housing forms.

“We would like for the public to appreciate that the apartment buildings that are going to start appearing in their neighbourhoods don’t need to be simple boxes… but rather benefit from and contribute to their community,” says Marta Farevaag, competition co-chair.

The competition prizes total $44,000, with first place award at $12 00, $8 000 for second and $4,000 for third place, with 5 honourable mentions receiving $2,000 each. Final submissions may be featured in Uytae Lee’s About Here series. In addition, a Planners Prize of $10,000 will also be awarded. The winners will be determined by a jury of nine professionals in the field, including Alfred Waugh of Architect AIBC; Francis Bula, a journalist of Urban Issues/Housing; and Ly Tang, Senior Development Manager of Rize Alliance Properties. A separate advisory panel chooses the winner of the Planners Prize. This competition is open to students, young professionals, firms, and multidisciplinary teams from around the world.

Competition registration closes on January 19, 2024, with submissions due on April 13, 2024. Winners will be announced April 16, 2024. Learn more and enter here.