01 The Challenge

Dating as far back as the 17th Century and widely popular in the early 1900s, cost-effective prefabricated housing is not at all a new concept. The increasing demand in today’s market for modern/contemporary design and sustainable housing options has renewed the appeal and desire for a new generation of prefab solutions. Prefab 20/20 challenges you to bring forth exciting and attractive housing alternatives: your solution will amplify the advantages of its production, assembly, and logistics, without loosing sight of its social implications. Your solution will showcase quality urban living space on a compact scale, and eliminate the social stigma of utilitarian prefabricated home of the past.

We believe quality and good design are pragmatic steps towards a sustainable future. Compact living space requires a level of discipline and environmental sensibility that ought to be endorsed. Small space living means living smart!



Bespoke, site-specific architectural design has been highly valued throughout history; it dominates the popular notion of domestic architecture. While one might argue that the meaning of “prefab housing” falls short in this context, prefab housing does offer an entire different set of ambitions: sustainability through efficiency, economy, and quality through volume, to name a few. This concept is increasingly relevant to our imploding cities of today and tomorrow.

With Prefab 20/20, we take the position that compact living space, combined with the advantages of pre-fabrication techniques, is a strategy designers can employ in response to the ever-growing population that makes up the urban fabric around the world. Through Prefab 20/20, you will help break common perceptions of density and social stigma created by prefab solution that came before.

Moreover, prefab structures can be viewed from a social perspective as a communicative platform that breaks down boundaries and allow communities, city officials and designers around the world to share new ideas about sustainable densification. After all, urban density is a supranational phenomenon.



Your challenge is to propose a free-standing, prefab dwelling unit for a footprint no more than 400sf (37.5sm) in an urban setting anywhere in the world. Fit for two adults, its basic program shall include sleeping, bathing, cooking, living, working/studying, and storage areas. Entrants are free to deviate from the basic program but justification must be included. See also Design Considerations.




The site can be situated in any urban setting in the world. Your proposal should not be an “one-off” installation; rather, it should be adaptable to various sites.

The footprint of the design can be of any geometry as long as it does not exceed 400sf (37.5sm)
Vehicular parking is not a requirement.

Entrants are encouraged to look at how their chosen site can be contextualized within transport grids, power grids and other community amenities. Entrants may make recommendations on changes their chosen site should amend in order to encourage sustainable density.

The performance of the design in various climate conditions should be considered. Design for a climatic range of your choice.

Consideration should also be given to the design’s environmental impact, both on and off site.


Designs should give consideration to quality, comfort, and safety in a compact environment. Entrants should also consider the cost and availability of the materials needed for the design. However, new production methods that promote sustainability can be promoted.

Entrants are encouraged to incorporate reclaimed material for the construction of the skin, frame and connections. Standardization of components and variations from within should be encouraged.

Entrants should consider and demonstrate procedural steps: building kit of parts articulating different elements, taking inventory, creating a directory of resources, and refining the detailing.

Entrants are encouraged to think about how their design may be varied to suit different climatic, geographical, economic, political and social conditions.


Entrants are urged to think beyond the architectural artifact and consider the social dimensions that frame a community’s understanding of place, home and growth. Such questions might include:

What dialogues will the designer have to have with the community with whom s/he is working to derive the eventual pre-fabricated form?

What kinds of relations will the designer have with the manufacturers of the pre-fabricated structures s/he has designed?

What social incentives can be given to manufacturers and home-owners in the community to partake in the production and use of pre-fabricated structures?

What rhetoric can a designer adopt to communicate the positive effects of a reduced dwelling area and low-cost pre-fabricated structures to cope with housing shortages?

How can pre-fabricated structures be regarded as socio-spatial platforms for their inhabitants to actively engage with increased density?

What kinds of new urban communities can be formed around these pre-fabricated structures?

How can pre-fabricated structures be adapted across the globe to deal with varied climatic, cultural and political conditions without assuming an universal design?



May 9, 2009        Competition Launch
July 31        Registration Deadline
August 31        Submission Deadline *5pm Vancouver, BC Timezone
September 17        Winners Announced



At the Interior Design Show West, we are constantly striving to introduce new architectural concepts through event features – from the Concept Condo (a 300 sqft ‘living display’ at the inaugural show) and The Pod (complete fold-together structure in Year Two) to the Smallworks Studio/Laneway home showcased at the 2007 show.  We are again looking to push the boundaries of architecture on the West Coast through a competition based on concepts for pre-built structures.

IDSwest, the Architectural Institute of British Columbia, Azure magazine and Architecture For Humanity Vancouver will present PREFAB 20/20 – Visions for 400-square-foot homes, An Open Ideas Competition at IDSwest 2009.  A 20ft x 20ft floor space will be dedicated to highlighting select entries for this exciting competition. Selection, made by show management, will be based on compatibility with the show. The display will be hosted at IDSwest from September 17 to 20, 2009.



Overall Concept / Program / Design        40
Prefab Concept / Creativity / Adaptability        25
Siting / Social Dimension            25
Climatic & Ecological Concern            10



Oliver Lang, MAIBC
Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture

Oliver Lang, a registered architect in Germany, America and Canada, is co-founder of Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture (LWPAC) with Cynthia Wilson. LWPAC has designed and built projects in Canada, China, Chile, USA and Spain, and has won several awards such as the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal of Excellence, the AIBC Innovation Award, the 2008 Governor General’s Medal in Architecture and the ACSA Faculty Design Award. Lang holds a Diploma Ingenieur in Architecture from Techische Universitatet Berlin and a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. He has taught at Columbia, Princeton, UPenn, SCI ARC and UBC.

George Wagner
School of Architecture of Landscape Architecture, University of British Columbia

George Wagner has done extensive research on urban forms and their ideological implications, contemporary Japanese architecture and the relation between architecture and modernity. His writings have been published in journals such as Perspecta, Bauwelt, AA Files, Canadian Architect and Harvard Design Magazine. He is also the editor of several books including Tokyo from Vancouver, Thom Mayne: The Sixth Street, Stanley Saitowitz: A House in the Transvaal and Barkow Leibinger Architects: Werkbericht 1993 – 2001 Work-Report. Prior to teaching the professional Master of Architecture at UBC, Wagner taught at Rhode Island School of Design, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Yale University, Cornell University and Rice University.

Maged Senbel
School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia

Inspired by the ongoing quest for environmental and social justice Maged Senbel’s research traverses the space between architecture and planning, between design and public decision-making. Specifically, his research focuses on participatory processes that contribute to producing better sustainable designs. Prior to teaching Urban Design at UBC, Senbel taught at the University of Utah where he launched and directed the Westside Studio, an interdisciplinary teaching and research centre in Salt Lake City’s lowest income and highest diversity neighbourhoods. The project brought together students from architecture, urban planning and business. He was named Professor of the year for the College of Architecture and Planning at University Utah. He is also an associate at Studio Senbel Architecture + Design, Inc.

Michael Geller, MAIBC, FCIP
The Geller Group

Michael Geller is a Vancouver based architect, planner, real estate consultant and property developer with four decades of experience in the public, private and institutional sectors. He is president of The Geller Group, which comprises Michael Geller & Associates Limited (MGAL), Laneway Cottages Inc. and Geller Properties Inc. His firm has been active in urban planning and real estate consulting, overseeing significant developments in the South Shore of False Creek and Bayshore areas.  Most recently his firm has been involved in developing laneway housing around the Vancouver region. Geller is also a frequent contributor to the Vancouver Sun on issues of architecture and urbanism. From 1999-2006 he served as president and CEO of the SFU Community Trust, where he was responsible for SFU’s “UniverCity”,  the sustainable community development project adjacent to the Burnaby Mountain campus. Currently, he also serves as an Adjunct Professor at SFU’s Centre for Sustainable Community Development.

Kristina Lee Podesva

Kristina Lee Podesva is an artist, writer, and curator based in Vancouver, Canada. Her research interests concern the production of space and subjectivity in urban settings. She is the founder of colourschool, a free school within a school (UBC where Podesva completed her MFA) dedicated to the speculative and collaborative study of five colours (white, black, red, yellow, and brown) and cofounder of Cornershop Projects, an open framework for engaging with economic exchange. In between things, she is assistant editor at the Fillip Review, a Vancouver-based critical theory and art magazine. She is, most recently, the inaugural Artist in Residence Program at Langara College Centre for Art in Public Spaces.

Duane Elverum
Emily Carr University

Duane Elverum is assistant professor and academic advisor at Emily Carr University where he teaches in design and sustainability. This past term he co-taught with Janet Moore in SFU’s Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue on the theme of Designing the Future. His research centers on sustainability learning in higher education, aiming to understand how design can proceed in ways that matter to the atmosphere. He asks, how can the environment be better because of our work? Duane is currently responsible for emitting .3 tons of CO2 per year into the atmosphere, and has crossed the Pacific Ocean in a sailboat five times. He received a degree with honors in architecture from the University of British Columbia for his thesis on alternative urban housing.



Jason Heard, Show Director, Interior Design Show West
Linus Lam, Director, Architecture For Humanity Vancouver
Patrick F. Chan, Educator, Architecture For Humanity Vancouver