Project Background

The competition was launched in June 2019 and publicized across the country to solicit submissions of laneway house designs. To the City’s knowledge, this was the first competition of its kind in Canada. The competition was heavily marketed to home designers and architects across the country. These efforts included regional advertising, listing the competition in Canada-wide design competition directories, and emailing all architecture faculties and design colleges, Nelson-area designers and architects, and all architects and home designers across the country who appeared to have an interest in laneway house design.

In the first open round of the competition, which closed in September 2019, twenty-nine entries were received from coast-to-coast, including nine submissions from West Kootenay-based entrants.

The submissions were subject to a blind review (without knowledge of who the entrants were) by a five-member expert design review panel. Five were invited to participate in the second round. At the end of January, the panel made its final award decisions. The three winning designs will be made available to residents and pre-reviewed and pre-approved by the City, subject to foundation and siting adjustments in order to fit onto a given lot, in order to help homeowners with the process of realizing a laneway house on their property. 

The Laneway House Design Competition was an open, two-stage competition organised by the City of Nelson and to generate high-quality, pre-reviewed laneway house building plans designed to 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 sought 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 were selected and cash prizes awarded for the top three. Designers will receive a royalty of $1,000 each time the plan is purchased by a homeowner.

The People’s Choice Award vote was open for two weeks. 179 eligible votes were cast, with The Pica coming out as the winner of the People’s Choice Award:

  • The Pica: 44%
  • Kootenay Three-Step: 36%
  • Nelson Peaks: 20%

For full contest rules and criteria, please see the Call for Submissions 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 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 consists of two rounds. The first round consists of a call for prototypes. The second round is 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.