Affordable Green Home

Design futuristic housing prototypes

How can we design a housing structure that will suit the needs of the future?

Design an affordable housing prototype for your local town/city or location of your choice that incorporates important elements we will need to consider for future design.

Please indicate what kind of design elements you are thinking we should consider for designing for the future. Think along the lines of:

  • Green Energy
  • Accessibility
  • Re-Usable Resources
  • Population Trends
  • Urbanization
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Future Design trends

Use neighborhood and city data to inform your design decisions and present a digital or physical model for an affordable housing unit that serves at least one family of four.

Define the Problem

Design Challenge Brief

In the United States, the term "affordable housing" is used to describe housing, rental or owner-occupied, that is affordable to the "median household income" Currently, there is a lack of affordable housing across the country and architects, urban planners, and designers are trying to find creative solutions to this crisis. To solve the problem they are using large sets of data about location, population, average income and other local information to inform their design choices.

Based on the 2016 National DiscoverDesign Competition Design Challenge

Design an affordable housing prototype for your local town/city or location of your choice. Use neighborhood and city data to inform your design decisions and present a digital or physical model for an affordable housing unit that serves at least one family of four. Your design must identify a specific audience in need of housing (families, elderly, etc), make sense in context with the other buildings in the area, and show evidence of your data research. In writing and visuals you will need to make a case for why and how your final design "works" as an affordable housing solution for your chosen location.


Check out the Design Brief for more information about affordable housing, prototypes, and how to use open source data.

Define your problem with a short statement answering the following questions….

- who are you designing for?

- where are you designing?

-what future problem are you addressing?

Collect Info

Gather as much information as possible about your chosen location’s housing needs. You also want to learn as much as you can about the people who will use it.

Try This & Submit

  1. Determine a location for your future housing site, taking into consideration the major elements we are designing around. Create a collage of the images of the layout of the location and surrounding buildings. 
  2. Create a brainstorm about how you will address the major design elements we are studying within that area, including possible design features you will use and why you would use them.
    1. Major design elements to consider:
      1. Green Energy
      2. Accessibility
      3. Re-Usable Resources
      4. Population Trends
      5. Urbanization
      6. Energy Efficiency
      7. Future Design trends
  3. Create a land use map to get a sense of location’s housing options and other community spaces around it.
  4. Make a list of the features that you really like about housing that you think all people should access to. This could be anything from a front porch, being close to a park, to a private bathroom.
  5. Make a separate list of all the ways the current housing options are not so well designed.
  6. Learn affordable housing and use open source data to determine what “affordable” is for your chosen location.
  7. Calculate how much affordable housing is actually needed – How many people are below the median income? How many homes are available below the average cost? The difference is the need.
  8. Research other affordable housing solutions around the world. What about their designs inspire you? How so?

Brainstorm Ideas

Upload sketches, pictures, quick hand models, and more that help us see your ideas and demonstrate your thinking.

Try This & Submit

  1. Draw a brief to scale floor plan. What might the interior need? Exterior? How are the different spaces connected or disconnected? Mapping all the needed spaces will help shape your overall design later on.
  2. Use Google Maps to view and print out an aerial photo of your location. Take measurements of the overall dimensions of your location or lot. How much room do you have to build? Will you build up or out?
  3. Post this aerial map and sketch here to show the relationship between your building and other spaces nearby. Describe the surrounding area and note existing structures such as the library, parking, main road, parks, businesses, etc. 
  4. On a piece of tracing paper placed over the aerial photo of your school, sketch a diagram showing a large arc around the building to show the path of the sun throughout the day.  This drawing is called a site analysis diagram (Remember, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.)

Think About & Respond

  • Will your new affordable housing solution replace your existing facilities or become an addition to a different part of a building? Will it be built in an empty lot or space?  Will it be underground or built on the roof?  You decide.
  • Spend some time looking at the aerial photo of your location.  What types of other buildings surround it?  Homes, businesses, parks, parking lots, or an empty field?  How will these other buildings impact the design?
  • What types of streets surround your housing? Are they busy or quiet?
  • Based on the site analysis diagram you've sketched, where is the sun located throughout the day? 
  • How can the indoor and outdoor areas of your new housing be positioned to take advantage of the sunlight for good lighting?

Develop Solutions

Try This & Submit

  1. Draw a sketch or use software such as SketchUp or Floorplanner, AutoCAD, or Revit to illustrate your ideas.  You can upload this here.
  2. Make a list of all the unique spaces and features you plan to have in your housing solution. 

Final Design

Try This & Submit

  1. Upload at least four (4) detail images that showcase different perspectives and spaces of your design from an eye-level perspective. The jury will be looking for:
    1. Exterior View: a rendering of the exterior of your house
    2. Interior View 1: a view showing the interior of your house
    3. Interior View 2: a view showing the interior of your house
    4. Material Detail View 1: a detail image of an important material (interior or exterior) used in/on your house
  2. Upload your written responses about your design decisions such as target audience and material choices.
    1. How does this design benefit your community? (150–250 words)
    2. Tell us about the site and materials you have included in your design and why. (100–150 words)