SIAH 4 Africa Design Competition
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Design Competition Brief

The SIAH4Afica Design Competition is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, sponsored by the University of Cape Town (SA), National Home Builders Registration Council (SA), Agrément South Africa, South African Institution Of Civil Engineering, and in partnership with the Central University of Technology, University of Johannesburg, Stellenbosch University, Leeds Beckett University, Cardiff University, and the University of Montreal. The competition recognises two exceptional house design projects that integrate sustainability, well-being, technological innovation, lifecycle assessment, circular economy, and affordability, that will be evaluated using the 10 categories of the SIAH for built work and the SIAH Framework for Design and Construction Excellence.

The design of a house plays a crucial role in the sustainability and affordability of a house and the resident’s quality of life. Innovative design thinking and modern technologies are key to producing a sustainable house that meets human needs for both function and delight, adapts to climate change projections, continues to support the health and well-being of inhabitants despite natural and human-caused disasters, and minimises contributions to further climate change through greenhouse gas emissions and recycling of water. Preparing students and young graduates to envision and design a climate adaptive, resilient, inclusive, sustainable and innovative house that affordable to own, operate and maintenance by African middle-income level.

Given their long lifespan, new houses must be designed to enhance the Quality of Life (QOL) and well-being of residents, as well as adapt to climate change, and respond to its projected impacts, well into the second half of the 21st Century and beyond.

The need for African SIAH has sparked the collaboration between academics, industry, and policymakers to co-create a design competition for the SIAH4Africa. This project aims to introduce, encourage, and promote the idea of sustainability, innovation, and cyber technologies in the design and construction of affordable housing for African housing stakeholders included government agencies, designers, developers, academics, and students, through a collaborative partnership.

The main target for this competition is students and young professionals. However, doors are opened for any professionals and practitioners that are interested in participating, and we encourage to include students and/or young professionals in each team.

For a team to enter and win this competition, they must:

  • Design and specify SIAH using one of the standard Computer-aided design packages, such as Revit, SketchUp, etc.
  • Design a house that is aimed at the middle-income group and is intended for four occupants, a family of 4 (parents with two kids).
  • Design a house that has to require a maximum construction cost of £250/m2, a total construction cost of only £ 12,500.

Specifications Brief:

The design of the house needs to be innovative, provide all needs of residents, efficient and minimise waste of materials and space.

Design teams should use the African climate zone data for their design based on the location of the house, and they should provide details of their assumptions regarding the location and orientation of the house. The design (layout and exterior), materials and construction methods of the house need to emphasise the importance of affordability, sustainability and innovation such as user satisfaction, passive design, reduced energy, water and waste and diminish environmental impact.

Material and construction methods choices need to be kept innovative but locally acceptable, available, and compliant within the local and international design and building standards. A structural engineer will evaluate the finalist designs to verify structural integrity.

General specification of the house

  • Total Gross Floor Area (GFA) 50m2
  • 2 Bedrooms with closet
  • 1 Toilet and bathroom with cabinet
  • 1 Kitchen with cabinet
  • 1 Dining/living area
  • 1 Distribution cupboard for DB board and PV batteries
  • 1 Rainwater harvesting tank (can be located adjacent to the house)
  • 1 Greywater system
  • 1 Solar water heater

To achieve optimum environmental sustainability, the design needs to maximise passive design, consider water and energy efficiencies, produce on-site energy and food, and recycle on-site water.

The house needs to be designed to be as efficient as possible and, at a minimum, must meet the energy intensity units (EUIs) of 50kWh/m2/year. The remaining electricity demand, as far as possible, is generated on-site.

Design teams are required to undertake initial water and energy modelling to provide indicative, annual water and energy consumption figures using standard opensource software such as the EDGE tool.

Thermal comfort must still be achieved whilst delivering a low energy building to mitigate against retrofitting the building with inefficient heating and cooling devices.   The focus of the design is to meet the sustainability (economy, social, and environment) of the house during its lifespan through adopting technological innovation. However, participants are also encouraged to consider Net-Zero energy, carbon, water, food, waste, and other ecological impacts, as well as QOL and the well-being of residents.

House should be highly resource-efficient in different phases of construction (materials, energy, water and waste), operation (energy, water, waste, food) and maintenance (materials, water, energy).

At least 50% of the annual energy consumption of the house should generate from renewable energy on-site, and 30% of the annual water consumption of the house should produce from recycling water on-site.

To modelling the energy the following electrical needs and appliances. Teams are to specify specific products that are appropriate for the size, cost and energy requirements of the unit.

  • 1 Fridge and deep freeze
  • 1 Clothing washing machine
  • 1 Kettle
  • 1 Toaster
  • 1 microwave
  • 4 Cell phone chargers
  • 2 computer/laptop
  • 1 TV
  • 1 four plates stove and oven (could be LPG)
  • 1 Wi-Fi-Router

Preferably systems: Water and energy-efficient fittings and appliances such as double flush toilet, low flow taps, LED, etc.

Note that the SIAH4Africa design competition's primary objective is for educational purposes; therefore, the design, material, technologies and construction methods choices and constructability need to consider that this is only an educational competition.


  • Competition release date: March 31, 2021 (Extended to May 20, 2021)
  • Expression of Interest (EOI) date closure: April 30, 2021
  • Competition design period end: July 30, 2021
  • Judging period: August 9– 27, 2021
  • Shortlisted announced: August 30, 2021.
  • Additional information (graphic design/ info panels): September 1 – 30, 2021
  • SIAH virtual convention and announcing the winners: October 2021

EOI submission criteria: April 30, 2021

To be emailed to [email protected] subject: EOI SIAH4Africa Design Competition

  • Proposed team name
  • Proposed design location
  • Proposed project team members (name, profession, role, and affiliation)
  • Project lead contact details (email and phone)
  • Proposed concept note/ design approach (maximum 500 words)

Submission criteria: July 30, 2021

  1. Design of house in 3D format
    • Architectural layout
    • Structure layout
    • Electrical layout
    • Plumbing layout
  1. Design details and specifications
  2. Summary page including:
    • Project assumption
    • Project concept
    • Design approach
  1. Construction programme including
    • Bill of quantity
    • Outline a budget
    • Construction methods and technologies
    • Construction plan and schedule
  1. Water consumption (Edge tool), including
    • Indicative, annual water consumption
    • Rainwater harvesting and proposed use
    • Greywater system and proposed use
  1. Energy Consumption (Edge tool)
    • Indicative, annual energy consumption
    • On-site generation

Judging Criteria:

Successful responses should demonstrate design moving towards the sustainable, affordable house through a creative and innovative integration of design and construction strategies such as passive design, modern materials, recycling water, energy generation, and other sustainable systems, through a cohesive, aesthetic architectural and functional and safe engineering understanding. Issues to consider include community enhancement, land use and effect on site ecology, bioclimatic design, energy and water use, impact on health and well-being, approach to environmental quality, modern materials and construction methods, design flexibility and adaptation, long-life considerations, and feedback loops. Entries will also be judged for the success and innovation that the project has met the following criteria out of a total of 200 points:

SIAH Framework for Design and Construction Excellence 




Design for innovation
  • Innovative design strategy
  • New building materials
  • Alternative construction methods
  • Modern technologies


Design for affordability
  • Construction cost below £250/m2
  • Operation cost lower than the conventional houses
  • Low maintenance cost
  • Life cycle cost analysis


Design for integration
  • Usable
  • Functional
  • Ecstatic
  • Private
  • Safe
  • Connection to nature


Design for construction
  • Resources and materials efficient
  • Suitable for mass production
  • Improve quality
  • Require less water and energy
  • Reducing the duration
  • Minimising waste
  • Using materials that
    • non‐toxic,
    • durable,
    • recycled and recyclable,
    • low embodied energy
    • locally available


Design for energy
  • Optimise natural lighting and ventilation
  • Energy-efficient equipment and devices
  • Thermal insulation
  • Thermal comfort
  • Energy modelling
  • 50kWh/m2/year EUIs
  • Eliminate dependence on fossil fuel
  • 50% of energy consumption generate on-site (renewable energy)


Design for water
  • Water-efficient fittings
  • Harvesting and recycling rainwater
  • Greywater system
  • 30% of water consumption recycled


Design for equitable communities
  • Inclusive
  • Social equity
  • Connect to community


Design for ecosystems
  • Connect to the local ecosystem
  • Support local habitat restoration
  • Ecological health


Design for Well-being
  • Support the physical health of residents and the community
  • Support mental health of residents and community
  • Support the emotional health of residents and the community


Design for change
  • Resilience
  • Flexible/ Adaptable


Bonus points
  • Net-zero water
  • Net-zero carbon
  • Net-zero food
  • Design for rapid construction or assembly
  • Design for disassembly
  • Support the local economy and community


Awards + Recognition

Two projects will be chosen for recognition at the discretion of the jury. Winners will be notified of the competition results directly. Winning projects will be announced and displayed at the virtual SIAH4Africa Convention. Winning projects will also be promoted on the SIAH-I networks.

  • First Prize winner will receive £ 2000,
  • The second prize winner will receive £ 1000.