By Sebastian Downs, (EIT, LEED GA, Boston Green Schools Volunteer Management Coordinator)

My Experience with the R3build Design Competition
By Sebastian Downs, EIT, LEED GA, Boston Green Schools Volunteer Management Coordinator
The Competition

Last November, New York’s USGBC chapter Urban Green opened registration for their emerging professional design competition “R3build.” The design was for a new home on Breezy Point, NY, which was one of many communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The objective of this competition was to design a home with a focus on resiliency, energy, environment, and economy in order to create an affordable, scalable, modular home that could be quickly built in coastal communities impacted by natural disasters; this home would be resilient enough to withstand extreme weather events. The design also had to meet all local codes and LEED v4 for Homes Gold standard.
When I decided to sign-up, I figured it would be a fun way to engage with some of my far-flung friends in architecture and engineering programs, get some good hands-on experience in working with a cross disciplinary team on a design project, and a chance to flex my newly accredited Green Associate skills. It proved to be all of those things and more.


The Design
Coordinating primarily via Google Drive and Hangout, we ended up with a design that was truly a melding of many individuals’ inputs. Our final design was inspired by the dynamic, yet resistant nature of the sand dune, which is simultaneously shaped by the ocean, and protects itself as well as the surrounding area from storm damage.
We used shipping containers as a primary building element since they are water and wind proof, highly durable, modular, and relatively inexpensive for the size and durability they provide. The roof system mimicked sand dunes in shapes and was lofted above the structural elements, which would reduce wind speeds, increase solar exposure for panels, and provide some cover for the upper deck level. The interior had an open layout that could be rearranged to suit the needs of the occupants, including a mobile kitchen island to distinguish the kitchen from living space. Even the landscaping resembled dunes with bio-swales infiltrating stormwater on site. The building systems provided resiliency through redundancy, such as integrating both solar hot water and an electric heating element, so if one system broke there would be a back up. We anticipated the design achieving 71 points on the LEED v4 for Homes, including all the potential regional priority credits.
The Results
On March 12th, two of my teammates and I attended the Urban Green spring reception as one of five finalist teams in the emerging professional design competition (working from Boston, upstate New York, and Rome, not every team member could make it in to NYC on a Wednesday night). As it turns out, we were the only finalist team with no professional architects or engineers. Although we did not rank in the top three, the design was noted by the judges for being the only in the competition to use shipping container architecture and bio-mimicry.
The winning design, a self-titled “Bayside Bunker,” came from an architecture duo out of Queensland, Australia.
You can learn more about the competition, and the winning design at
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