Design Competition - Readers' choice Award

1. Invitation and objective

The Sunday Times British Homes Awards challenge you to design an exceptional house that can be built offsite at scale. 

Supported by James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, we want to rebrand offsite housebuilding to showcase what good looks like. It is the Brexit-proof answer to Britain’s housing crisis: better quality homes, built faster – without scarce bricklayers that often come from Europe. But how can those homes be beautiful, not boxy?

In this single-stage, open competition, we invite architects to submit designs for a visionary house type that can be meaningfully built in a factory. It can include any type of offsite construction, from modular units or pods to panelised systems or large prefab components. 

Whether its style references the past or is uncompromisingly of the present, it should be a home that can be built at the high densities and reasonable costs we need to end our housing crisis. A home can grow with us through every life stage, as more of us work from home or juggle children and grandparents under one roof. And a home that we’d like to live in, as we aspire to a combination of light-filled, open-plan spaces and sanctuaries to retreat to. 

But most importantly, it should be a home that we’d like to look at. Its exterior should be carefully detailed with a strong sense of place — not just to win over any nimby neighbours today, but to leave a visual legacy that our children’s children will love in centuries to come.

2. Competition format

The judges will shortlist five designs from the open first stage. 

These schemes will be published in The Sunday Times, both in print and online, with the designs accredited to the architect(s). Sunday Times readers will then vote for the shortlisted designs via an online portal. 

The scheme that receives the most votes will be announced as the winner at the presentation of The British Homes Awards on 19 September 2019.

The winning design will receive further publicity in The Sunday Times.

3. The brief

Type of house 
  • 130 square metre house type with a minimum of three bedrooms 
  • Height: two storeys or more. It can include options for single storey elements, double height spaces and/or roof terraces
  • Adaptability: can be constructed partly as flats, some of which may be configured as lateral flats stretching across more than one front. Must demonstrate adaptability in terraced and semi-detached configurations.
  • Density: 60 dwellings per hectare (predominantly houses, can include some flats and on-street parking)
  • Buildable and replicable within reasonable, mid-market cost parameters
  • Meets current UK building regulations and standards

Specification design issues for consideration are: 

  • Meaningfully built offsite, with at least a third of traditional build time moved to a factory. Can include: modular units; pods, such as for kitchens or bathrooms; panellised systems that slot together; and/or large prefab components like roof or floor cassettes
  • Aesthetics that are visionary, yet that would integrate well with historical streetscapes and have a similarly strong sense of place
  • Flexible layout that can evolve with changing lifestyle and life-stage needs
  • Daylight-filled, open living space for the 21st century, combined with smaller spaces to retreat to
  • Appropriateness for and appeal to a wide market 
  • Capacity to easily personalise and add financial value, for example through future extensions
  • Ability to vary external appearance and materials specification for different locations 
  • Whole life costs, to include construction affordability and service life maintenance 
  • Indoor performance: year-round comfort, not only cosy in winter but also avoiding overheating in summer 
  • Smart home: intelligent infrastructure, wireless technology and cabling 
  • Innovative proposals for how car parking/electric vehicle charging could be provided, as well as other future technology we may not yet know about

4. Submission requirements

Entries must comprise three elements:

a. Visual material
Drawings must be laid out on a maximum of four A3 sheets, supplied electronically as PDFs and must include:

  • Plan of an indicative development of 20 dwellings, demonstrating how the design would work at a target density of 60 dwellings per hectare.  It should indicate relationships between neighbours, garden space, how overlooking is avoided and distance between habitable rooms
  • Floor plan of a terraced house, with garden plan
  • Floor plan of a semi-detached house
  • Floor plan of a property constructed as at least two flats, with garden plan
  • Scaled elevations, showing the look of the home in context. Alternative elevational treatments will be beneficial
  • 3D axonometric

b. Design statement
A design statement of up to 1,000 words, in Word Doc format, should explain:

  • the design
  • offsite construction methods and proportion 
  • outstanding features
  • an indication of estimated current build cost

Please include a bullet-point summary of key points at the start.

c. Promotional images
Include at least three good quality computer-generated images (CGIs) or artists’ impressions, in JPEG format, which best represents the entry. Include imagery of the exterior, streetscape and interior. These images will be used by The British Homes Awards to highlight the design in the later stages of the competition, including in The Sunday Times and its online voting portal. 

All three elements must be submitted together to form the entry. Maximum file size for an entry is 50MB.

Material must not be labelled with the name/logo of the entrant, because entries are subject to an initial blind assessment process. 

5. Submissions method

Entry is via a two-part process: 

a. Via the online entry system at you will need to upload your design (20MB limit) with written statement and pay the £100 entry fee (payment taken by invoice or credit card).

b. Once you have submitted your design online you will receive a confirmation email. The email will include an entry number. Please include this number on the outside of your post documentation. The competitors design should then be sent via post to: 

Yasmin Greaves
British Homes Awards
Haymarket Events 
69 London Road 
TW1 3SP 

Postal submissions must be received no later than Thursday 16 May 2019.

6. Timetable

The programme, which may be subject to variation, is: 

  • Deadline for submissions: 16 May
  • Shortlist advised (in confidence): late June 
  • Shortlisted schemes published in The Sunday Times: 1 September
  • Results announced at awards ceremony: 19 September
  • Winner published in The Sunday Times: early October

7. Eligibility

The competition is open to all UK-registered architects, design practices and housebuilders. The organisers encourage individual or team entries, as well as the participation of recently qualified architects. 

No member or employee of the promoting body nor the assessors nor any partner, associate or employee of them is eligible to compete or assist a competitor. 

8. Authorship

The author of the submission will not be disclosed at the first stage of the selection process as the judges will want to assess the submissions without knowledge of the author. 

At the shortlist stage, authorship of the designs will be disclosed to the readership of The Sunday Times. 

A successful competitor must be able to satisfy the assessors that he/she is the bona fide author of the design he/she has submitted. 

9. Copies

Competitors should retain copies of the designs submitted. 

10. Copyright

The ownership of copyright in the work of all competitors will be in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988.

11. Announcement of results

To enable the selection process, each entrant authorises The British Homes Awards (The Promoter) to present the entries in whatever medium and at such time or place that is considered appropriate, but the Promoter will not be liable for any claims made against it resulting from any such viewing or publication. 

The architects whose schemes have been shortlisted by the judges will be advised in confidence before publication of shortlist in The Sunday Times. 

The competition winner, as voted by readers of The Sunday Times, will be announced at the presentation of the 2019 British Homes Awards on 19 September. The winner will be advised at this time.

All designs will be retained by the Promoter for the purposes of exhibition, publicity and illustration. The Promoter may publish illustrations of any design, either separately or together with other designs, with or without explanatory text. 


A design shall be excluded from the competition: 

  • if received after the latest time stated under Submission method 
  • if, in the opinion of the assessors, it does not substantially meet the requirements of the brief 
  • if a competitor shall improperly attempt to in influence the decision 
  • if any of the mandatory requirements of the competition conditions and brief are disregarded 
  • if any entry is deemed to be overly promoting one particular manufacturer or product.

Supported by

Deadlines and Prices

Design competition entry deadline: Thursday 16 May

Entry fee: £110 +VAT

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