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Design Against the Elements – Global Architectural Design Competition

Design Against the Elements is a global architectural design competition meant to find a solution to the problems presented by climate change. Spurred by the devastation wreaked in the Philippines by tropical storm Ondoy (Ketsana) and driven by a powerhouse multidisciplinary group of organizations from the private, institutional, and government sectors, the project aims to draw together the most innovative minds in the fields of architecture, design, and urban planning to develop sustainable and disaster-resistant housing for communities in tropical urban settings.

The winning design will be built as a prototype disaster-resistant and livable eco-village in Taguig City, Metro Manila.


The objectives of the project are:

  • To foster local and global awareness on climate adaptability and its relevance to poverty alleviation. Disasters are setbacks to sustainable economic growth as well as human tragedies. Having safer structures “ahead of time” will not only lead to less casualties, displacement, and damage, but will empower communities to uplift their quality of life.
  • To build the first green, livable, affordable, and disaster-resistant village in the Philippines that will serve as the blueprint for other communities threatened by climate change.
  • To compile an encyclopedia of climate-resilient and affordable design solutions for urban poor communities.

The submitted design is therefore expected to address all of the following tasks:

  • Develop a master plan for an urban housing development that can be applied to similar areas.
  • Integrate development that addresses the sustainability of the community by understanding the local economic, social, and environmental attributes.

The design is expected to take into account the various economic, social, and environmental conditions of the community in which it will be built. The following are the criteria against which the entries will be judged.

  • Disaster Resiliency: The design should be flood proof, fire proof, and earthquake resistant. It should also consider livability for residents after a disaster. It should be assumed that power, food, and clean water will be limited in some way due to flooding of the area. Transport shall likewise be hindered.
  • Innovative Construction Technology: To break the cycle of destruction-rebuilding-destruction, new building technologies or approaches must be explored. The design must present innovative construction solutions, both in terms of materials (recycled, renewable, engineered, etc) and systems (structural, cladding, electrical, irrigation and plumbing, etc).
  • Socio-Economic Sustainability:
    • Sustainability of the Built Environment: The design should incorporate green building strategies for both the community infrastructure and individual housing. At a minimum, the design should include the following considerations:
      • Optimal building orientation:
        • natural light
        • natural ventilation
      • Passive systems:
        • Water efficiency
        • Energy efficiency
      • Indoor air quality
      • Waste management and minimization
      • Building life-cycle
      • High performance building fabric
      • Use of recycled materials
      • Use of rapidly renewable materials
    • Sustainability of the Community: In line with local building codes, 70% of the land is allocated for residential use only, while 30% is left for other uses.
      • Commercial spaces: Micro-enterprises are an integral part of urban poor communities. Space for small shops or businesses, street vending, and dry and wet markets are some of the commercial aspects which should be considered in the design.
      • Public spaces: Including in this land area are roads and other public infrastructure.
      • Social Sustainability (Community Sensitivity): While the design should be adaptable to other sites (discussed below), it should be sensitive to the local culture and way of life of the beneficiary community.
  • Cost Effectiveness
    The design shall be built to house a marginalized community and is thus expected to have a limited budget.
  • Adaptability to Other Sites
    The resulting designs are intended to serve as prototypes to build an encyclopedia of solutions for disaster-resistant design and planning. Concepts utilized in the design should be adaptable to other urban communities in tropical regions.


  • Category 1
    • First prize: $10,000
    • Second Prize: $7,500
    • Special Nomination 1 (Energy): $3,500
    • Special Nomination 2 (Green Design): $3,500
  • Category 2
    • First prize: $3,000
    • Second Prize: $2,000
    • Special Nomination 1 (Energy): $1,500
    • Special Nomination 2 (Green Design): $1,500


  • Category 1 is open to all local and international architects, registered according to the relevant laws in their respective countries. All entrants are required to provide relevant professional registration on the registration form. Where an entry is made by a team of professionals, the team must be led by a person who meets the above criteria. That member must be indicated on the registration form as the entrant.
  • Category 2 is open to all local and international students of architecture in their senior years and to graduates of an architecture degree. Student entries must have the endorsement of the school dean/head and graduate entries shall have an endorsement from an architect-mentor.
  • The following are disqualified from this competition:
    • Professional Adviser/Consultant
    • Members of the UAP Executive Committee
    • Chairman and members of the UAP Competition Committee
    • Officers of UAP Fort Bonifacio Chapter
    • Members of the Jury
    • Architects employed by any of the promoters of the competition
    • Architects employed by MyShelter Foundation
    • Immediate family members of the persons listed above.

Please download the competition manual and registration forms for complete competition details and registration instructions.

How to enter?

To register for the competition, entrants must complete the registration form. The completed registration form and payment receipts should be submitted together by mail, facsimile or e-mail date_secretariat [at] (please replace [at] with @), no later than 24 September 2010.

Once registered, entrants will be emailed a competition identification number by the Competition Secretariat.

Postal address:

United Architects of the Philippines
53 Scout Rallos Street, Diliman, Quezon City

Entry fee

  • $30 per entry for entries submitted in Category 1.
  • There is no entry fee for entries submitted in Category 2.