10 square

How much space do we really need? In an era of ballooning house sizes and constricting rental markets, it can sometimes be difficult to envision opportunities for change or innovation. 102 is a design competition that seeks to broaden awareness and generate examples of building and design strategies that are small, green and affordable, taking inspiration from the City of Nelson’s building bylaws regarding the largest allowable structure not requiring a building permit. (Entries are not, however, bound to any other requirements the City may have other than those included here). So come on, challenge preconceived notions, show us some new ideas about getting more out of living with less!

Building program:

  • maximum footprint of 10m2 (approximately 107 ft2)
  • maximum height of 4m (approximately 14’)
  • buildable using materials that are readily sourced locally
  • intended as a self-contained, independent living unit for one or more people
  • incorporate green or recycled materials and/or systems

Proposal requirements:

Description (PDF format) :

  • A brief (1-2 paragraph) description of the design

Drawings/Images (All images should be in JPEG or PDF format, maximum file size 1MB):

  • Elevation drawings (3-4) with dimensions
  • Floor plan (1) with dimensions
  • Rendered perspectives or elevations of the structure viewed in context (1-2)


  • As much as possible this will be a paperless competition; all entries must be electronic; (hand drawings are acceptable but must be legible and scanned or otherwise provided in digital format by the entrant) submissions may NOT be delivered in person or by mail!
  • Only complete entries sent to tensquarecompetition@gmail.com by the deadline will be considered
  • Entrants are encouraged to submit a 3d Sketchup model of their design if possible (Sketchup is free software, and is reasonably easy to learn)
  • As it will be a blind jurying process, please do not include names, logos or other identifiers on the drawings or images you submit.

Deadline: all entries must be received via email on or before 5 pm PST, Thursday, Sept 30th, 2010

Deadline extended! all entries must now be received via email on or before 5 pm PST, Thursday, Oct 7th, 2010

Review process:

A jury will review all entries and choose three finalists. It will be a blind jurying process. All entries will be posted to an online gallery for public viewing, and after the submission deadline the general public can also vote for their favorite to be recognized as the “people’s choice”. Scale models of the juried finalists’ designs, as well as printed images of the “people’s choice” will be displayed as part of the Shelter: how we live exhibition being held from September 18 to November 14, 2010 at Touchstones Nelson.

Entries will be evaluated based on:

  • use of cost effective approaches and materials
  • innovation in the use of materials
  • versatility of design concept(s)
  • relevance to local social and environmental issues

54 Responses to “10 square”

  1.   Nelson Says:

    Hi Rod,

    just wondering if you would prefer a certain size page for the submission. Are the pdf’s intended to be printed? If so, what size piece of paper should they be? Thanks!

  2.   Rod Taylor Says:

    Hi Nelson,

    Good question! 8 ½ x 11 or 11 x 17 would be preferable. We’re planning on showing all entries online, and will display printed versions for the finalists and “people’s choice” in the gallery (along with scale models of the finalist’s designs).

  3.   samer el sayary Says:

    just was wondering about the prizes of the competition and awards,..thank u for the reply

  4.   Rod Taylor Says:

    Thanks for the question Samer – each finalist will receive either cash or prizes with a total value of approximately CDN $200.

  5.   zapata Says:

    Would you kind to explain what is the “maximum footprint”? GFA or the area inside the outer contour of the structure? Is the “maximum height” the heighness of the highest point of the structure or the height of the eaves?
    Thank you!

    •   Rod Taylor Says:

      For the purposes of this competition, “building footprint” will be defined as the perimeter of the enclosed spaces at ground level. The “maximum height” will be measured from finished grade to the highest point on the structure. Architectural elements that do not add floor area to a building, such as chimneys, vents, antennae, and towers, are not considered a part of the height of a building, but all portions of the roof are included.

  6.   Artin Says:

    Does the definition of footprint – for the purpose of the competition – apply to only the enclosed spaces, or can it include covered exterior spaces such as a porch (when literally interpreted, the footprint of a porch would be that of the columns only).

    •   Rod Taylor Says:

      For the purposes of this competition, “building footprint” will be defined as the perimeter of the enclosed spaces at ground level. As long as the exterior space (eg. a porch) is not enclosed (railings are allowed), it will not be included as part of the footprint.

  7.   Catherine Says:


  8.   Shayne Kasai Says:

    i’m no architect but this is really cool, i’m going to try it.

  9.   jody lee Says:

    Hi Rod,
    Are there any restrictions regarding the site, or are we free to pick any location?

  10.   Paul Says:

    Unable to download requirments. Was trying to figure out how you got 107 sq ft from 10 meters squared? 3.28 ft X 10 = 32.8 squared = 1075.84.

  11.   Kate Says:

    Who can enter this competition? Do you have to be Canadian to participate or is it international?

  12.   Deek Says:

    Would REAL photos of the actual structure built, alongside a description and hand sketched floorplan/side-view/elevations suffice? I’m interested, and this sounds fun- I just don’t have time to mess with, and learn sketch-up in the very few days left for this contest.

    •   Rod Taylor Says:

      As we’re trying to keep the competition fairly open, real photos with hand sketched drawings are totally acceptable. As long as we receive them as jpegs, they can be generated at your end by whatever means you prefer. The Sketchup part is just a suggestion, but is by no means a requirement. It’s pretty quick to learn though!

  13.   doc Says:

    any particular climate to be considered to the design?
    example: bagalow approach could work here in southern california, but not necessary work in colder climate.
    or it does not matter for the project.

  14.   João Silva Says:

    how can i subscribe to the competition? just send an email with name , school and origin of the students attached with the proposal?

    •   Rod Taylor Says:

      Some information (eg announcing finalists) will be emailed directly to all those that enter the competition, as well as being posted on the blog. I’m told the “subscribe to this blog” box in the right sidebar is now working, so you can also choose to sign up there to receive notification when there’s a new post.

  15.   João Silva Says:

    and how many pages of 8 1/2 x 11 or 11×17 can i send?

  16.   cabin caleb Says:

    Im just making sure i read the requirements right, so we can just email or sketchup design to the email listed? thank you bushels i am very intersted in this event:)

  17.   Nuno Says:


    Is there any limitation on height of interior spaces, beyond whats reasonable and functional?

  18.   Berks Says:

    What about the site? Any restrictions where it is designed to be?

  19.   Milo Says:

    Does “self contained” entail off grid power and water systems?

    •   Rod Taylor Says:

      “Self contained” in this context means that it has made allowance for all the core functions necessary for living, such as bathroom, kitchen and sleeping area. It could certainly be off the grid as well, but that’s not required.

  20.   keith dewey Says:

    Is it possible to split the space up? I wonder if it is reasonable to have a living unit, walk across an exterior deck to the bathroom unit? Two separate functional units connected via an exterior deck to become one living unit.

  21.   keith dewey Says:

    The total of the combined units is still only 10 sqm.

  22.   Jim Ross Says:

    Rod, It was great to meet you tonight and thanks for this competition and extending the deadline. I think you have hit on something big.

    Frankly, I like Keith’s line of thinking. While I realize that competitions must have parameters, I have always been one to bend the rules.

    I plan to submit a hand drawn, scanned plan that does not meet the guidelines of the competition. I know it cannot win but I do know that I lived in it for 2 years and it worked. It exceeds square footage by 13 square feet and height by 1 foot.

    Guidelines are great but you may want to actually live in one of these structures as I did for 2 years and unless you are short, a 14′ limit on height means you will bang your head, repeatedly, unless you want one floor and a vaulted ceiling. I am bald so this is an issue. Bruises and cuts are unsightly and draw attention if you do not have hair to cover them. I hope you will accept my entry as follicley challenged.

    Perhaps after the 10 squared competition, we can have one with looser dimensional restraints but more emphasis on creative use of space while avoiding building inspectors and breaking rules. At 107 square feet, you cannot build the structure in this competition legally without a building permit, unless it is on wheels.

    As far as I know, there is nothing to prohibit a few 100 square foot structures with pathways, decks or covered stairs connecting them. You won’t get a building or occupancy permit and it does not qualify for a mortgage but if you can build it, you can live in it comfortably.

    I am really intrigued by this subject obviously. I bought my first home in 1988. It was a struggle but nothing like the challenge first time buyers face today. If you can buy a piece of property and build a small structure, you can live in it while you save money and develop infrastructure.

    I am really looking forward to seeing all the entries so I can blend the best ideas with my own.

    •   Rod Taylor Says:

      Great to meet you as well! I really like Keith’s thinking too, and I hope he still plans to submit an entry. I had a quick look at his website, and he’s done some amazing work with shipping containers, which you might want to check out. Since you’re local, perhaps instead of entering your non-conforming former abode, we could post it on the blog?

  23.   Nikola Mauzer Says:


    I submitted the design on Sept. 30th, but realized after that the deadline had been extended. Is it possible to send you again the same design? Only differences would be larger pdf files and better renderings, because I had no time to mess with all of that within the last deadline.

    Best regards.

  24.   damian Says:

    Hello, just wondering if are there any regulations of concept’s copyrights – for instance in case of receiving/not receiving prizes. Thanks, best regards!

    •   Rod Taylor Says:

      Good question – I hadn’t articulated that, but any designs submitted (finalist or otherwise) can be used for non-commercial, marketing or promotional purposes in conjunction with either the design competition or Touchstones Nelson, but otherwise copyright remains with the person who created the concept/design. The primary use will be displaying all designs online, with the finalists and people’s choice also being displayed in the gallery itself, with scale models constructed of the finalist’s designs. Any other uses (eg. building the actual structure, selling plans) would entail a separate agreement, and are not currently being considered. Hope this helps, feel free to ask if you’d like further information.

  25.   Jim Ross Says:


    I like that solution. We should really make time to go for a walk one day.

    I really appreciate what you are up to here. I think it is a huge issue and I hope you continue to push the envelope when it comes to what shelter really is and what it can be.

    Shipping containers, as we discussed, are an amazing resource. I did not notice Keith’s site and will check that out.

    As a guy who bought his first house for the price of a full sized pickup today, I appreciate that shelter is a challenge for most first time home owners and many who just want a safe place to live.

    As you know Rod, I lived in one of these structures for 2+ years illegally because of personal circumstances. I went in with a positive, can-do attitude and the help of friends and building suppliers I knew. Renny Boswell gave me all the 2×6 and plywood I needed and Quinto Maida (RIP) supplied most everything else. Used toilet, shower, hot water heater, counters, fridge, kitchen sink and paint were all contributed by folks I knew. Many who I owed money contributed. It was a humbling experience.

    When my hip hurt too much to complete large jobs, I had help I could call on.

    I know what it is to be hurtin’ and destitute. It could happen to many of us tomorrow.

    Small is beautiful baby.

  26.   damian Says:

    thank you for your answer, i’d like to ask if is there any chance to get confirmation (automatically from competition’s google account, or some other way) of receiving submit – just to make sure that there were no eventual technical problems with sending e-mail and generally taking part in competition. Thank you, best regards.

  27.   matthew.Stanfield Says:

    I understand that there should be not identifiers on the drawings / images, but i am wondering how the designs will be tracked with respect to crediting the designer. Should there be some identifier in the file names, or will the files submitted be tracked with the eMail from which they are sent, regardless of the file name?

    •   Rod Taylor Says:

      The anonymity is really just for the jurying process, and only relates to the jpg’s or pdf’s you enter – including your name in the body of the email you attach them to is just fine, as the jury won’t be seeing that. You can give your design a name as well, if you choose. Identifiers in the file names are likewise fine, (and probably a good idea to avoid any mix-ups) and they will also be tracked with the email they came with.
      If you could also include your location, that would be great. It’s not required, but it’s interesting to see where the entries are coming from.

  28.   Bill Harbord Says:

    Hi Rod
    Thanks for hosting this competition it was a blast and got the whole family involved. I’d love to build one in my back yard! I think it would be perfect for a student. When do you think you will have the designs posted on the website.
    thanks again…Bill

    •   Rod Taylor Says:

      Hi Bill!
      I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed it, it’s been a blast for me too. I should have the designs posted by Tuesday, October 12th. People will then have until October 26th to vote for their favorite. The one receiving the most votes will then be awarded the “people’s choice” award, in addition to the three finalists that are selected by the jury.

  29.   Matthew C. Kriner Says:

    Hola. Gran trabajo diseño. No me esperaba esto en un miércoles. Este es un gran post historia. Gracias!


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