Competition: Modular Timber Housing

The world is facing the challenge of climate change and loss of biodiversity, and there is a widespread shortage of affordable housing in the face of urbanisation and changing living standards. This raises the question of how to build quality and affordable housing efficiently and quickly in a way that does not create new environmental, social and health problems.

The buildings of the future will have to be based on environmentally and user-friendly materials and technologies. Wood is one such material. Smart technologies will help us to optimise construction processes, making the best use of resources, and construction more affordable and faster.

New building solutions will have to follow the values of sustainable development and strive for ecologically sound materials, minimal environmental impact and good architectural and engineering design, which will allow for fast and efficient turnkey construction, affordability, energy efficiency, liveability and reusability.


How can modular timber construction be used to respond to the contemporary housing crisis?

How to achieve the greatest architectural variety with the fewest building elements possible?


Purpose of the competition

The competition aims to find innovative ideas for a universal modular timber building system. The ideas must be based on real needs, with an eye to the future.

We want to redefine the construction industry as the production of standard elements and create a new, more efficient construction system that is both durable and sustainable.

We are looking for design solutions for basic prefabricated modules that allow the greatest possible variety of housing units and typological adaptation to different locations.

The basic building block is the panel, a wall whose basic material is wood, and the term is thus exclusively hereafter. The panels developed by Modular Timber™ will be fully prefabricated from the inner to the outer layers. The starting point of the competition is the development of a basic set of panels and an architectural typology based on this set.

Competition brief

We seek the best design of an innovative modular system for timber panel construction. The solution consists of the design of a modular panel system, the architectural design of different housing units and the demonstration of the housing typology on a fictitious site.

1. Panel system

A set of basic panels needs to be developed. A basic panel is a fully prefabricated wall panel with a defined composition and architectural openings. The aim is to achieve as much architectural and typological diversity as possible, with as few different wall panels as possible (from 5 to a maximum of 12).

Ceiling/floor panels and inner walls are also part of the panel solution, and must comply with the same gross dimension limits.

Consideration should also be given to stand-alone modules whose functions could not be satisfactorily addressed by a basic set of wall panels for reasons of efficiency and quality. At the same time, the modules should be compatible with the basic panels. These modules are:

Sanitary facilities: provide the dimensions of one small (WC) and one large (family bathroom) sanitary unit. Take into account the standards for people with reduced mobility.

Vertical circulation: elevator shaft, internal staircase, common staircase.

Additional features: balconies, terraces.

2. Basic housing units

Show five different floor plans made from basic panels and modules: studio apartment (one person, 30 m²), two-bedroom apartment (two people, 45 m²), three-bedroom apartment (a family with one child, 60 m²), four-bedroom apartment (a family with two children, 80 m²), and duplex apartment with internal staircase (a family with three children, 120 m²).

The net floor area values are recommended, with moderate tolerances (±5 m²) allowed.

3. Building typology and spatial application

We want to encourage sustainable, dense urban living, so the focus of the competition is on the typology of a multi-apartment building. We are interested in original typological ideas that can influence ways of living together in the society of the future.

Using modular panels, design 1 (one) multi-apartment building on a given fictitious site and present it with all the necessary means of presentation.

The building should be four storeys (G+3) and should be comprised of all the previously designed units. The number of dwellings is left to the competitor, but an equal number of dwellings for each kind of unit is required (a difference of up to ±1 unit is allowed).

For example: 3 studio apartments, 4 two-bedroom apartments, 3 three-bedroom apartments, 3 four-bedroom apartments and 2 duplex apartments. In the example given, the average number of dwellings for each type of housing unit is 3.

The contestants are invited to choose the geometry and type of building on the proposed fictitious site.

The ground floor has a public or commercial programme and is not subject to detailed treatment. Show load-bearing walls and common circulation as part of the proposal.

Materials and technology

The basic construction technology consists of wall and ceiling panels, fully prefabricated from the inner to the outer layers (including the inner wall up to and including the façade). Ceiling panels may have the same structural base as the wall panels, with added reinforcements for increased load-bearing capacity.

The aim is to have as few individual panel types as possible, while at the same time allowing as many final building designs as possible to be assembled from them. It is envisaged that a satisfactory architectural variety should be achieved with approximately ten (10) different wall geometries. For example: two or three different wall lengths, each length having two to four variations of joinery, and the panels can be without openings or fully (panoramic) glazed. All wall elements must be the same height.

In addition to the wall elements, standard columns (one component) and beams (as many different lengths as the basic wall lengths) are allowed to enable competitors to provide larger open spaces.

The proposed solutions must be technically feasible. If the competitors submit architectural elements in their building designs that cannot be technically supported by their proposed building technology, i.e. components (e.g. double cantilevers, oversized spans, etc.), the solution will not be considered credible.

The panels are manufactured in the factory and assembled on site. The dimensions of the panels must therefore meet the standards of regular road transport, which is limited by the following dimensions:

Length 1: from 1.25 m to 13.5 m
Length 2 (height): up to 2.95 m
Width: 2.45 m

The length of the panel should be measured from the extreme corner of one corner to the extreme corner of the other corner.

The thickness of the panel with all layers (installation plane and finishing layers) should be 25-45 cm. Internal walls can be thinner as they do not need additional layers, such as thermal insulation. Walls used to separate two independent dwelling units must provide sufficient sound insulation, which also affects their thickness.

The basic building materials are wood and natural fibres. Interior finishing layers must be human-friendly and pleasant to the touch. The recommended use of wood in the interior is between 30% and 70% of the visible surfaces. The use of skeletal or solid construction (or a hybrid of both) is allowed. The choice must be technically and financially viable.

The technology of the joint is not the subject of the assignment. Any angle between the two walls is possible.

The foundations are not the subject of this assignment.

Roof: Contestants are asked to provide a flat roof, which may be walk-on, but is not subject to evaluation.


To illustrate the spatial situation, a fictitious site with the dimensions of 70 m x 50 m is provided with the competition materials that the contestants will download.

Parking spaces, public spaces and urban furnishings are not subject to the competition brief or evaluation.

Implementation of the design

The competition is not intended for direct implementation, but instead we are looking for a universal modular system that can be applied to a wider European or global context with individual adaptations.

Conditions of participation

The competition is open to architects, urban planners, landscape architects, civil engineers, industrial designers and students of these disciplines.


Špela Videčnik, architect, OFIS architects; lecturer at Harvard GSD, Boston, MA, USA; and the Architectural Association, London, UK

Rok Oman, architect, OFIS Architects; lecturer at Harvard GSD, Boston, MA, USA; and the Architectural Association, London, UK

Gregor Turnšek, architect and partner, JKMM Architects, Helsinki, Finland

Marko Hozjan, Modular Timber™

Dr Iztok Šušteršič, expert in sustainable construction with renewable materials

Peter Pavšič, architect

Matevž Granda, architect and executive editor of Outsider magazine


Three winning entries will be selected and a total of 10 prizes will be awarded. The winners will receive prizes worth a total of EUR 9,000:

  • First Prize: EUR 4,000
  • Second prize: EUR 2,000
  • Third prize: EUR 1,250
  • Seven prizes of EUR 250 each

The Jury has the right to reallocate the prize fund in any other way at its discretion.

All amounts are gross. The organisers will award plaques to all winners and prize winners. The winners will receive media coverage on the Outsider website and through Modular Timber™ media, and the opportunity for further business collaboration in the development of modular timber buildings.


  • 20/01/2023: opening of the call for proposals and receipt of applications
  • 15/02/2023: end of acceptance of questions
  • 20/02/2023: publication of the answers to the questions on the website (all registrants will be notified by email)
  • 31/03/2023 at 23:59 CET: deadline for submission of solutions
  • 28/04/2023: announcement of the results.

Questions and answers (Q&A)

Questions will be accepted by email to [email protected]until 15 February 2023. Applicants should put “TIMBERCompetition – Questions” in the subject line. The answers to the questions will be published on the competition website, without reference to the individual or team who asked them. All entrants will also be notified by email of any questions that have been answered.


All authors retain moral copyright. Outsider magazine and Modular Timber™ have the right to the exclusive publication of the copyrighted works.

The material rights of the winning project belong to Modular Timber™. After the end of the competition, Modular Timber™ may invite a specific author to further develop the product. Even if such an agreement is not reached, Modular Timber™ has the right to assign and process the project.

By submitting their work to the competition, the authors agree to all the terms and conditions of the competition.


The deadline for entering the competition is 31 March 2023.

Registration is compulsory. There are no registration fees.

Applicants will receive a six-digit PIN code (for example: A15GH3) when they apply. The PIN code allocated should be used for the purposes set out in the competition rules.

When registering, the applicant will receive an email with a download link to the related competition materials.

Registration in the web form.

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