Backyard Homes Design Competition

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Congratulations to the winners and honorable mentions! The winning backyard home designs were: 

Thank you to everyone who entered the Backyard Homes Design Competition.  


Imagine you’re the designer and builder of a Backyard Home. Who would you want to build that home for? How would you make sure the person living there is cozy and happy?

Create a custom backyard home for someone living in Kitchener and enter for a chance to win prize money while you do it!

The Backyard Home Design Competition asks you to design a backyard home in Kitchener and tell us the story of who lives there.

Participants will choose one of four categories to participate in. A panel of judges will grade the submissions based on what’s required and if the design meets the needs of the homeowner.

Let’s get started!

Who can enter the competition?

Anyone who lives, works, or recreates in Kitchener is welcome to enter. There are four categories and the rules are different for each one:

Professional category: Open to design professionals, including architects, urban designers, planners, architectural technologists, landscape architects and others.

Post-secondary student category: Open to students currently enrolled in any year of a planning, architecture, urban design, engineering or similar post-secondary program

Adult category: Open to anyone 18 years of age or older. Families, pairs and small groups are also welcome to apply under this category.

Youth category: Open to anyone under the age of 18.

If you are a design professional or a post-secondary student studying design, take a look at the Call for Submissions. In those categories we're looking for professional-level entries and we're asking for a lot of technical detail.

For everyone else, read on for everything you need to know to enter the competition!

The deadline for all submissions is August 20th, 2021.

What can I win?

Each category has prize money available for the winner, as well as up to five honourable mentions.

Professional: Winner’s Prize, $2,500. Honourable Mentions, $250

Post-Secondary Student: Winner’s Prize, $2,000. Honourable Mentions, $200

Adult/Group: Winner’s Prize, $1,000. Honourable Mentions, $100

Youth: Winner’s Prize, $500. Honourable Mentions, $50

Winners and honourable mentions will be featured in a free publication, produced by the City of Kitchener.

Okay, what’s a backyard home?

A Backyard Home is a small home in the backyard of an existing residential property (single-detached or duplex). There are different kinds of backyard homes such as a backyard bunkie, cottage home, tiny home or granny flat.

They’re more affordable than a typical home and provide residents with more flexibility to meet their living needs.


A Backyard Home in Kitchener. Owner: KW Habilitation. Designed by: Edge Architects

Show us your Backyard Home idea

Design a Backyard Home in Kitchener and tell us who the home is for. It could be for a college graduate looking for their first home, a grandparent who’s looking to downsize, or maybe it could be for you! The story could be made up or real based on someone you know.

Submit at least one visual (a sketch, a plan, a collage, a model—be creative!) and written submission telling us your story. 200 words maximum. If you’re having trouble getting started, feel free to use our Workbook as a guide (available here digitally).

Submissions can be a video, a picture, a PDF… pretty much any file that lets you tell us your story! Regrettably, we cannot accept .avi files at this time.

Be sure to include your name, phone number and email address in the written submission so we can notify you if you’ve won!

What happens after I submit?

After you submit your Backyard Home design, City staff will collect it and anonymize it so that the jury will not see any personal information as they award winners in each category.

After the August 20th deadline, the jury will receive all submissions and award a winner and up to 5 honourable mentions in each category.

Winners and honourable mentions will receive prize money, and their Backyard Home will be featured in a publication, created by the City of Kitchener, that will be freely available to all who are interested in building a Backyard Home!

Note: If awarded, your name will be published alongside your written submission and visual materials. Other personal contact information will not be included.

Submission example

Tell us your story any way you like! It could be with popsicle sticks, Lego, paper maché, clay, a drawing, a floor layout… the options are endless!

The written submission should explain how your backyard home meets the needs of the person(s) living in it. Try to limit yourself to 200 words or fewer while providing enough detail explaining how your design creates the perfect home for the occupant.

Happy designing!


Below is an example of what your submission could look like.

(WRITTEN EXAMPLE) Emily is a recent graduate in Visual Arts. She uses a wheelchair to get around, so it’s important that her Backyard Home is barrier free and close to transit. Emily loves nature, and her work is inspired by it, so her home is designed to be surrounded by green space. The large wrap around patio provides an accessible outdoor space for Emily to enjoy, while also connecting her to both the driveway and the lane that abuts the back of the property. One of the challenges in this design was making sure the spaces could meet Emily’s mobility needs in such a small space.


(VISUAL EXAMPLE)

What your home needs to have

These are the must-haves for your Backyard Home design:

  • A kitchen
  • A bathroom
  • Windows for, at minimum, all bedrooms and living spaces (kitchens, bathrooms and closets do not require windows, but can definitely have them!)
  • Less than half the size of the main home on the property (these aren’t mansions!)
  • Parking space if the resident needs it

Scoring points with the judges

Judges are looking for a combination of creativity and detail. They want to see how your backyard home design meets the needs of the person(s) living inside of it. Explain in the written submission who will be living in the backyard home and what challenges they may have, and then have fun with the visual submission showing how you’ll make sure they are as happy as possible.

How to enter the competition

Use the entry form below, choose your category, and send us your backyard home design!

For full contest details, visit www.kitchener.ca/Contests

Have a question?

Submit your question using the Q&A below. Questions and answers will be posted regularly throughout the competition, so check back regularly!


Imagine you’re the designer and builder of a Backyard Home. Who would you want to build that home for? How would you make sure the person living there is cozy and happy?

Create a custom backyard home for someone living in Kitchener and enter for a chance to win prize money while you do it!

The Backyard Home Design Competition asks you to design a backyard home in Kitchener and tell us the story of who lives there.

Participants will choose one of four categories to participate in. A panel of judges will grade the submissions based on what’s required and if the design meets the needs of the homeowner.

Let’s get started!

Who can enter the competition?

Anyone who lives, works, or recreates in Kitchener is welcome to enter. There are four categories and the rules are different for each one:

Professional category: Open to design professionals, including architects, urban designers, planners, architectural technologists, landscape architects and others.

Post-secondary student category: Open to students currently enrolled in any year of a planning, architecture, urban design, engineering or similar post-secondary program

Adult category: Open to anyone 18 years of age or older. Families, pairs and small groups are also welcome to apply under this category.

Youth category: Open to anyone under the age of 18.

If you are a design professional or a post-secondary student studying design, take a look at the Call for Submissions. In those categories we're looking for professional-level entries and we're asking for a lot of technical detail.

For everyone else, read on for everything you need to know to enter the competition!

The deadline for all submissions is August 20th, 2021.

What can I win?

Each category has prize money available for the winner, as well as up to five honourable mentions.

Professional: Winner’s Prize, $2,500. Honourable Mentions, $250

Post-Secondary Student: Winner’s Prize, $2,000. Honourable Mentions, $200

Adult/Group: Winner’s Prize, $1,000. Honourable Mentions, $100

Youth: Winner’s Prize, $500. Honourable Mentions, $50

Winners and honourable mentions will be featured in a free publication, produced by the City of Kitchener.

Okay, what’s a backyard home?

A Backyard Home is a small home in the backyard of an existing residential property (single-detached or duplex). There are different kinds of backyard homes such as a backyard bunkie, cottage home, tiny home or granny flat.

They’re more affordable than a typical home and provide residents with more flexibility to meet their living needs.


A Backyard Home in Kitchener. Owner: KW Habilitation. Designed by: Edge Architects

Show us your Backyard Home idea

Design a Backyard Home in Kitchener and tell us who the home is for. It could be for a college graduate looking for their first home, a grandparent who’s looking to downsize, or maybe it could be for you! The story could be made up or real based on someone you know.

Submit at least one visual (a sketch, a plan, a collage, a model—be creative!) and written submission telling us your story. 200 words maximum. If you’re having trouble getting started, feel free to use our Workbook as a guide (available here digitally).

Submissions can be a video, a picture, a PDF… pretty much any file that lets you tell us your story! Regrettably, we cannot accept .avi files at this time.

Be sure to include your name, phone number and email address in the written submission so we can notify you if you’ve won!

What happens after I submit?

After you submit your Backyard Home design, City staff will collect it and anonymize it so that the jury will not see any personal information as they award winners in each category.

After the August 20th deadline, the jury will receive all submissions and award a winner and up to 5 honourable mentions in each category.

Winners and honourable mentions will receive prize money, and their Backyard Home will be featured in a publication, created by the City of Kitchener, that will be freely available to all who are interested in building a Backyard Home!

Note: If awarded, your name will be published alongside your written submission and visual materials. Other personal contact information will not be included.

Submission example

Tell us your story any way you like! It could be with popsicle sticks, Lego, paper maché, clay, a drawing, a floor layout… the options are endless!

The written submission should explain how your backyard home meets the needs of the person(s) living in it. Try to limit yourself to 200 words or fewer while providing enough detail explaining how your design creates the perfect home for the occupant.

Happy designing!


Below is an example of what your submission could look like.

(WRITTEN EXAMPLE) Emily is a recent graduate in Visual Arts. She uses a wheelchair to get around, so it’s important that her Backyard Home is barrier free and close to transit. Emily loves nature, and her work is inspired by it, so her home is designed to be surrounded by green space. The large wrap around patio provides an accessible outdoor space for Emily to enjoy, while also connecting her to both the driveway and the lane that abuts the back of the property. One of the challenges in this design was making sure the spaces could meet Emily’s mobility needs in such a small space.


(VISUAL EXAMPLE)

What your home needs to have

These are the must-haves for your Backyard Home design:

  • A kitchen
  • A bathroom
  • Windows for, at minimum, all bedrooms and living spaces (kitchens, bathrooms and closets do not require windows, but can definitely have them!)
  • Less than half the size of the main home on the property (these aren’t mansions!)
  • Parking space if the resident needs it

Scoring points with the judges

Judges are looking for a combination of creativity and detail. They want to see how your backyard home design meets the needs of the person(s) living inside of it. Explain in the written submission who will be living in the backyard home and what challenges they may have, and then have fun with the visual submission showing how you’ll make sure they are as happy as possible.

How to enter the competition

Use the entry form below, choose your category, and send us your backyard home design!

For full contest details, visit www.kitchener.ca/Contests

Have a question?

Submit your question using the Q&A below. Questions and answers will be posted regularly throughout the competition, so check back regularly!

Congratulations to the winners and honorable mentions! The winning backyard home designs were: 

Thank you to everyone who entered the Backyard Homes Design Competition.  

Do you have questions about the competition? Post them here and you'll get a response within 2 business days. 

  • Share I am submitting on behalf of my office in the professional category, do we need to submit as a team and each fill out a team member form today or can I just submit for the office as one person? Also if separate team member forms are required can they be submitted tomorrow? on Facebook Share I am submitting on behalf of my office in the professional category, do we need to submit as a team and each fill out a team member form today or can I just submit for the office as one person? Also if separate team member forms are required can they be submitted tomorrow? on Twitter Share I am submitting on behalf of my office in the professional category, do we need to submit as a team and each fill out a team member form today or can I just submit for the office as one person? Also if separate team member forms are required can they be submitted tomorrow? on Linkedin Email I am submitting on behalf of my office in the professional category, do we need to submit as a team and each fill out a team member form today or can I just submit for the office as one person? Also if separate team member forms are required can they be submitted tomorrow? link

    I am submitting on behalf of my office in the professional category, do we need to submit as a team and each fill out a team member form today or can I just submit for the office as one person? Also if separate team member forms are required can they be submitted tomorrow?

    Haley Gamble asked almost 3 years ago

    Please feel free to submit for the office as one person, and to complete the team member forms at your convenience. All we need to consider the submission complete is the submission itself; the team forms just help us coordinate and keep track of all participants so we can help ensure everyone is properly credited. 

  • Share The call for submissions requires plans and elevations at 1:100, this is very small on an Arch D and makes the drawings difficult to read, can we submit our drawings at 1:50? on Facebook Share The call for submissions requires plans and elevations at 1:100, this is very small on an Arch D and makes the drawings difficult to read, can we submit our drawings at 1:50? on Twitter Share The call for submissions requires plans and elevations at 1:100, this is very small on an Arch D and makes the drawings difficult to read, can we submit our drawings at 1:50? on Linkedin Email The call for submissions requires plans and elevations at 1:100, this is very small on an Arch D and makes the drawings difficult to read, can we submit our drawings at 1:50? link

    The call for submissions requires plans and elevations at 1:100, this is very small on an Arch D and makes the drawings difficult to read, can we submit our drawings at 1:50?

    Haley Gamble asked almost 3 years ago

    Yes, please consider the recommended scales as a minimum; larger scales such as 1:50 are certainly welcome. 

  • Share I am interested in focusing my project on Kitchener in the future. Should we design to present-day climate conditions and technology, or would we be able to account for climate change or advances in building technology in our design? on Facebook Share I am interested in focusing my project on Kitchener in the future. Should we design to present-day climate conditions and technology, or would we be able to account for climate change or advances in building technology in our design? on Twitter Share I am interested in focusing my project on Kitchener in the future. Should we design to present-day climate conditions and technology, or would we be able to account for climate change or advances in building technology in our design? on Linkedin Email I am interested in focusing my project on Kitchener in the future. Should we design to present-day climate conditions and technology, or would we be able to account for climate change or advances in building technology in our design? link

    I am interested in focusing my project on Kitchener in the future. Should we design to present-day climate conditions and technology, or would we be able to account for climate change or advances in building technology in our design?

    Jennifer Chen asked almost 3 years ago

    We strongly encourage that submissions consider climate change adaptation and mitigation as a part of their design. As this is an 'ideas' competition, a submission that looks toward the future would certainly be welcome. 

  • Share Are lofts permitted, and if so, are they required to meet OBC ceiling height requirements? (9.5.3.1) on Facebook Share Are lofts permitted, and if so, are they required to meet OBC ceiling height requirements? (9.5.3.1) on Twitter Share Are lofts permitted, and if so, are they required to meet OBC ceiling height requirements? (9.5.3.1) on Linkedin Email Are lofts permitted, and if so, are they required to meet OBC ceiling height requirements? (9.5.3.1) link

    Are lofts permitted, and if so, are they required to meet OBC ceiling height requirements? (9.5.3.1)

    adelestrub asked almost 3 years ago

    Lofts are permitted, provided that the total building height does not exceed the maximums in the zoning by-law (6m at the highest point, 4.5m average height). Any living space will technically need to meet the OBC Part 9 requirements to be built, but this will not be a primary focus of the Jury's review for the purposes of this competition. We encourage creative, forward-thinking solutions to the challenges of creating great Backyard Homes in Kitchener!

  • Share Can International students participate in this competition ? on Facebook Share Can International students participate in this competition ? on Twitter Share Can International students participate in this competition ? on Linkedin Email Can International students participate in this competition ? link

    Can International students participate in this competition ?

    Aashir asked almost 3 years ago

    Yes, absolutely. The competition is not intended to be for Kitchener residents only. An interest or connection to Kitchener can be valuable, but so can many other experiences, and all are welcome.

  • Share Can we do this in groups of two? on Facebook Share Can we do this in groups of two? on Twitter Share Can we do this in groups of two? on Linkedin Email Can we do this in groups of two? link

    Can we do this in groups of two?

    Mei asked almost 3 years ago

    Yes. If your team wins or is an honorable mention, both of you will get credit. But one of you needs to be the official entrant. We will contact that person if your team wins and that person will also receive the prize money. Dividing up prize money among the team is the responsibility of the entrant.

  • Share Is there a maximum or minimum square foot for the design? Does it need to be movable? on Facebook Share Is there a maximum or minimum square foot for the design? Does it need to be movable? on Twitter Share Is there a maximum or minimum square foot for the design? Does it need to be movable? on Linkedin Email Is there a maximum or minimum square foot for the design? Does it need to be movable? link

    Is there a maximum or minimum square foot for the design? Does it need to be movable?

    Karuna asked almost 3 years ago

    Your Backyard Home does not need to be moveable. Most Backyard Homes would not be. The minimum and maximum square footage of a Backyard Home is defined by the zoning by-law, however, for this exercise, consider 500-900sf as a good, ‘typical’ size for your Backyard Home.

  • Share Hi, I am a Planning Student at the University of Waterloo but I do not live in Kitchener, am I eligible to enter the post-secondary category? on Facebook Share Hi, I am a Planning Student at the University of Waterloo but I do not live in Kitchener, am I eligible to enter the post-secondary category? on Twitter Share Hi, I am a Planning Student at the University of Waterloo but I do not live in Kitchener, am I eligible to enter the post-secondary category? on Linkedin Email Hi, I am a Planning Student at the University of Waterloo but I do not live in Kitchener, am I eligible to enter the post-secondary category? link

    Hi, I am a Planning Student at the University of Waterloo but I do not live in Kitchener, am I eligible to enter the post-secondary category?

    Kathryn C asked almost 3 years ago

    Yes, absolutely. The competition is not intended to be for Kitchener residents only. We do hope that entrants have some connection to Kitchener - being a student in the region certainly qualifies. This is not a specific requirement, however, and will not be an evaluation criteria, as the jury will not have access to any personal information. 

  • Share Hello, I would like to join the competition in the professional category. However, I would like to join with a partner. Is it ok to design 1 house with 2 people? Thanks, Jo on Facebook Share Hello, I would like to join the competition in the professional category. However, I would like to join with a partner. Is it ok to design 1 house with 2 people? Thanks, Jo on Twitter Share Hello, I would like to join the competition in the professional category. However, I would like to join with a partner. Is it ok to design 1 house with 2 people? Thanks, Jo on Linkedin Email Hello, I would like to join the competition in the professional category. However, I would like to join with a partner. Is it ok to design 1 house with 2 people? Thanks, Jo link

    Hello, I would like to join the competition in the professional category. However, I would like to join with a partner. Is it ok to design 1 house with 2 people? Thanks, Jo

    JB09 asked almost 3 years ago

    Yes, absolutely. If your team wins or is an honorable mention, both of you will get credit. But one of you needs to be the official entrant. We will contact that person if your team wins and that person will also receive the prize money. Dividing up prize money among the team is the responsibility of the entrant.

  • Share Team - We are amateurs. I would like to do it with my family. Can I do it with 2 to 3 adults? thanks on Facebook Share Team - We are amateurs. I would like to do it with my family. Can I do it with 2 to 3 adults? thanks on Twitter Share Team - We are amateurs. I would like to do it with my family. Can I do it with 2 to 3 adults? thanks on Linkedin Email Team - We are amateurs. I would like to do it with my family. Can I do it with 2 to 3 adults? thanks link

    Team - We are amateurs. I would like to do it with my family. Can I do it with 2 to 3 adults? thanks

    PP asked almost 3 years ago

    Yes, feel free to submit as a group or family! If your group wins or is an honorable mention, everyone will get credit. But one person needs to be the official entrant or representative for your group. We will contact that person if your group wins and they will also receive the prize money. Dividing up prize money among the group is the responsibility of the entrant.