Category I Affordable Housing


The 2017-2018 Steel Design Student Competition is socially oriented to challenge students to design affordable multi-family housing in an urban context.

The need for affordable housing types is on the rise. Populations are moving back to the city, realizing the cost of living, required commuting, and range of quality-of-life options afforded by living near the urban core. Not only for those who have a choice to live in denser environments, but also for low-income populations, housing must be affordable. Today’s housing problems are difficult, but architects are in a unique place to envision innovative solutions to the housing crisis that affects so many.

Steel is an ideal material for affordable multi-story housing because it offers the greatest strength to weight ratio and can be designed systematically as a kit of parts or prefabricated to allow for quicker construction times and less labor, thus reducing the cost of construction. Housing built with steel is potentially more flexible and adaptable to allow for diversity of family structures and changing family needs over time.

The site for the competition is the choice of the student and/or faculty sponsor. It is required, however, for the site to be in a dense urban context, close to public transportation and city amenities.  Submissions will be required to explain graphically or otherwise the site selection and strategy.

Construction Type
The design project must be conceived in structural steel construction.  A strategy should be considered that evaluates a method for reducing overall construction cost for the affordable housing project in steel using innovative methods of structure, fabrication, and construction.

Mixed-use multifamily housing should respect the ethnically and economically diverse urban fabric. The program is to design a new steel building structure and must meet a minimum of eight levels in height. The design must consider the life cycle of the building, mixed income units, residential support spaces and mixed-use spaces.

The functional and programmatic requirements for the residential space outlined below must be met at a minimum. The area allocations, however, are suggestions only and may be altered. Solutions should observe the total gross square footage, within a range of plus or minus ten percent.

Residential Space Allocation
Residential Units
3 bedroom units                                 10 @ 1,500 sq. ft.       = 15,000 square feet
2 bedroom units                                 15 @ 1,000 sq. ft.       = 15,000 square feet
1 bedroom units                                 15 @ 600 sq. ft.          =  9,000 square feet
Live / Work units                                10 @ 1,500 sq. ft.       = 15,000 square feet           

Additional Residential Support Spaces         
Lobby                                                                                         1,500 square feet
Office                                                                                            500 square feet
Exercise Room                                                                          1,000 square feet
Mail Room                                                                                    300 square feet
Loading Dock/Waste                                                                    700 square feet

Total Square Feet for Residence                                             58,000 square feet

Mixed-use Space Allocation
The mixed-use function space should be built on the demands of the city and site selected. Below is a list of possible mixed-used functions with space allocations. Students and/or faculty sponsors can choose from the list below or determine from the demands of the chosen site.

Large Retail                                        1 @ 20,000 sq. ft.       = 20,000 square feet
Small Retail                                        10 @ 1500 sq. ft.        = 15,000 square feet
Restaurant                                          2 @ 5000 sq. ft.          = 10,000 square feet
Office Units                                        4 @ 1500 sq. ft.           =   6,000 square feet
Recreation                                          1 @ 5000 sq. ft.          =   5,000 square feet

Total Square Feet for Mixed-use                                               56,000 square feet
Total Gross Square Feet                                                          114,000 square feet

Total Net Square Feet Plus 10% Allowance
For mechanical areas, circulation, structure, etc.                   125,400 square feet


Program updates, including information on jury members as they are confirmed, may be found on the ACSA web site at Additional questions on the competition program and submissions should be addressed to:

Allison Smith
Programs Manager

Eric Wayne Ellis
Director of Operations and Programs

2017-2018 Steel Competition
Category II OPEN
Guidelines & Registration
Steel Video Resources
Competition Organizers

2017-2018 Steel Design Student Competition Program (PDF)