Dezeen Magazine

ICON announces a global competition to reimagine affordable housing

Promotion: Texan construction technology company ICON has announced a global competition calling on the architecture community to submit home designs that can be built for under $99,000 (USD). 

Called Initiative 99, the competition invites architects and designers to compete for a $1 million prize by submitting proposals for accessible and beautiful homes that can be built for under $99,000.

The multi-phase competition will be judged by an expert panel including Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. ICON hopes to demonstrate how breakthroughs in the technology it uses – such as 3D printing robotics, software and advanced materials – can make what once seemed impossible and out of reach achievable.

The multi-phase, year-long competition offers a total prize fund of $1 million (USD) and ICON says it is committed to building a selection of winning designs at multiple locations, which will be announced in the future.

Interiors of a house with a wooden ceiling
The competition invites architects and designers to compete for a $1 million prize

Initiative 99 will open for registration on 23 May 2023 and firms, individuals and university students are all encouraged to participate.

"We need a moonshot for affordable housing," said ICON co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard. "I believe Initiative 99 will be the most important architectural competition in history."

"The current market lacks beautiful, accessible, dignified and functional solutions with viable economics that can be efficiently and rapidly constructed for the communities that need it most. It's time we attack the problem just as energetically as we've addressed other human challenges in the past."

ICON believes that the current approach to homebuilding and addressing the global housing crisis is not working, citing that currently there are more than 1.2 billion globally who lack adequate shelter.

Photograph of a woman sitting on a bed with two of her children
Entrants should submit home designs that can be built for under $99,000

"With Initiative 99, we are changing the way that we talk about affordable housing," said Ballard. "When we talk about affordable housing, the conversation is often depressing and so are the results."

"Our goal is that Initiative 99 would in turn create the conditions for affordable housing to be something hopeful, optimistic and exciting, and furthermore catalyses the building of some really incredible affordable homes that just years ago would not have even been possible. The future could be a wonder, but we have to all work together to make it so."

The Initiative 99 jury is made up of an expert panel of architectural practitioners, academic leaders, policymakers and non-profit organisations.

These include architect and dean of architecture at the University of Texas, Michelle Addington; chief sustainability officer at the City of Austin, Lucia Athens; CEO and co-founder of New Story, Brett Hagler; founder and creative director of Bjarke Ingels Group, Bjarke Ingels; leader of a housing unit at UN-Habitat, Christophe Lalande; director of design in ICON, Michael McDaniel; and vice president of building design and performance at ICON, Melodie Yashar.

Initiative graphic
Applicants can sign up to learn more on the Initiative 99 website

Registration for the competition opens on 23 May 2023. Applicants can sign up to learn more on the Initiative 99 website.

ICON was founded in 2017 and is headquartered in Austin, Texas. It is currently building a neighbourhood of 100 3D-printed houses designed by Bjarke Ingels' practice BIG in Austin, Texas, and is also working with the firm to design a desert campground and housing project called El Cosmico for hotelier Liz Lambert, in Marfa, Texas.

Last year, the company revealed that it had been awarded a $57 million contract by Space agency NASA to develop 3D-printing technology to build roads, launchpads and homes on the moon's surface.

To view more about ICON, visit its website.

Partnership content

This article was written by Dezeen for ICON as part of a partnership. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.