Framing your design and build competition

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At the start of the process you need to rally resources to successfully frame the competition.  This involves a number of key steps:

  • Setting goals.
  • Scoping the project.
  • Building the team.
  • Pulling together resources for the brief.
  • Developing the brief.
  • Identifying the site.
  • Putting together a scoping document.


Outcomes sought - Setting the goals

Before embarking on a competition, it is best to be clear upfront about the outcomes that you desire and the goals that you are pursuing.  Some of the questions that may help you to define this include:

  • What are you (and your partners) trying to achieve with a competition?
  • What would success look like from the perspective of the design and the build?
  • Is a competition the most efficient use of time and money to achieve the end goal?
  • Do stakeholders share a vision that a winning design can be enthusiastically received?
  • Is there enough of a shared vision amongst stakeholders that a winning design can be enthusiastically received?
  • Are you just interested in the design (an ideas competition) or do you want to see a successful demonstration of the project on the ground (a design and build competition)?


Scoping the project

To get things started, it can be useful to initiate a project scoping stage at the beginning of the competition.   Scoping is the task of the core project team - the key members who want to get the competition off the ground and have it as a recognised responsibility in their organisation.   Scoping helps the core project team jointly agree how to progress and should achieve the following:

  • Evolves and informs the direction of the design and build competition so that it can act as an exemplar of the design you are trying to achieve (for Breathe it was mixed-use medium density housing development).
  • Explores funding to support the development of the competition and to pay a short list of commended entries and a winner.
  • Provides an evolving framework outlining what would be required to get the design built.
  • Documents and evaluates the process and what is delivered.

One of the main deliverables from the scoping stage is a document that serves as an evolving repository of ideas and sets out clearly the agreed goals and objectives. 


Roles to be played and main tasks

  • Consultation partner building.
  • Documenting vision, building consensus.
  • Evolving the core team of people who will drive the vision forward.
  • Secretariat and project management services.
  • Identifying the site and other aspects of the competition such as connections to existing neighbourhoods, levels of mixed use, ability to scale, proposed density, target costs.
  • Use this tool kit as a guide to the kinds of things that need to be started in scoping (e.g. setting up judging panel.
  • Identifying and engaging ‘champions’ in each of the main stakeholder organisations.


Identifying the site

Identifying the main site is a key aspect of the competition and involves an evaluation of what is available to you as well as aspects of the site that will lend themselves to a good completion.  Look for connections to existing neighbourhoods, levels of mixed use, ability to scale, proposed density, and target costs.  Developing a list of criteria for choosing a site might help.  Consider:

  • Does a project stakeholder already have a site that they are keen to see developed?
  • Does the project have links to someone who has a site? What is the likely relationship between the project and     the site owner?
  • Does the site have any development rules attached to it and might these help or hinder the competition?
  • Are there any site specific constraints that would have to be highlighted in the competition brief?
  • What is the surrounding neighbourhood like and will the vision for the competition fit alongside or within that?

Breathe site

Breathe site

  • 19-Aug-2012 (Publication )

    Design Competition Task List Template (Excel 50KB)

    A template for typical tasks needed to run a design and build competition, based on the Breathe experience.

  • 01-Aug-2012 (Publication )

    Breathe Project Scoping Document (PDF 166KB)

    The scoping document prepared for the Breathe design and build competition by Beacon Pathway.

Things to think about

  • Scoping the vision, getting feedback, getting buy-in - consultation is also a good opportunity to generate interest and buy in to the goals of the competition.
  • Staging the work so you can fund the first step that lets you then explore securing additional partnerships and funding.
  • Where the resulting development or building will sit in relation to the neighbourhood.
  • Consider reading through this whole toolkit and then revisiting this section when scoping the competition - there could be a few things that you haven’t thought about that crop up; and you will scope a better project with these identified at the start.

We invite you to submit feedback to improve this toolkit in the future:

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