Baltimore Carbon Challenge Design Requirements & Rules

The Carbon Challenge Design Competition challenged architects to transform a vacant lot in Baltimore’s Oliver neighborhood by designing a series of iconic row houses that consider the environmental footprint of the construction materials.

Design Criteria

  1. The home must be designed to meet “Transform Baltimore” zoning requirements per the City of Baltimore and the Urban Renewal Plan for Oliver Neighborhood. A simplified version of the zoning requirements and Urban Renewal Plan for this community is available as Exhibit A (see below). Any discrepancy will be reviewed by the judges as to whether it is cause for disqualification. The site plan, photos of the lot, and photos of existing homes in the community are available as Exhibit B (see below).
  2. The proposed site for the competition is vacant land located in the 1500 block of N. Bethel Street.
  3. The design is for a home to be lived in by three working adult occupants, sharing the space as roommates. One section of the home (e.g., the first floor) shall be communal space with the option of hosting events, including appropriate open space and a kitchen. Direct access shall be provided to a rear yard and parking to be located behind the row house.
  4. The footprint of the foundation (one unit) shall be a minimum of 15 feet in width and minimum 50 feet in depth. The total square footage of the home shall be between 1,750 and 2,500 square feet.
  5. The submittal shall include a complete design of one unit in the row house as described above, as well as a design of the streetscape for the complete row house structure with a total of eight or nine units, including the designed unit. It is the designer’s discretion as to whether the units match in elevation or not, and which unit in the streetscape is the complete design as described above.
  6. The estimated cost range to construct the home (not including design fees or the cost of the lot) shall be between $180,000 and $220,000.
  7. The home shall be designed with the intention of meeting a minimum Silver level qualification in the National Green Building Standard, ICC-700.
  8. Of the major structural systems in the home, including floors/foundation, walls, and roof, at least two must be constructed with wood as the primary structural component.

Exhibit A: Simplified Version of Zoning Requirements and Urban Renewal Plan for Oliver Neighborhood

1. Zoning R-8
2. Row house Bulk and Yard Regulations

a. Min Lot Area: 750 sf/du *(URP 1,100 sf/du)
b. Max Building Height: 35' (45' where row house is more than 30' in width)
c. Max Lot Coverage: 80% *(URP 50%)
d. Max Impervious Surfaces: 65% (*URP regulation varies from zoning)
e. Min Front Yard Requirements: None
f.  Min Interior Side Yard: None
g. Min Corner Side Yard: None
h. Min Rear Yard: 20'

3. Infills must build to existing setbacks on either side of the development. (Intent of design standards is to match infill with existing coordinated row house design of the development.)
4. Alleys with auto access to any interior parking must be provided.
5. Model site for Carbon Challenge Design Competition is vacant land located in the 1500 block of N. Bethel Street.

a. Current plat shows twelve 12-foot wide lots on this site.
b. For competition purposes, assume land is to be re-platted to meet new zoning code and allow for the wider lots required in the competition (15 feet minimum).

Exhibit B: Site Plan, Photos of the Lot, and Photos of Existing Homes in Community

Photo of model site located in the 1500 block of N. Bethel Street in Baltimore, BD​
​​Baltimore Model Site

View the site plan and map of the site location

Baltimore Site Plan


View photos of the surrounding area and existing homes in the community

Baltimore Area

Judging Criteria

Category Percentage
1. Each participant will be given a free version of the Athena Impact Estimator software to determine their LCA (life-cycle assessment) global warming potential score. That score is based on cradle-to-grave life-cycle (from extraction of raw materials, to product manufacture, to completion of structure, to structure demolition) and includes fossil fuel energy use. View the Life-Cycle Assessment Software page for instructions on accessing the free Impact Estimator software. A printout of the global warming potential impact measure from the Athena Impact Estimator software is required with each submission and will be reviewed for accuracy by the Athena Institute prior to final judging.
Note: Any design provisions which you feel impact the global warming potential of your design and are not recognized by the Impact Estimator software may be independently reviewed by the Athena Institute and the judges for consideration in the competition. If you think that your design has a significant positive feature(s) that is outside the scope of the Impact Estimator software, please provide a written statement of why you believe that specific aspect of your design impacts the global warming potential.
2. Operational energy use, including heating and cooling and hot water  20%
3. Affordability and constructability  20%
4. Aesthetics and livability  20%
Total 100%


  1. Entries shall be an original home design by the submitting designer.
  2. The winning entrants shall indemnify and hold FPL and APA harmless from any proceedings or claims asserted against FPL and APA resulting from materials solely furnished by the Winning Entrant involving copyright infringement, violations of personal rights of privacy, misappropriation of ideas or rights and literary piracy or plagiarism, excepting claims arising from materials or information furnished by FPL and APA or from matters with respect to which the Winning Entrant has advised FPL and APA, in writing, of the legal risks involved and FPL and APA, by its specific approval, has assumed the risks thereof, in which cases FPL and APA shall so indemnify the Winning Entrant.
  3. Entries shall be designed to meet the requirements of the 2012 International Residential Code (IRC), and the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).
  4. The design criteria for the competition are listed separately and must be met to be eligible for cash prizes.
  5. To maintain anonymity, registered competitors will be given a registration number. Entry submittals shall only be identified by the registration number, and not with any name or company name.
  6. Entries shall be sent in PDF format for electronic viewing by the judges. Each entry must be wholly contained within a single PDF. There is no limit to the number of pages in the PDF to be submitted. Each entry shall include the following minimum views: front and rear elevations, streetscape, floor plans, at least two sections, site plan, and a 3D view of some sort (perspective, axonometric, 3D model, or a photograph of a model). No actual models will be accepted. Entrants are encouraged to offer as many explanatory drawings as possible. The Athena Impact Estimator project file must also be included as a separate file in addition to the PDF (entrynumber.ATH4).
  7. FPL and APA employees and judges are not eligible to enter.
  8. Individual entrants may submit only one design for consideration. There is no limit to the number of individual entrants that may be associated with any specific design firm.
  9. FPL and APA shall possess unrestricted rights to publicize the designs of the three finalists and honorable mention winners, including reproduction on websites, publications, and trade magazines. The designer shall retain all common law, statutory and other reserved rights for the design, including the copyright. In the event that an individual or company wishes to construct the design featured, they will be directed to contact the winning designer.
  10. Winners may not be granted if, in the opinion of the judges, there are no entries which meet the standards and criteria of the competition.