Providence Carbon Challenge Requirements & Rules

The contest, based in Providence but open to entrants nationwide, challenged residential architects to design an affordable house while considering strategies that reduce fossil fuel use and the structure’s carbon footprint. Competition participants developed a Habitat for Humanity home design for a vacant lot at 24 Hannah St. With the help of life-cycle assessment software from the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, designers determined the impact of the greenhouse gas emissions from the products in their design.

Design Criteria

  1. The home must be designed to address these design criteria as set forth by Habitat for Humanity Rhode Island—Greater Providence, Inc, FPL, and APA. These considerations are not intended to limit design possibilities. Any major deviation from these considerations should be accompanied with a written description of the reasoning for such deviation. Any discrepancy will be reviewed by the judges as to whether it is cause for disqualification.

  2. The site plan, photos of the lot, and photos of existing homes in the community are available as Exhibit A (see below).

  3. The proposed site for the competition is vacant land located at 26 Hannah Street, Providence. This 40' x 80' lot is the typical lot size built on by Habitat Providence.

  4. The design is for a home to be lived in by a family with two working parents and three to five children. The design shall include the option to be built as a 3-bedroom home and as a 4-bedroom home (include both options).

  5. The home shall be between 1,200 and 1,400 square feet of conditioned living space (both 3-bedroom and 4-bedroom options shall fall within this range).

  6. The home shall include a full basement with access from the exterior for storage space.

  7. Off-street parking for at least two vehicles shall be provided.

  8. The estimated cost range to construct the home (not including the cost of the lot) shall be between $90,000 and $120,000. Note that Habitat Providence hires professional contractors for the foundation, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and drywall finishing. All other labor shall be considered to be volunteer workforce.

  9. Considering the primarily volunteer workforce, ease-of-construction should be a significant factor in this Habitat home design.

  10. The design shall be sensitive to the surrounding urban environment in regards to the location of the building on the site, the massing of the building, and the overall character and architectural detailing, and its relation to adjacent buildings.

  11. 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.

  12. The requirements of the Providence Zoning Code must be adhered to. The following summary of applicable provisions is intended to provide guidance to the designer:

a. Maximum height of 2-story home shall be 30' to ridge (exceptions exist).
b. Minimum total side setbacks shall be 30% of lot width.
c. Minimum side setback on each side shall be 6'; however, one side may be minimum 4' if lot is 45' or less in width.
d. Minimum rear setback shall be 25% of depth of lot with a maximum of 25'.
e. Minimum front setback shall be 15% of depth of lot with a maximum of 20', with an exception to use the average setback of adjacent homes.
f.  The maximum lot coverage shall be 35% of total lot area.

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

View the site plan for the model site, which is located at 26 Hannah Street, Providence

Providence Site Plan

View photos of the model site

Providence Site Images

View photos of surrounding area and existing homes in the community

Providence Surrounding Area

View photos of other Habitat for Humanity homes in the area

Providence Habitat for Humanity Homes

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 2010 State of Rhode Island One and Two Family Dwelling Code (based on 2009 International Residential Code), including Chapter 11, Energy Efficiency.
  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. Habitat for Humanity Rhode Island—Greater Providence, Inc. shall possess the right to construct homes using the designs as submitted or as modified without further payment to the designer. 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 other than Habitat for Humanity 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.