Concrete Habitat Homes Design and Construction Competition

Grantee: National Concrete Masonry Association
Principle Investigator: Nick Lang
Year: 2021
Project Number: 2021.022

Engaging future designers to use concrete masonry exposes them to the solutions member products offer. This project leverages support from other concrete industry groups to expand student outreach.


Architects consider a number of factors when selecting materials for the projects they are designing. They evaluate factors including cost, aesthetics, client needs, and their own familiarity with the materials and building systems under consideration. It is during their time in architecture school and early in their careers that architects develop much of what they understand about building construction. In many cases those early influences define their approach to material selection for years to come. Frequently in architectural education there is little more than a cursory discussion regarding the use of concrete in building design and construction. Most often wood frame construction details are used to explain the “best” approach to housing design. More recently, faculty at these schools are energetically promoting mass timber as an eco-friendly alternative to concrete for larger structures. As a result, new graduates from schools of architecture are indoctrinated into a language of building that is wood-centric. As young architects enter the workforce today, they are fed a steady diet of trendy wood projects in design magazines and trade journals. Today, concrete building systems are often ignored when it comes to design awards. What’s more, the topic of embodied carbon as it is currently discussed paints concrete as the enemy of well intentioned, young architects and architecture students. The concrete industry must address this shortfall in the education of architects if the industry hopes to increase its influence on the next generation of design leaders.

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) is an international association of architecture schools preparing future architects, designers, and change agents. In addition to other activities, they facilitate several national architectural design competitions annually, including those sponsored by the wood and steel industries. They are a good conduit to architecture schools and will provide broad distribution of both the competition to generate entries as well as promote the result to the universities and the design community.

Program Details:

This project will develop and implement a design and construction competition in collaboration with its partners to include Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). Students from US schools of architecture who are sponsored by a faculty member at their school may submit designs in a national, juried competition for new, Net Zero Ready and Resilient homes constructed using concrete.

Further, the intention for the competition is that some of the winning designs will be considered for further development and construction by Habitat for Humanity affiliates in select markets in 2022.

The NCMA Foundation is participating in this project with consortium of concrete industry groups, including Build with Strength, the RMC Research & Education Foundation, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, and the American Concrete Pumping Association.