STARTUP SEED- Buildner's Microhome Architecture Competition Entry

One of the most challenging and cost-effective ways to showcase one's design skills and talent is by joining a competition. I was exposed to different kinds of design competitions throughout my journey to becoming an architect and winning various design projects. The first ever competition I joined was a poster-making competition about making the earth a better place to live for future generations. I was in grade school then and will never forget the excitement and joy of winning.

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As part of Rocabu Design's vision of becoming an internationally known design firm in residential interior, exterior and experiential designs, we will join an architecture or interior design competition each year. We thought that entering design competitions would benefit us not only in showcasing our talents, skills, and styles but also in gaining valuable knowledge and experience outside our comfort zone.

In February of 2022, we decided to participate in the well-known and annual architecture competition of Buildner (formerly known as Bee Breeders), the Microhome Competition. It was Rocabu Design's first competition entry since we started two years ago. We had fun and learned a lot from this competition, not only with the design we've produced but also with the various problems that our chosen site (the city of Calgary) is currently facing. Also, we learned many possible solutions that we thought might help solve such issues.

The Competition Brief

With excellent design and innovative thinking, small-scale architecture could change how this and the next generation view residential property.

-Microhome Competition Website

The competition's primary goal is to produce a microhome design for a hypothetical couple on any site chosen by the participants. The home should be an off-grid modular structure with a maximum building area of 25 square meters. Participants are encouraged to incorporate innovative materials, new technologies, unique aesthetics, and notable organizations to make the microhome a unique and new form of architecture.

Rocabu Design's Microhome Entry

Floor plan and building sections

The competition entry that we submitted answers to housing challenges for new business owners and young entrepreneurs in downtown Calgary. The project is called "Startup Seed- Designed for New Breed of Entrepreneurs." It aims to develop a community for upcoming and young entrepreneurs to showcase their products and services. A sustainable location where they can live comfortably and grow their businesses with government and community support.

The Challenge

The downtown area was once the center of business, innovation, and creativity in Calgary. It is the heart of the "can-do" spirit for all Calgarians. Like most cities, everything changed during and after the pandemic. People lost jobs, business closures occurred, and housing prices started to skyrocket. As a result, the downtown area, which was once a lively place for everyone, has been completely abandoned. One of the significant challenges that Calgary is facing now is the depletion of talent and the weakening of the business ecosystem. Young entrepreneurs started to move out of the city to look for a lively place with more opportunities to start their businesses. If this trend continues, it will harm the majority of Calgarians and the city's economic and social growth.

building elevations

The Site

site development perspectiveThe downtown area has unused massive parking lots due to mass layoffs during the pandemic. These parking lots are near significant services, businesses, parks, and extensive pathways and bikeways, making them the best location for the Startup Seed project. Calgary is known for being the sunniest of Canada's large cities, with an average of more than 2400 hours of bright sun each year. The microhomes are equipped with solar panels that will be positioned facing the geographic south to harness the maximum amount of sunlight. Each home's "startup" space is oriented to face a public plaza for exhibits and festivals. The goal is to make it a self-sustainable community that can easily be duplicated on other abandoned lot in the city.

The Design Concept

form concept

Each microhome will be designed to capture all the essential needs of a couple pursuing a startup. These needs are broken down into three significant areas "wellness," where they can refresh, pause and think "startup," where they can develop, exhibit, and collaborate; and "health," where they can make, farm, and consume. The "startup" will open to the public during product exhibits or business collaborations. Both the "wellness" and "health" areas are considered private spaces for the couple. Calgary is a city known for scenic views of the Rockies, which makes the best representation of the shape of each microhome. The layout is divided into three staggered areas representing the mountains and the three essential needs of business owners.

exploded axonometric view

The Solution

competition entry

The Startup Seed project is a housing solution for people seeking a chance to start or revitalize their businesses. The new community will house a cluster of replicable and sustainable microhomes designed for new generations of entrepreneurs. The main objective is to create an ecosystem of opportunities backed by government funding and community support. The project will be constructed downtown, strategically connecting new and existing businesses for support and collaboration.

exterior rendering

exterior rendering

interior rendering

interior rendering

interior rendering

Finally, the Startup Seed project will host different exhibits and festivals to promote new and innovative products and services produced by business owners. It will help drive traffic in the downtown core, making it lively and opening more opportunities for Calgarians.

Thank you for stopping by and checking out our past projects. Feel free to email me at for design inquiries or questions about this project, and subscribe to our newsletter for our new project updates.

Together, let's create meaningful and beautiful spaces.


ron butaran architect interior designer and blogger

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