Winners of Backwoods Cabin of the Future competition announced

The winning cabin design by German architecture firm AW+ will be built in New Brunswick this summer.
The winning cabin design by German architecture firm AW+ will be built in New Brunswick this summer.

Community Forests International’s  panel of judges faced a larger than anticipated challenge last week, when 62 entries from 24 different countries were submitted to the organization’s Backwoods Cabin of the Future competition. The winning design will be awarded a cash prize and will be constructed at CFI’s Rural Innovation Campus in New Brunswick this summer.  The retreat will serve as inspired accommodation for students, apprentices and innovators-in-residence.

The winning design, entitled Be a Part of Nature, was submitted by German architecture firm AW+. The jury noted that it was “a powerful, simple, and elegant form using recycled wood with straw bale insulation” and that it was “designed to take advantage of sloping topography in a thoughtful and effective way.” They added that this was “a scheme whose qualities and design snuck up on us during the jury process.  Through a tightly and rigorously though-out minimal approach, its use of natural and sustainable materials and poetic quiet spaces will make for a stunning residence in the New Brunswick Forest.”

“This design did not immediately catch my eye, but on a deeper look it had everything we were looking for,” says Community Forests International’s co-founder Estelle Drisdelle. She notes that the design includes “low embodied carbon materials including straw, clay, and local wood while achieving energy efficiency in the design with high R-value insulation and proper ventilation. The moss roof panels also fit perfectly in the design. Finally, the long-lasting nature of this design is essential to reducing our carbon footprint, with charred wood to preserve it and a pillar foundation to keep good airflow and reduce the building’s impact in the forest.”

The competition and the winning design aim to bring attention to the impact the built environment has on our world, and encourage architects to be a part of the solution.

The most important and most challenging competition criteria stipulated that the building’s overall carbon footprint be maintained as low as possible.  Buildings contribute 30% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions and consume more than 40% of global energy. The building sector has the biggest potential for delivering significant greenhouse gas reductions at low or no cost—more than transportation, agriculture, or waste.

Max Rymsha of Lviv, Ukraine placed second in the competition, and a Jury Award for Architectural Poetry went to an entry by designers Isabel Gómez García & Javier Serrano Fajardo from Seville, Spain.

The fledgling Rural Innovation Campus in New Brunswick, where the winning entry will be built, has a sister facility in Zanzibar, Tanzania that was constructed in 2013 as a hub for CFI’s East African projects. Both centers strive to bring awareness, training, and applied solutions to global challenges—such as food, water, energy insecurity, economic exclusion, and climate change—while maintaining a rural focus.