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The BioBuild Challenge

How can exciting new forest-based bio-materials contribute to green, high-performance building systems of the future?

BioBuild_logo_300pThe Brief
The goal of this challenge is twofold; first, we are asking participants to conceptualize next generation pre-fabricated panels and; second, we are asking that these concepts incorporate one or more of the new forest based bio-materials.

For the pre-fabricated panels we are asking that you think far beyond SIP’s (Structural Insulated Panels). They can be structural or non-structural, interior or exterior. The panels should involve several attributes such as; structural, acoustic, thermal and/or barrier properties in one product. For a list of key performance attributes, identified by research into the building industry click here. Could hydrophobic cladding be designed into a panel? Could they incorporate green walls, solar panels or digital display screens? Can bio-active surfaces detect or kill bacteria or mold?

When we speak of new bio-materials we are referring to new materials that can be synthesized from wood as opposed to solid wood or pulp in traditional applications. This includes, but is not limited to, materials such as; cellulose-reinforced composites, bio-based plastics, resins and binders from lignin and nanocrystalline cellulose. For more information on these click here. These bio-materials can either be a simple substitute for non-renewable materials or they could be applied in a completely new product or system.

We have chosen to emphasize bio-materials in building systems for several reasons. Greater use of bio-materials will mean replacing materials now made from rapidly depleting fossil fuels or other non-renewables.  Canada’s forest sector is already producing a range of bio-products, and manufacturing new additional bio-products will improve the competitiveness of the forest sector while at the same helping to meet the world’s rapidly growing demand for products manufactured from renewable resources.

While the remarkable properties of bio-materials can be applied to a variety of industries and product categories such as textiles, healthcare, packaging etc., we chose to focus our efforts on building systems. We believe the use of bio-products in the building industry has the potential to bring significant environmental and functional performance benefits. In addition, as the building sector shifts from site built toward pre-fabrication, there is a greater need for engineered and designed approaches, and that is where you can get involved.

The concepts generated in this challenge must;

  • include some element of a new bio-material though it may also include traditional wood products such as dimensional lumber, wood panels or non-wood materials and
  • have multiple attributes (more than one) that solve important building performance issues of the day or in the foreseeable future.

The concepts generated in this challenge may;

  • be for the interior or exterior, including floors, walls, interior partitions or roofs and
  • be structural or non-structural.

We are not necessarily looking for well-resolved product designs but, rather, concepts that explore what might be possible. This challenge emphasizes collaboration and the first prize is awarded to a team entry.  It is our hope that students will exchange ideas with professionals, designers with material scientists, and so on, leading to multi-disciplinary team entries. We have chosen a collaborative approach because we believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The resulting concepts will spark further R&D and ultimately, help bring the world closer to the renewable house of the future.

How the Challenge Works
The challenge will take place over a 4 month period and will involve three phases.

The Building Context Phase involves familiarizing yourself with the information posted and adding anything that you feel will provide understanding of the context of our challenge. This could be images, stories, links, video, comments etc., anything that will add to the body of information. The more simplified and graphic you can present your information, the better.  This phase will last about 5 weeks.

The second phase is the Concepting Phase where participants go to work developing concepts for new products they feel are most important/interesting. When you feel you have something of interest, post it to get feedback. During this phase, participants are encouraged to give feedback on each other’s ideas and even join forces and upload a concept as team. Collaboration is encouraged to leverage the ideas and experiences of the community. You are free to modify and improve your own idea right up to the deadline of the concept phase which is May 17th, 2013. This phase will last for about 50 days.

In the Evaluation Phase, active participants will be asked to vote on the ideas they think are the most viable based on the challenge criteria. The concept with the most votes wins the Community Choice Award. At the same time, the entries will be judged by a Jury of FPInnovations scientists and research managers in the areas of wood products and biomaterials. This phase will last about 30 days.

Participants do not have to participate in all aspects of this challenge and you can join in at any time.
During each phase, FPIntell community managers will help shape the journey and keep things on track.


  • Building Context:    Feb 22 – March 15
  • Concepting phase: March 16 – May 17
  • Evaluating phase: May 18 – June 18

While this challenge is mainly about collaboration and exploring new ways to use renewable materials, we have added $5000 CDN cash prizes for fun!
First prize $3500 for best team entry (two or more on the team)
Second prize $1500 for an individual or team entry
Community Choice Award

All winners will receive recognition on this site even after the challenge is over. In addition, winning concepts will be reviewed at  FPInnovations-industry-government partner meetings  for consideration for further R&D.

Evaluating Criteria
The following criteria will be used by the community and the jury to evaluate the concepts.

  • What are the important building attribute needs that this concept addresses?
  • How well does the concept solve the challenge?
  • How novel is the concept?
  • How well would the concept perform?
  • Aesthetic Appeal (for appearance products)

You must be registered to the FPIntell LAB to participate. You can do this by clicking the Sign Up tab and finding the ‘BioBuild Challenge’ area. You will be asked to agree to the Terms and Conditions of this challenge. As a member of a project, you will have full access to the interactive features of that event. You will be able to submit concepts, comment on, read, evaluate and be a candidate for the rewards.

The BioBuild Challenge is open to anyone though it will be of particular interest to designers (architects, interior designers and industrial designers) and material scientists. Students in these areas are also most welcome. To be eligible to take part in the Challenge, Participants must be age 18 or older at the beginning of the Challenge. Employees of FPInnovations and its affiliates and consultants, and their immediate families (defined as husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, or persons residing in the household of such employees), cannot participate except in the role of moderators.  FPInnovations reserves the right to verify the eligibility of Participants and check their identity.

Terms and Conditions Explained
All intellectual property rights to the concepts remain with the participant. FPInnovations has first rights to negotiation of ownership of any and all intellectual property rights. Participants own their concepts, but all concepts may be published and mentioned by FPInnovations during and after the contest.  We also ask that participants do not post any concept that is not their original work and/or that could belong to a third party by contractual or employment obligations.

How to Upload a Concept
From within the project, click on the ‘Concept’ button.

  • Name your concept
  • Describe your concept (less than 300 words) citing materials used, the functional aspects of your concept and the main benefits of the concept including how it solves the challenge and how it solves important issues in the built environment.
  • Add supporting images using the following file formats JPEG, GIF or PNG, maximum file size is 3 Mb, maximum file count in each post is 5 (five).
  • Add supporting information as a PDF.
  • You may add links to web pages or videos.

Your Profile
Participants are able to edit their profiles by uploading a photo, adding information and changing settings. It is also important to note that you can turn off any notifications you do not wish to receive. For example you will automatically receive a message when someone posts a comment on your concept and when you get points for collaboration, but these can be easily turned off under ‘Notifications’ if you prefer.

This challenge is sponsored by FPInnovations. FPInnovations is among the world’s largest private, not-for-profit forest research centres.


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