Beyond Mortar

The housing industry needs a redesign. A result of man-made climate change, housing will lose valuable space to floodplains and increased coastal erosion, meaning there is going to be less space than ever before to build homes to deal with our severe housing shortage.

This is why Western Solar Ltd, a Welsh based innovator in low carbon housing, has created an essay competition for thirteen to eighteen-year olds in Wales. In a thousand-word essay, you get to design your own sustainable house for a chance to win a total cash prize of £1800.

Western Solar Ltd, through this competition wants to raise awareness of the inappropriate construction of the existing housing industry, in terms of its carbon emissions and waste. We want you to come up with changes to designing homes for a sustainable future.

You are invited to write a creative essay in English or Welsh, you have until the 30th of April to send it to us. For the purposes of this competition we define a sustainable home as being one which has a low carbon footprint over the duration of its design life. The home must be capable of being sourced and built anywhere in Wales.

Any type of home is accepted, such as treehouses, bunkers, shipping crates, boats or wooden houses. The main guideline to follow is the minimal use of carbon intensive materials, such as bricks, concrete and steel. Wood that has absorbed carbon, rather than materials that produce carbon are favourable recyclable materials, alongside carbon neutral materials.

You have to specify who the home is designed for: a family, a student, a first-time buyer or retirement home. Specify if you want to incorporate your design into a city, staying in a town or moving off grid to a remote location.

We’re interested in creative designs, so we want to see the very best your imagination is capable of with sustainability at the forefront of your design. However, we are going to be looking for designs that are realistic and possible today. Please provide evidence in the form of references to your design.

The essays will be judged by the criteria below:

Writing; how well does the essay explore the home that you have designed? This should be down to grammar, coherence,   consistency, and layout. Are technical terms used correctly?

Creativity; how does your design take on the traditional brick and mortar style? Does it feature a design that stands out in terms of its applicability to climate change? Is it suitable for Wales?

Practicality; does the home accommodate our seasons? How long do you think it could last? Does it serve your target population   adequately? Is the design possible today?

Sustainability; what does the home use that minimises waste and maximise the endurance of the home? Does the home use a minimal amount of fossil fuels or the National Grid (e.g. solar panels or geothermal energy)?

What design aspects are incorporated to allow a minimal amount of waste (e.g. greywater flushing, reusable and sustainable materials sourced)? Creativity and Sustainability are given greater weighting with 15 marks each, whilst Writing and Practicality are 10 marks each.

The essay is expected to be in one language (English or Welsh), however words that cannot be substituted in either language are acceptable. If you reference any studies or articles, keep these at the end of the essay, they will not be counted for word count.

Your design can be accompanied by a simple illustration of the layout in sketch form of the floor plan and the elevation of your home. This will gain marks for Creativity. Click on this link to look at what a sustainable house layout is.

If you have any questions, send an email to me at any time before the end date, and I will respond within 48 hours.

Make sure you send the document in a .pdf / word file to when you have completed the essay. It’s fine if you don’t write a thousand words exactly, but try to remain within a hundred words.

We look forward to your comments and support of this competition. If you wish to participate further in this, please email and we will respond to any concerns or questions.

There will be cash prizes for essays with the highest mark from our judges.

1st – £1,000
2nd – £500
3rd – £300

Submit your essay before midnight on the 30th of April. Send all your work in a single .pdf or Word file, make sure to include these details in the email that you send to us, all your data is kept on a secure server.

Copy and paste the Plagiarism Statement below on your email. If you are found to have disregarded the statement, your work will be rejected and yourself and your team will be disqualified.

School / College:
School Year / College:


I certify that this essay is my own work, based on my study and I have acknowledged all material and sources used in its preparation, whether they be books, articles, reports. I have not copied in part or whole or otherwise plagiarised the work of other persons.


Do I have to live in Wales to qualify? Yes, if you are also currently attending a school in Wales, you qualify for Beyond Mortar. ● Is an illustration necessary? – No, but you will earn marks for showing us a simple layout of your house design, with a simple outline describing various details of the house.

Can I collaborate? Yes, up to three people who are able to qualify in any team, but no members who have already submitted their essay can be in another team. The cash prize will be split equally amongst each person in the team.

Can I reuse or describe a pre-existing design? By all means, but you’ll lose points for lacking creativity if you don’t expand how to make the house more sustainable/creative or taking in new ways. If you use an old design, you could use the previous layout and compare how your interpretation makes it sustainable.

Does this have to be a permanent home, or temporary? People sometimes have multiple homes – motorhomes, ships or canal boats. This is about any home, temporary, travelling or permanent.

Does the design have to be new, or can it be taken from an old home? It can be an old design, and how you would retrofit the property to make it sustainable. If you do use an old design, you could copy paste it and then do a new illustration based on the old design to show how you would expand its sustainability. Given this contest’s regard for creativity, you won’t get as many points for the redesign as you would for a new design, but we will judge how innovative your work is if it’s based on an old design, given the huge amount of old houses in Wales and the need to make them suitable for future habitation in a sustainable Wales.

How should I compose the essay? Make sure you have completed a lot of research, so you know what house to design. Next, give it a title, and write a brief outline in the introductory paragraph. Expand on the points that you have made in during the next three or four paragraphs. If you have an illustration, give a brief outline of how it works to be sustainable/creativity of the work. For your conclusion, wrap up your previous points to justify how your design is cre