Salt Lake City, in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects Utah Chapter (AIA Utah) and the Community Development Corporation of Utah (CDCU), hosted the Empowered Living Design Competition for tiny homes and small dwelling units (ADUs).  Submissions were judged on five key criteria: affordability, accessibility, sustainability, durability, and livability.  Participants were invited to submit a tiny home design for a standalone home or cluster of small cottages in a planned development, or an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on a lot with a primary residence.  Blalock and Partners submitted BIG ME under the tiny home category and WHITE LIMO under the ADU category.


BIG ME is a dramatically different exploration of the “tiny home movement”.  Instead of thinking of an individual tiny home, this study is based upon the premise of creating a stronger community by executing a cluster of individual homes expressed as part of an intentional and carefully crafted greater whole.  In other words, it takes a village.  Through a thoughtful, vigilant implementation, BIG ME creates an exceptional experience for the resident and immediate neighborhood, promoting a unique and authentic sense of place.  In addition to the five judging criteria identified in the Competition Brief, the design team approached this project with their own set of goals:

  1. Execute a design solution that appeals to anyone, regardless of income level. We are firm believers that affordable housing shouldn’t carry with it the stigma of “affordable housing”; that a smaller footprint – both physical and environmental – results in a higher quality of life, not a diminished lifestyle.
  2. Create a socioeconomically equitable housing solution. The objective is to craft a housing solution where people want to live instead of have to live.



Although conceptual in nature, BIG ME proposes the revitalization of an existing, city-owned site: two vacant parcels at 976 & 962 West Montague Ave.  Located in the R/1-5,000 zone, the two parcels combined occupy 16,117 square feet of land area.  Applying the zoning ordinance of 5,000 square foot minimum lot size results in only three additional, market-rate, standalone residential homes.  BIG ME suggests a new approach resulting in as many as 16 standalone tiny homes – each providing ownership opportunities with an amplified quality of life.  This density still allows for individual home ownership and identity, and promotes community interaction.



BIG ME combines a high-quality design and construction effort to ensure a low-maintenance, durable and sustainable product, which ultimately results in higher livability and greater longevity.  Affordability is further realized through a combination of material selection & availability, prefabrication, economies of scale, and simplified construction techniques.



Each standalone residence is 100% Net Zero Energy, incorporating a minimum of two (2) photovoltaic panels to offset electric loads from appliances and mini-split heating and cooling units.  The project also incorporates a high-performance building envelope (R30 walls + R38 roof) and relies on recycled and recyclable materials.



2021 People’s Choice Award – Tiny Home Category, Empowered Living Design Competition