metals in construction

Gaining Urban Space: Solving NY’s Affordable Housing Shortage

Submission: February 23, 2021
Registration: February 23, 2021
Language: English
Location: Concept
Prizes: Please see details below
Type: Student Competitions


The Metals in Construction magazine 2021 Design Challenge is a competition to generate ideas for creating an environment suitable for affordable rental housing over a portion of NYC’s Sunnyside Yard situated between Queens Blvd and Honeywell Street. This site is Phase 1 of the plan as proposed in the Sunnyside Yard Master Plan Handbook (SYMPH), a detailed technical guide for exploring the rail yard’s development opportunities.

Overbuilding this network of railroad tracks for storing, sorting, and unloading passenger and commuter trains has long been considered a way to create more public land to meet the future needs of New Yorkers. Decking over an active rail yard to gain urban space adds costs that test near-term financial feasibility. As a plan centered on human needs and public good, initial return on investment is not a primary concern. But finding funding for even a portion of the project under current economic conditions means optimizing the construction of both platform and superstructures without compromising design integrity, all while enabling ongoing rail yard operations.

To address this challenge, the competition invites architects and engineers to envision solutions that optimize the cost of both the platform and superstructure while upholding design integrity and community requirements. Rail yard operations must remain uninterrupted during construction.

Specific Design Guidelines

Your challenge: Present your concept for overbuilding the rail yard to utilize this Phase 1 portion of the site identified in the SYMPH to create an environment for affordable rental housing, envisioning the type of housing,  services, institutions and establishments most suitable to make this portion of the site a viable community.

About the site: Sunnyside Yard is a publicly owned 180-acre site located in Queens, New York that is the center of a rail network connecting people across the Northeast corridor. It is the only centrally-located, transit-accessible site of its size remaining in NYC. It is situated amidst one of the most ethnically diverse urban areas in the world.

Submission requirements: Submissions must meet the following requirements to be considered:

  • Submissions must envision the construction of an optimal number of  affordable housing units on a platform above the portion of Sunnyside Yard situated between Queens Blvd and Honeywell Street within the North and South Corridors identified in the Sunnyside Yard Master Plan Handbook. Your concept must envision a mix of unit types appropriate for the Queens community, as well as ancillary services, institutions, and establishments. No building shall exceed 15 stories in height measured from the surrounding Queens street grid.
  • The challenge requires that entries be based on using structural steel for building both the platform and the structures atop it. This is in recognition of steel structures’ significantly lighter weight than other building materials and its ability to cover extremely long spans, allowing less extensive foundations.
  • Submissions must plan for assembly on site of all structural steel components. Proposals for the housing that use modular, fully pre-assembled components with inherent redundancies of double wall and floor construction, and with dimensional requirements determined by transportation restrictions, will not be considered.
  •  The deck must accommodate a variety of different outcomes without substantial changes to the deck structure. Loads will be determined by the superimposed structures.
  • During the proposed sequence of platform construction all trackage must remain in place and in operation, although submissions may assume coordination with the operators is possible to allow temporary closures.
  • Entries must also elaborate on how the carbon footprint associated with its proposal is reduced, optimized or neutralized when compared to use of other construction materials. Designing for structural components to be recyclable, targeting high energy efficiency for the superstructures, actively generating clean energy, minimizing material waste during the manufacturing process, will be considered as contributing to this goal.
  •  Assume Sunnyside Station as located in the SYMSH has been constructed.
  •  Assume Infrastructure below grade is in place so that you may focus on the structural requirements.
  •  Your solution must create a cityscape that feels as much as possible like an extension of the surrounding area.

Submission process:  The submission process is composed of three parts:

  • Entrant Information – Contact information of the individual or team submitting. This will not be shared with judges and is only for contact purposes. Enter additional team names in the “Notes” section of the Project Description Prompts.
  • Project Description Prompts – A series of descriptive points related to the design and process of the submission.
  • Performance Analysis – Quantitative analysis demonstrating how the proposed design improves thermal performance in both heating and cooling conditions.
  • Proposal Visualization – Up to 10 pages may be submitted to represent the proposal. This attachment should be one (1) multi-page PDF file (max. 10 pages) formatted at 11”x17” (ledger) and can include supporting backup data, calculations, and commentary to supplement the images. Do not link or embed objects. Links to any video or animated components may be pasted into Project Description Prompts. Maximum file size is 20MB.
  • All materials are due by Monday, February 23, 2021, 11:59 p.m. Once you register via this site, you or your teammates may log in and edit your competition entry as many times as you like until the deadline.

See Competition Rules and the FAQ page for more information.


The $15,000 Grand Prize will be awarded to one of six finalists selected by a multidisciplinary jury of recognized and experienced architects, engineers and academics who possess the knowledge base and insight to evaluate the submitted entries.   Announcement of the finalists and grand prize winner will take place during a half-day program in New York City that will allow the jurors to communicate their insights and ideas for the benefit of participants.  Sponsoring this year’s Challenge is the Steel Institute of New York, co-publisher of Metals in Construction magazine. Following the award ceremony, it will publish the submissions of the finalists and winning entry in the magazine.

>>> Go to the competition’s website <<<