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Design a house (quickly) and win a safari in Zambia!

Karl Ottenstein

Zambia's South Luangwa National Park, and its remote gateway village, Mfuwe, is a place I love for it's unspoilt landscapes and wildlife, the kindness of its people, and the incredible symbiotic relationship between all kinds of non-profit organizations, tourist camps - lux and not so lux, and schools, villages and chiefdoms.


Competition now open: calling all architects, designers, builders and creative types


Submit an entry by November 15 with the chance to win a 4 night safari with the luxurious Bushcamp Company and Flatdogs Camp in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia!  Wildlife viewing of a lifetime!  (Transportation not included – main airport is the capital of Lusaka from which Proflight Zambia flies to Mfuwe.)


Here is what the Project Luangwa is looking for:


A design proposal for housing volunteer teachers in Mfuwe, Zambia, repurposing 3 x 20-foot standard height and 1 x 40-foot high cube shipping containers.


Note that this is not like a full architectural competition – so a hand drawn schematic design, or an Archicad massing are both fine with the deadline coming so soon (3+ weeks from today)…



project luangwa.jpg

Important points:


  • 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms; total occupancy 4 people

  • Open plan kitchen and as-large-as-possible living area

  • Using creative ideas to increase the living space by incorporating additions or add-ons such as sliding doors, patio/veranda space, etc.

  • Design should incorporate ideas for dealing with hot Zambian summers (and heavy rains of the emerald season)

  • Pre-cast blocks are available on site to raise the containers off the ground

  • Water and some electricity is available on site – water will be in a separate raised tank for pressure; hot water will be by solar hot water heater.  Mains power is not completely reliable, so solar may be incorporated, at least enough for lights and to keep a refrigerator going in an outage.

  • Most houses in the village have small gardens, if you wish to incorporate a garden in your design (with fencing to keep out animals)

  • Steel is available for welding awnings, etc.  

  • Geo-coordinates  13°06'55.1"S 31°48'44.2"E

  • Container dimensions:

Closing date for entries is 15 November:

send entries to and


To learn more about the various community activities undertaken by Project Luangwa, visit:


Attached images show the three 20’ standard height containers (but not the 40’ high cube), as well as an example of what they do with containers in this remote part of Zambia with an image of the assembly hall at the Mfuwe school… where the containers provide storage space, walls, and bearing for the trussed roof which creates a large well ventilated, yet protected, courtyard for meals, instruction, etc.


containers 3 x 20.jpg



One of the forum moderators
AC 27 USA and earlier   •   macOS Ventura 13.6.2, MacBook Pro M2 Max 12CPU/30GPU cores, 32GB

Karl Ottenstein

I just received the geocoordinates for the building site and have modified the original post to show them:
13°06'55.1"S 31°48'44.2"E°06'55.1%22S+31°48'44.2%22E/@-13.1155649,31.8115745,580m/data=!3...



The site is to the east of the learning center building site.  Here's a satellite view from Google Maps as well as an annotated image from Project Luangwa showing roughly the lot allocated for the teacher housing...


Screenshot 2023-10-25 at 9.00.21 AM.png


Screenshot 2023-10-11 at 11.31.03.jpg

One of the forum moderators
AC 27 USA and earlier   •   macOS Ventura 13.6.2, MacBook Pro M2 Max 12CPU/30GPU cores, 32GB

Karl Ottenstein

The Trimble/Sketchup 3D Warehouse has a variety of container models that you can download for this project.   In Archicad, do a Merge to open the downloaded Sketchup file (I used SU 2021 format with AC 27) and you will then place it as an object.   Next, select and right click the object and Convert to Morph so that you can manipulate individual pieces, cut holes, etc.  Keep all of the bits grouped so that you can move each container around; ungroup to modify.


Of course, if you have a copy of SketchUp, you can just do everything there vs Archicad...

One of the forum moderators
AC 27 USA and earlier   •   macOS Ventura 13.6.2, MacBook Pro M2 Max 12CPU/30GPU cores, 32GB


Hello, I have a few questions:


1. In your notes you say "steel available for welding awnings, etc"

Do you know the size of steel members?

ie - if we want to cut out larger sections of the sides of the sea containers - which will require columns / strengthening.


2. Are separate materials available - ie for a truss roof over the containers like that shown in the example images, or is the budget extra tight?


3. Is the connected to sewer, or will it require septic tank / composting toilet?

Thanks for asking!


There is random steel available in this remote location - and probably not economic to ship in any special members.  For example, lots of small angle iron for welding sun shading devices or furniture frames.  Larger pieces would likely be re-purposed from the containers themselves from what is removed - whether pieces of side panels, the container doors, etc.


Framing material is available and roofs in the area are typically metal as in the photo or thatch from local sources.


I believe sewage will be via septic tanks.  No need to include systems in the schematic design.  Composting toilets would be a nice thing to mention, as I don't believe they are common at all in the area but would a great demonstration project in this area... both to cut water consumption / sewage needs ... and for housing near the rivers (not applicable here) to avoid any potential nutrient contamination.  (The hippos provide plenty of contamination to the rivers of course, but human waste is another story...)


I'd focus primarily on a preliminary / schematic design concept and perhaps just make notes by large openings about structural reinforcement essential vs working out details.


Thanks! 🙂


One of the forum moderators
AC 27 USA and earlier   •   macOS Ventura 13.6.2, MacBook Pro M2 Max 12CPU/30GPU cores, 32GB

Another odd question, what time do the submissions close? ie - 15 November 11:59pm GMT


I need to fly out for a site visit, so I may have issues getting back to my computer in time. 

Close of business on the 15th... Zambian time (Central Africa Time GMT+2).   Drop an email to the two info@ addresses to let them know you will be submitting and to verify the time deadline.   5pm in Zambia is 7am US Pacific / 10 am US Eastern if you're in the US ... can't tell from your posts where you are 🙂   and  

One of the forum moderators
AC 27 USA and earlier   •   macOS Ventura 13.6.2, MacBook Pro M2 Max 12CPU/30GPU cores, 32GB


Hi Karl,

Curious to know the outcome of this venture.....a gallery of choices.....

AC27 Apple Silicon. Twinmotion.
16" M1 Max MacBook Pro 32GB, Apple Studio Display, MacOS14

Still looking?

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