Better Living Challenge


In 2012, the Western Cape Government launched 110% Green, aimed at connecting green and the economy through practical action. Two key objectives of 110% Green are to drive innovations that support the Western Cape’s goal of becoming Africa’s leading green economic hub, and make the green economy work for the poor.

Part of this was the launch of the Better Living Challenge, a design competition that aims to support the improvement of the living conditions of low-income communities in the Western Cape through the increased availability of sustainable products and solutions that improve quality of life.


The Better Living Challenge is a platform for new and existing ideas to be developed.

High-level project objectives:
• Increased engagement by designers, manufacturers, retailers and others in the development of products, services and systems for the low-income housing market
• New/improved products in the market
• Increased sales of local products, services and systems
• Increased choice of a range of home improvement products, services and systems

The Need

Millions of South Africans live in dire conditions in informal settlements, backyard shacks and below-standard RDP homes. These communities have a variety of needs related to access to electricity, water and sanitation, water/flood-proofing and fireproofing, ventilation, heating and cooling, space constraints, safety and privacy.

The continually growing need for homes outstrips the government’s capacity and resources to deliver. There is a need to find home improvement solutions that are affordable and allow people to incrementally improve their dwellings at their own pace.

Initiated in 2014, the Better Living Challenge provided a platform for the development of new and existing solutions that addressed these needs. It aimed to support the building of a home improvement market that is beneficial to both producers and consumers.

Launched under the Western Cape Government’s 110% Green programme, the competition has inspired designers and innovators; manufacturers and retailers; students and professionals; self-taught designers and tradesmen; architects and engineers to develop home improvement solutions that will contribute to improved living conditions and help the poorest members of our society to achieve a better quality of life.

In this context, the Better Living Challenge was about:

Better solutions and increased choice for users

Better designed solutions with increased consumer appeal

Better value for money and greater accessibility

Better resource efficiency and lower daily costs

Better understanding of users’ needs

In this context, the Better Living Challenge is about:

Better solutions and increased choice for users

Better designed solutions with increased consumer appeal

Better value for money and greater accessibility

Better resource efficiency and lower daily costs

Better understanding of users’ needs


The Better Living Challenge has three entry categories.

Structural Home
  • Innovative products and materials used in the construction of homes.
  • Innovative approaches and components for self-built homes and structures.
  • Systems and products that allow for incremental expansion of existing structures.
Comfortable Home
  • Products, services and systems which create a more liveable and enjoyable internal environment, including improved temperature control and internal air quality, as well as light, energy and water efficiency.
  • Products and systems that address fire risk.
  • Modular and space saving furniture and storage ideas.
  • Solutions to create flexible public/private space for homes where a single space may have multiple uses throughout the day.
Connected Home
  • Products, services or systems that digitally and physically connect a home to its surroundings and beyond.
  • Solutions that connect a home to the physical environment, including food production and waste water systems.
  • Off-grid solutions for individual households.


Two important entry considerations for the entrants were the environmental impact and affordability of each solution:


How did the solution use green technologies and sustainable design principles?

Did they consider the impact of the products; explore environmentally-friendly materials and efficient production techniques?



Solutions needed to be financially accessible to the low-income market.

They needed to demonstrate how scale, production and material costs impact on price, and show how to get the product, system or service to market in an affordable manner.

They needed to show a sustainable business model that touched on how each solution can be replicated at a local level. What could be done to enhance what is already produced locally? Was thought given to working with existing low-income housing providers?


What entries did we receive?

The Better Living Challenge entries included existing solutions as well as new concepts.

Existing Product:

Entries in this category included existing solutions (products, services or systems) that are already in the market, or nearing retail readiness.

New Concepts:

In this category, entries included new solutions that had already undergone some work to estimate production costs. Entrants submitting products were required to build a basic prototype which could be a simple manifestation of the idea and which will help test its viability. These prototypes were exhibited at the Better Living Challenge Showcase.


Three winners each won a package of support services valued at R500 000 to commercialise their innovative and affordable home improvement solution.


Finalists were competing for one of three cash prizes of R40 000. Students in their final year of study, who were able to accept a bespoke support package in 2015, entered in the general category.



Finalists were competing for one of three packages of bespoke support. There was one R500 000 award of support services per each entry category: Structural Home, Comfortable Home and Connected Home.




Selected entries were invited to exhibit at the Showcase.

More Info


1 MAR – 31 MAY 2014


130 entries were received.

1 JUNE – 31 JULY 2014

23 finalists and 33 exhibitors were selected to exhibit at the Showcase.


The exciting, inspiring and interactive Showcase was held featuring affordable, innovative and green home-improvement solutions.

November 2014: Winners Announced


The BLC is a five-year project (broken up into two challenges, BLC 1 and BLC 2) aimed at surfacing design innovation in the low-income housing market and supporting the commercialisation of viable solutions.

The BLC takes place over a five-year period (2013/14 – 2017/18), with the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) being the implementing agent. Now in its third year, focus of the BLC 1 is on providing bespoke support to the winners of the first challenge. Stay up to date with our latest news. The call for BLC 2 will be posted soon!

Project Initiators

110% Green

110% Green is an initiative of the Western Cape Government and is a call to people to commit to the Green Economy, to act on their commitment and to make an impact. Together our actions will lead to greater change.

Cape Craft + Design Institute

CCDI offers business, product and market support to creative entrepreneurs. In 2012 the CCDI led the development of the Design Strategy for the Western Cape. The Strategy aims to increase the use of design, by the public and private sector, as a tool to leverage innovation, turn ideas in to reality and increase our competitiveness.

World Design Capital

WDC has endorsed the Better Living Challenge as an official project in the 2014 calendar. WDC seeks to demonstrate how integral design is in our everyday lives. The programme of events will show how design can be used to support the changes we would like to see in our homes, neighbourhoods and city.
Live Design, Transform Life.