Community Forests International seeking designs from public for backwoods cabin

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SACKVILLE, N.B. – Wanted: design ideas for a “backwoods cabin of the future.”

The team at Community Forests International is in the first stages of developing its Rural Innovation Campus in New Brunswick and is putting out a challenge to all amateur and professional architects, builders, artists and do-it-yourselfers to get involved in designing the very first building for the 580-acre site.

CFI is hosting an international design contest, open to the public, that invites applicants to sketch out their vision for a small, all-season shelter for two that will serve as sleeping and retreat quarters for students, workers and guests of the campus.

Daimen Hardie, CFI co-founder and project director, said community involvement and innovation will be key to the ongoing development and operation of the New Brunswick campus so it was important to start the project off in that vein.

“We wanted to make it as free and as accessible as possible . . . to get the people who want to be there involved in the design,” said Hardie.

With no registration required and no qualifications needed, Hardie said anyone can get involved in this project, from students to artists to green builders and dreamers.

The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize and will see their vision become reality when CFI staff and volunteers construct the building this summer in a secluded wooded area on the campus site near Sussex.

Although there are certain criteria that will need to be followed to ensure the project is sustainable and energy-efficient – the building must not exceed 184 square feet, it needs to be constructed of local and non-toxic building materials, and it needs to ‘capture the sun’ – the design itself will be what sets the entries apart, said Hardie.

“In terms of the creative side of things, we’ll leave that up to the people.”

The design competition is part of CFI’s wider Rural Innovation Campus project, a place where CFI will be able to hold workshops and apprenticeships, educate participants on gardening, forestry management, and other environmental topics.

The New Brunswick campus will complement CFI’s parallel efforts overseas, where the organization has already begun development of a similar institution on the island of Pemba, Tanzania.

Jeff Schnurr, CFI founding member, said the first building in Tanzania has already been completed with other facilities in the works. Workshops are already under way and the Pembans are now regularly developing innovative ways to combat climate change, restore and live off their lands, and educate others to do the same.

“We’re moving at full speed over there,” said Schnurr.

He said CFI hopes to pair the two campuses closely, in order to foster an “international exchange of ideas in our collaborative fight against climate change.”

Currently, the CFI team is working on a site design plan for the New Brunswick campus, and has begun opening up some trails, done some forestry work, improved the soil, built a yurt for the summer interns, and is hosting workshops.

“So this is a pretty exciting start,” said Schnurr of the open design contest.

Queries about the design competition have come from as far away as India, Egypt, Dubai and Japan during the Q&A period, so it is certainly drawing lots of interest.

Estelle Drisdelle, another founding member of CFI, said she hopes this contest will spark discussion on sustainable building and how people all over the world can look to nature for inspiration.

She said the campus will be a prime opportunity to begin putting that philosophy into action.

“A lot of young people today want to live off the land. But they need the skills and the training to do so. This is the place to get those skills.”


CFI is now accepting design entries online, up until the Feb. 15 deadline.

All entrants will have their design ideas displayed through an online gallery via the CFI website. The submissions will be judged by a panel of leading architects, artists and builders.

The short-listed entries will be displayed at a public exhibition in downtown Sackville, with the winner to be announced March 1.

For more information, visit

Organizations: Community Forests International

Geographic location: New Brunswick, SACKVILLE, Tanzania Sussex Island of Pemba India Egypt Dubai Japan

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