2019/2020 Steel Competition

20th Annual ACSA/AISC Student Competition

Category I   URBAN FOOD HUB: Life of a Steel Building  Category II OPEN
The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) is pleased to announce the 20th annual Steel Design Student Competition for the 2019-2020 academic year. Administered by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), the program is intended to challenge undergraduate and graduate students, working individually or in teams, to explore a variety of design issues related to the use of steel in design and construction. Steel must be used as the primary structural material and contain at least one space that requires long-span steel structure or one custom-designed steel structure, with special emphasis placed on innovation in steel design.


The 2020 Steel Design Student Competition will offer architecture students the opportunity to compete in two separate categories:

Category I      URBAN FOOD HUB: Life of a Steel Building
Challenges architecture students to design an Urban Food Hub in an urban context of the student’s and sponsoring faculty’s selection.

Category II     OPEN
Offers architecture students the opportunity to select a site and building program using steel as the primary material. This competition category permits the greatest amount of flexibility for any building type.

* Students may not enter both categories of the competition.

The competition allows students to explore the many varied functional and aesthetic uses for steel as a building material and structural system. Steel is an ideal material for multi-story building because it offers the greatest strength-to-weight ratio. In addition, steel can be constructed quickly and for all project site types with the use of labor-saving prefabrication methods such as kit-of-parts, panelization, and modular construction. A building built with steel is potentially more flexible and adaptable to allow for a change in program, occupancy, and loading needs over time.

          April 1, 2020               Registration Deadline
May 20, 2020              Submission Deadline
Summer 2020             Winners Announced
Fall 2020                     Publication of Summary Book

The design jury will meet in Summer 2020 to select winning projects and honorable mentions. Winners and their faculty sponsors will be notified of the competition results directly. A list of winning projects will be posted on the ACSA web site at www.acsa‑arch.org and the AISC web site at www.aisc.org.

Winning students and their faculty sponsors will receive cash prizes totaling $14,000 with distribution as follows:

Category I  URBAN FOOD HUB Category II  OPEN
First Prize First Prize
Student                       $2,500 Student                       $2,500
Faculty Sponsor          $1,000 Faculty Sponsor          $1,000
Second Prize Second Prize
Student                       $1,500 Student                       $1,500
Faculty Sponsor          $750 Faculty Sponsor          $750
Third Prize Third Prize
Student                       $750 Student                       $750
Faculty Sponsor          $500 Faculty Sponsor          $500

Criteria for the judging of submissions will include the following:

    • Creative use of structural steel in the design solution
    • Successful response of the design to its surrounding context
    • Successful response to basic architectural concepts such as human activity needs, structural integrity, and coherence of architectural vocabulary.

Submissions must clearly represent the selected program. In addressing the specific issues of the design challenge, submissions must clearly demonstrate the design solution’s response to the following requirements:

    • An elegant expressive understanding of the material–structural steel–deployed with maximum innovative potential with a minimum of one long-span space or one custom-designed steel structure
    • A strong conceptual strategy translated into a coherent integrated design proposal
    • An articulate mastery of formal concepts and aesthetic values
    • A compelling response to the physical and cultural context of the scheme
    • A mature awareness of and an innovative approach to sustainability as a convergence of social, economic, and environmental issues
    • A thorough appreciation of human needs and social responsibilities
    • A thorough understanding of sustainable advantages of structural steel

Structural steel is recycled more frequently than any other construction material, making it the clear choice for sustainable design and construction. Structural steel produced in the United States contains 93% recycled steel scrap, on average. At the end of a building’s life, 98% of all structural steel is recycled back into new steel products, with no loss of its physical properties. As such, structural steel isn’t just recycled but “multi-cycled,” as it can be recycled over and over and over again. It is truly a cradle-to-cradle material.

As the green building movement grows, more and more building owners, architects, engineers, and contractors are realizing the benefits of selecting structural steel framing systems as a means of meeting sustainable design and construction goals.

Over the past three decades, the steel industry has significantly reduced greenhouse gas and overall emissions. While numerous legislative and regulatory efforts in recent years have targeted emissions, energy efficiency, and related environmental concerns, the structural steel industry has been proactive in pursuing measures that typically exceed regulatory requirements.

Structural steel offers a number of benefits in building design including the capacity to bear great loads in tension and compression, high resiliency and performance under harsh and difficult conditions, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, and the ability to span great distances with minimal material. Steel can be shaped by many processes, ranging from standard rolled sections to custom castings and digitally generated components. It can be prefabricated and delivered for site assembly, and it can be erected quickly under almost any weather condition to meet tight construction schedules.

Steel can be easily modified during the life cycle of a building to accommodate changing occupant requirements. As the most recycled material in the world, steel is an environmentally sound building material choice. Architects praise the natural beauty of steel and are excited about exposing it in the design of their structures to emphasize grace, slenderness and strength, and in their building envelopes to enhance environmental performance and aesthetic character.