CIRT National Design & Construction Competition


"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."– Winston Churchill, Statesman, scholar, author, WWII British Prime Minister

The 2020 CIRT National Design & Construction Competition invites ACE Mentor Affiliate teams (student and mentors) from across the country to design solutions for one of three challenges: water resource management, a national pavilion, and a gastronomic center.

The competition is maintained, coordinated and juried by the Construction Industry Round Table (CIRT), in coordination with ACE Mentor National and the Chicago Architecture Center. The 2020 theme celebrates the innovations and contributions the design and construction community make to the quality of American life, while understanding the issues and challenges the industry faces to deliver on this legacy.


Water Resource Management and Preservation

Water: the life sustaining precious resource that also has importance to commerce, connectivity, and community. Water can also be an unpredictable force of nature, capable of destroying or wiping out structures, terrain, buildings, and lives. How we manage, harness, preserve, and use this vital element relies greatly on ingenious design AND construction solutions. This project option calls upon the teams to delve into the challenge of water resource management through use of damns, locks, levies, canals, grading, and reservoirs, etc. Critical to success: focusing on damns and other water infrastructure, either propose a new solution entirely or renovate/replace – restore an existing facility/system.

No matter new, renewed, or updated -- to take on this challenge you must demonstrate:

  1.  the importance of your site selection [before vs. after site development],
  2.  why is it critical to undertake your plans,
  3.  how use of materials/construction adds value,
  4.  balance of functionality and design,
  5.  environmental impacts, security, and construction approaches
  6.  lay-out the solutions as well as provide a cost estimate (per foot) to address the needs that is realistic and doable for the resources/financial support likely available in the locale.

Due to the likely displacement and logistical problems this project will create in a community, the proposal MUST include the precise CONSTRUCTION steps, stages, demolition, and remedies for these problems.

National Pavilion

The mission of this competition is to create an iconic landmark that reflects, symbolizes, and captures in design and construction materials, methods, and standards of the U.S. in the 21st century (for 2020)- reflecting its diversity, technological strengths, and security needs. This entry must connect our history, our present, and our potential future – to display or capture in the “built environment” (including structures, landscaping, building materials, techniques, and overall presentation) the essence of being an American – and all its vitality and freedom.

The proposal must determine the size of the undertaking, both in terms of structures, land use, and access. Provide a before vs. after site development.

Teams must also provide a CONSTRUCTION timeline and per/sq. foot estimate of the cost of delivering the project. The cost estimates must be realistic and doable for the resources/financial support likely available.

The winning pavilion should strive to be a catalyst for the promotion of U.S. tourism, investment, business excellence, and a showcase for the quality of life found in the United States.

Gastronomic Center

With the rise of interest, variety, and educational need, the objective of this project challenge is for the teams to create a space for cultural exchange through gastronomy. In this spirit, the entry should develop and provide, using construction materials and approaches, space for chefs from all around the world to exchange knowledge and share their experiences, techniques, styles, foods, and cooking methods (stoves/grills, etc.) in order to promote gastronomic education and exchange. All while providing for their own personal and professional enrichment and that of students or studio audiences (onsite and TV).

Your entry must demonstrate:

  1. the reason for your site selection,
  2. how use of materials/construction address the challenge,
  3. balance of functionality and design to achieve the project goals, and
  4. provide a cost estimate (per foot) to accomplish the needs in a realistic and doable way consistent with the resources/financial support likely available in the locale.

The proposal MUST also include the precise CONSTRUCTION steps, stages, and remedies for this challenge.

Download the full competition packet with additional information. Entries must meet all requirements listed in the full descriptions.

Download PDF



To be eligible to compete, applicant must:

  • Be a participating ACE Mentor Program student
  • Enter with a team of three or more students and ACE Affiliate(s)

Competition Timeline

October 2, 2019
Competition announced
January 6, 2020
Submission platform open
March 3, 2020
Final submissions due
March 18, 2020
Finalists notified/Preliminary results announced
April 6, 2020
Finalists required to have made lodging arrangements in Washington D.C.
April 27, 2020
Finalist presentations in Washington, D.C.

Winners & Prizes

A professional jury will review eligible entries in the preliminary round. Then top finalists will compete for first, second or third place in the Final Round in Washington, D.C. Winning teams, on behalf of their Affiliates, will receive a monetary award that can be used use for any purpose to support the operations, programs, grants, and/or needs of the Affiliate.

First place team
Second place team
Third place team
Top three finalist
Stipend for travel expenses
Runner-up teams
Additional prizes


Teams are welcome to use the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s online learning platform,, to collaborate. Students can upload their work, give feedback to each other and share photos, links and other resources as they work through the design process.

Learn more


Submissions open in January. Deadline for entries is 11:50pm CST on March 3, 2020.