CIRT National Design & Construction Competition


“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”—Elon Musk, Electric Car manufacturer

The 2021 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: a homeless shelter, a manufacturing center, or to retrofit a school.

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 2021 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.


Homeless Shelter

Create a functional modern welcoming homeless shelter that addresses the various needs of its occupants such as: medical/health, safety/security, hygiene, nourishment, drug/alcohol treatment, etc. The challenge is to apply design AND construction techniques or applications that will create an inviting environment that will attract the indigent and homeless to abandon their nomadic or street existence for something more nurturing and secure found in a homeless shelter. The teams are encouraged to think outside the box and propose creative solutions to this vexing problem.

The entries must connect or capture in the “built environment” (including structures, landscaping, building materials, techniques, and overall presentation) the elements of a successful homeless shelter.

The proposal must determine the site selected (a critical element and why), the size of the undertaking (both in terms of structures, land use, and access) [Provide before vs. after site development]; as well as 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 entry should strive to be a catalyst or model for use around the country to address the issue of homelessness on our streets.

Manufacturing Center/Zone

Plan, develop, and create a local site/hub or zone to attract manufacturing, supply chain resources or other like elements to meet the needs of the United States to recapture or reclaim its competitiveness in the global market. As the nation begins the process of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns, what has become apparent to many is the necessity to bring back “on-shore” the lost capacity and assets to secure vital supply chain elements to our most important products and services. To accomplish this paradigm shift will take the design AND construction of modern, multimodal, accessible, energy sufficient, and worker friendly areas or zones where manufacturing facilities or hubs can rise to meet the challenge. Part of this development will mean connectivity and community through the application of ingenious planning, design, AND construction solutions.

This project option calls upon the teams to delve into rethinking how we apply our assets to bring about a renaissance in manufacturing and jobs on U.S. soil. Critical to success teams must demonstrate:

(1) the paramount importance of your site selection [before vs. after site development]
(2) the critical elements to undertake your plans
(3) how use of materials/construction creates the necessary attraction or value to your site
(4) balance of functionality and design
(5) environmental impacts, security, and construction approaches
(6) provide a cost estimate (per foot) to address the needs that are 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.

Retrofit School

Reimage, retrofit, or otherwise redesign and re-construct areas or portions of (and possibly entire) schools to meet the health, safety, and social needs in the current AND post pandemic environment. With the rise of concerns and debate around reconvening in-person school attendance (at the elementary, secondary, and college levels); a heightened awareness and need to reimagine or rethink indoor educational spaces has become paramount. In this spirit, the entry must use construction materials and approaches that will provide spaces that will balance, comfort, and/or calm fears or concerns regarding reasonable health concerns; so that proven in-person educational instruction, as well as the other ancillary valuable social exchanges critical for mental health and wellbeing can transpire and be achieved.

The team entries must demonstrate:

(1) the precise aspects or areas of your applied solution (i.e., what portions of the school and why you chose them)
(2) how use of materials and construction solutions address the challenge
(3) balance of functionality and design to achieve the project goals
(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, with any demolition or other pre-retrofit work described and detailed.

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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

January 15, 2021
Submission platform open
April 16, 2021
Final submissions due
April 29, 2021
Finalists notified/Preliminary results announced
May 17, 2021
Finalists required to have made lodging arrangements in Washington D.C.
June 7, 2021
Finalist presentations in Washington, D.C.


Submissions open in January. Deadline for entries is 11:50pm CST on April 16, 2021.



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