Guidelines & Rules



DESIGN GUIDELINES  (Category I & Category II)

Steel must be used as the primary structural material with special emphasis and understanding of a steel bracing system exposing the material’s slenderness, grace and transparency. Design proposals must contain at least one space that requires long-span steel structure, with special emphasis placed on innovation in steel design and an awareness of the bracing system incorporated in the design proposal.

For a proposed steel building, there are many different correct designs for a structure to carry gravity loads to the foundation or resist lateral loads. Understanding limitations and potentialities of steel as a material can improve the architectural design transforming weaknesses into strengths. Among many steel structural systems designed to resist lateral loads in steel structures, steel-braced frames are one of the most widely used in multistoried buildings. These frames are primarily placed in vertically aligned spans and allow obtaining a great increase of stiffness with a minimal added weight. Additionally, bracings can provide an increase in stability of the structure with lateral loading and help reduce lateral displacement significantly.

Traditionally, steel braces have been used in a concentric braced frame (CBFs) configuration, consisting  of diagonal braces located in the plane of the frame. This system is the most common for medium-rise structures because it provides the same strength in both directions. In fact, both ends of the brace join at the end points of other framing members to form a truss, creating a stiff frame. CBFs may be arranged in several different configurations – such as X, V, inverted V or one-directional diagonal bracing, and single or multi-level bracing – and the bracing members may be designed to act in tension or compression or both. However, braces can interfere with architectural features and many architects have been experimenting with different results (IBM Building, Pittsburgh. Architect: Curtis and Davis; Hancock Building, Chicago. Architect: Fazlur Rahman Kahn, Bruce Graham; Hearst Tower, NYC. Architect: Norman Foster (Foster and Partners).

One solution to the architectural constraints is offered by eccentrically braced frames (EBFs). They provide the same advantages as CBFs but greater flexibility with architectural openings. Eccentric bracing consists of diagonal braces located in the plane of the frame where one or both ends of the brace do not join at the end points of other framing members. The system essentially combines the features of a moment frame and a concentrically braced frame, while providing excellent ductility for high-seismic regions of the country. The eccentric connection to the frame means an eccentric brace transfers lateral forces via shear either to another brace or to a vertical column. Architects have designed several eccentrically braced frames   for prominent buildings in the United States from the 1960’s through the 1980’s (i.e, Office of LeMessurier Consultants). For these structures, designed prior to modern seismic provisions, eccentric bracing was the most efficient means to developing a stiff lateral system that accommodated the architectural program ( However, more innovative designs have recently fully utilized the EBFs potentials (i.e. Fujisawa project, Tokyo, Japan, Architect: Richard Rogers). Among the many, the Sierra Bonita Affordable Housing project in West Hollywood, California by TIGHE Architecture represents a good example of how EBFs can be implemented in the architectural design process. This five story mixed-use affordable housing project features a courtyard with an eccentric brace frame core as a fundamental structural design component.

These newly evolving EBFs systems should be investigated more in terms of their structural and economic feasibility. The challenge for the next generation of buildings will be to make EBFs an adaptive structural system that responds to possible changes in occupancy levels and demands of site conditions. The complexities involved in the design should justify the continued construction within the constraint of limited resources providing innovative design solutions. Whether using EBFs or another structural system, the most compelling proposals will inevitably integrate the use of steel into the design of the project at multiple levels, from primary structure to building envelope and tectonic details. The project should be developed with an integrative approach to the innovative use of building materials and systems—spatial, structural, environmental and enclosure.

Refer to the International Building Code and the local zoning ordinance for information on parking requirements, height restrictions, set-backs, easements, flood, egress and fire containment. All proposals must be designed to meet requirements for accessibility; for guidelines, refer to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the principles of Universal Design.


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–steel–deployed with maximum innovative potential with a minimum of one long-span space
  • 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 and innovative approach to sustainability as a convergence of social, economic and environmental issues
  • A thorough appreciation of human needs and social responsibilities

Submissions must include (but are not limited to) the following required drawings:
  • Three-dimensional representations - in the form  of  axonometrics,  perspectives  showing the proposal in its context, montages and/or physical model photographs – to illustrate the character of the project;
  • Site plan showing proposal in its context of surrounding buildings and topography, together with details of access/circulation;
  • Building/site sections sufficient to show site context and major spatial and program elements;
  • Floor plans to show program elements, spatial adjacencies and navigation strategies;
  • Large scale drawing(s), either orthographic or three dimensional, illustrating:
    • the use and detailing of steel for building structure and/or envelope
    • integrated design
  • Completed online registration including all team members and faculty sponsors,
  • Four (4) digital boards at 20” x 20” in a grid format,
  • A design essay or abstract (300 words maximum),
  • Program summary diagram/text of spaces and areas (300 words maximum).

The names of student participants, their schools and faculty sponsors must NOT appear on the boards, abstract, program summary, or in the file name.

Incomplete or undocumented entries will be disqualified. All drawings should be presented at a scale appropriate to the design solution and include a graphic scale. The site plan should include a north arrow.




March 28, 2018              Registration Deadline (free registration)
May 23, 2018                 Submission Deadline
Summer 2018                Winners Announced
Fall 2018                        Publication of Summary Book


First, second, and third prizes will be awarded in each of the two categories, in addition to a selected number of honorable mentions, at the discretion of the jury. 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 and the AISC web site at A total of $14,000 will be distributed in the following manner:

Category I DETENTION CENTER                             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


Because the support of AISC is largely derived from steel companies whose markets are mainly in the U.S., the competition is open to students from ACSA Full and Candidate Member Schools from the U.S. and Canada, as well as ACSA Affiliate Members Schools from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico only.

The competition is open to upper level students (third year or above, including graduate students). All student entrants are required to work under the direction of a faculty sponsor. Entries will be accepted for individual as well as teams. Teams must be limited to a maximum of five students. Submissions should be principally the product of work in a design studio or related class.

Download Steel Competition Program (PDF)

For questions please contact: 

Eric Wayne Ellis
Allison Smith 
Director of Operations and Programs
Programs Manager
202.785.2324 202.785.2324