Design Guidelines


Steel must be used as the primary structural material.  Design proposals must contain at least one space/element that requires long-span steel structure, with special emphasis placed on innovation in steel design.  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.

Design proposals must reflect a clear conceptual strategy, which is resolved in built form at a detailed level. The project should be developed with an integrative approach to the innovative use of building materials and systems—spatial, structural, environmental and enclosure.

Participants will develop a selected physical area of the project in greater detail considering the building’s systems through larger scale drawings showing structure, environmental strategies, building envelope and interior spaces. Through rendered perspectives and elevations, the proposals should demonstrate surface qualities including material, color, texture, and light.

Together with the integrated resolution of structural, tectonic and technical issues, projects should be designed in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.  Design proposals should respond to the physical context (geography, topography and latitude), climate (sun, wind, light and water), and culture (patterns of interaction rising from human occupation). Projects should demonstrate reduced dependency on non-renewable resources and the integration of environmental responsibility with the architectural vocabulary of the proposal.

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
  • 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 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

Submissions must include:

  • Completed online registration including all team members and faculty sponsors
  • 4 digital boards at 20” x 20”.
  • A design essay or abstract (300 words maximum)
  • Program summary diagram/text of spaces and areas (300 words maximum)

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.

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 LIBRARY
First Prize                    Student  $2,500 
  Faculty Sponsor               $1,000 
Second Prize  Student  $1,500

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

Faculty Sponsor  $750 
Third Prize  Student  $750 
  Faculty Sponsor  $500 

+ Download the full 14-15 Steel Competition Program (pdf)


For questions please contact: 

Eric Wayne Ellis
Director of Operations and Programs  
Angela DeGeorge 
Programs Manager