Registration Deadline: April 7, 2021

2021 Steel Competition

Workplace Wellness & Open


Summer 2020

Competition Announced

April 7, 2021

Registration Deadline

June 2, 2021

Submission Deadline

Summer 2021

Winners Announced

Competition Overview

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) is pleased to announce the 21st annual Steel Design Student Competition for the 2020-2021 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.

Full Competition Program will be posted online in August 2020.
Category I: Workplace Wellness

The Future of Design

It’s still unclear how the current pandemic will shape our future built environments, but workplaces will likely be the first visible front of change. How will the sudden and radical shift in how we work be codified? The pandemic era will not be permanent, but it has forced many to embrace more flexible scheduling, remote working, and the needs of workers in a crisis, from on-site childcare to accommodating those most vulnerable to illness. How can a workplace keep all of its inhabitants safe, from those that keep a building’s essential services running to its office workers and management? And once the pandemic passes, how can the workplace ensure wellness on a more holistic level by promoting physical and mental health.

Steel is an ideal structural system to confront these challenges. It allows for large openings, sunlight and easy airflow, flexible layouts, and innovative approaches to services. Steel can be easily modified during the life cycle of a building to accommodate changing requirements. This competition asks students to move beyond the long-held impetus for a healthy workplace to merely ensure worker productivity, to one where everyone thrives.

Category II: Open

Steel Design

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.

Advantages of Steel

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.


The design jury will meet in Summer 2021 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 website and the AISC website.

Winning students and their faculty sponsors will receive cash prizes totaling $20,000 with distribution as follows:


in cash prizes
Category I: Workplace Wellness
StudentFaculty Sponsor
First Place$4,000$1,500
Second Place$2,000$1,000
Third Place$1,000$500
Category II: OPEN
StudentFaculty Sponsor
First Place$4,000$1,500
Second Place$2,000$1,000
Third Place$1,000$500

Because the support of AISC is largely derived from steel companies whose markets are mainly in the U.S., the ACSA/AISC Student Design Competition is open to students and/or student teams from ACSA Full and Candidate Member Schools, 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 individuals 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.

Full Competition Program in development by: Sara Carr, Northeastern University; along with Eric Wayne Ellis, ACSA; & Christina Harber, AISC. The full competition program will be posted online in August 2020. 

Edwin Hernández
Programs Coordinator

Eric W. Ellis
Senior Director of Operations and Programs