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Chicago Student Team’s “School of  the Future” is Crowned
National Champion

In a packed standing room only in-person presentation, three “Worthy Finalist” teams competed in the final round before a five-judge panel to vie for top honors in the 2023 CIRT National Design + Construction Competition. The eventual winner, in a closely contested three-way match, went to the ACE Mentor team hailing from Chicago, IL for their school of the future entry. The overall competence and creativity in converting an existing waterfront building for educational purposes within the limits of “net zero” constraints won the judges over.  

The competition was part of the Construction Industry Round Table’s (CIRT) spring conference held in downtown Washington, D.C. The three finalist teams had survived a grueling process in each of the categories among 48 entries from 22 ACE Mentor Program of America Affiliates. Florida led all states with a total of eleven (11) submissions from five different Affiliates. Overall, the competition attracted approximately 350 students and 200 mentors to compete. The distinguished panel of judges was headed by Gayle Packer, CIRT Board Member (President & CEO of Terracon), that also included: J.J. Suarez (CSA Group), Jeremy Bardin (HITT Contracting), Thomas Donnelly (BrightView Landscaping Development), and Jenni Mushynski, (CIRT, formerly with Chicago Architecture Center).

The order of finish for the competition was:

  • First Place and a prize of $5,000 went to: ACE Mentor Program of Illinois, Chicago Team 11 for their School of the Future entry “Starlight School
  • Second Place and a prize of $3,000 went to: ACE Mentor Program of Southern Nevada/Las Vegas, Magnum Opus Design Team for their Border Relief entry “Santa Teres Humanitarian Center” and
  • Third Place and a prize of $2,000 went to: ACE Mentor Program of Colorado, Colorado Springs Team for their City Park entry “Martin W. Drake Community Open Space.”

After carefully analyzing the presentations as well as the underlying entry’s design/construction approaches within the project’s objectives, the five-judge panel balanced the outcome on the basis of the two major elements: quality of presentation and competence of the overall entry. The winning team’s solution exhibited a very strong responsiveness to the criteria of the school of the future prompts and specific elements, such as: (i) advantageous site selection, (ii) surrounding intra-modal forms of transportation and networks, in addition to (iii) use of an existing structure rehabbed to meet the demands of future educational needs, and (4) while attaining the goals set by the strict requirements of “net zero” functionality.

Six other teams were also recognized in the 2023 competition as either First Runner-Up ($1,000 prize) or Second Runner-Up ($500 prize) in each of the three different design challenges or options. Among this elite group were:
School of the Future Challenge (out of 23 entries): 1st Runner-Up: ACE Mentor Program of Greater Milwaukee, Team H;  2nd Runner-Up: ACE of Program of Illinois – Chicago Team 1;
City Park / Open Spaces Challenge (out of 9 entries): 1st Runner-Up: ACE Mentor of Inland Empire, Team Green Land Park;  2nd Runner-Up: ACE Mentor Program of Greater Washington, DC Metro Area, McKinley Tech H.S.; and
Humanitarian Center / Border Relief Challenge (out of 16 entries): 1st Runner-Up: ACE of Program of Illinois – Chicago Team 7; 2nd Runner-Up: ACE Mentor Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, STEM Academy of Hollywood.

The CIRT Competition celebrates the innovations and contributions the design/construction community makes to the quality of American life, while understanding the issues and challenges the industry faces to deliver on this legacy. The Competition is maintained, coordinated, and judged by Construction Industry Round Table is intended for ACE Mentor Affiliate team entries. 

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