2020 Steel Competition: Urban Food Hub

Registration date:


Submission date:




Competition Overview

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) is pleased to announce the 20th annual Steel Design Student Competition for the 2019-2020 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.

The 2020 Steel Design Student Competition will offer architecture students the opportunity to compete in two separate categories:

Category I: Urban Food Hub

  • Challenges architecture students to design an Urban Food Hub in an urban context of the student’s and sponsoring faculty’s selection.

Category II: Open

  • 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.

Design 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 site for the competition is the choice of the student and/or faculty sponsor. It is required, however, for the site to be in an urban context, close to public transportation, and city amenities. Submissions must explain the site selection and strategy geographically or otherwise.

Construction Type

The design project must be conceived in structural steel construction. A strategy should be considered that evaluates a method for reducing overall construction cost for the project in steel using innovative methods of structure, fabrication, and construction.


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 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.

Registration & Submission

A faculty sponsor is required to enroll students online (available at www.acsa-arch.org) by April 1, 2020. Registration can be done for your entire studio or for each individual student or team of students participating. Students or teams wishing to enter the competition on their own must have a faculty sponsor, who should complete the registration.

There is no entry or submission fee to participate in the competition. Each registered student and faculty sponsor will receive a confirmation email that will include information on how the student(s) will upload final submissions online. Please add the email address [email protected] to your address book to ensure that you receive all emails regarding your submission.

  • Digital Submission Format: Submissions must be presented on four 20” x 20” digital boards, and no more than 20MB each. All boards are required to be uploaded through the ACSA website as JPEG. The names of student participants, their schools, or faculty sponsors, must NOT appear on the boards, or in the project title or project title file name(s).
  • Digital Essay or Abstract: A brief essay, 300 words maximum, describing the most important concepts of the design project is required as part of the submission. Keep in mind that the presentation should graphically convey the design solution and context, and not rely on the design essay to convey a basic understanding of the project. This essay or abstract is included in the final online submission, uploaded by the student(s) in a simple copy/paste text box.
  • Program Summary: A program summary, 150 words maximum, diagram/text of spaces and areas is required as part of the submission. All interior and exterior spaces must be included; total net and gross areas are required. The program summary is included in the final online submission, uploaded by the student(s) in a simple copy/paste text box.

Submissions must include (but are not limited to) the following required drawings:

  • Three-dimensional representations to illustrate the character of the project in the form of axonometrics, perspectives showing the proposal in its context, montages and/or physical model photographs;
  • Site plan showing proposal in the 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

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


The design jury will meet in Summer 2020 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 web site at www.acsa‑arch.org and the AISC web site at www.aisc.org.

Winning students and their faculty sponsors will receive cash prizes totaling $14,000.