CIRT Competition FAQs

What is different this year?

This year, the CIRT National Design & Construction Competition will use a digital platform, DiscoverDesign, in collaboration with the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) to conduct the process.  All materials must be submitted to the platform with an official entry to be judged. The preliminary rounds will be determined by what is submitted to the platform. 

Each of the options or challenges will have their top three entries determined as part of selecting the national finalists to move onto the in-person “presentation” round in Washington D.C. to determine the National Champion, for which boards will be printed and prepared.

Teams have the option of using DiscoverDesign as an online collaboration tool for any of the CIRT design challenges. Teams can upload images of notes, sketches, renderings, links to other multimedia and leave comments as they work through the design process. This is not a required part of the CIRT competition and will not be reviewed by the jury.

How does our team collaborate online using DiscoverDesign?

The following instructions are only for teams that are choosing to use the optional DiscoverDesign collaborative platform. 

  1. Register as a team:

    All teams are required to create a single email account and password that will be used by all members of the teams (mentors and students). This will be the email for the competition registration form as well when you are ready to submit the final project. Teams are required to create a single email account and password that all members can access. This will be your email for competition registration form. When you register you will also provide the individual names and email address for each team member to ensure successful communication with CIRT administration.

    For example:

  2. Create a DiscoverDesign Account:

    Using your team email address create one DiscoverDesign account for your team to use to work on your project challenge.

    Provide all team members with the email address and password.
  3. Choose a Design Challenge:

    The Lead Mentor (or Lead Student) should then select one of the three project challenges (from the Design Challenges page) and then hit START which creates the platform for working collaboratively.
  4. Collaborate using DiscoverDesign:

    Login by clicking the red button at the top right of page and enter your Team email address and password to begin collaborating on your project.

    Only those who have the login information will be able to see the project, upload and leave comments (be sure to sign your name to your comment so everyone knows who is saying what).

    Work created in DiscoverDesign is private and cannot be viewed by other competing teams, unless permissions to publicize work are updated in the project settings. Please keep all CIRT competition work in the default private setting for the duration of the competition.

What is a team?

Teams are comprised of students and ACE Mentor Affiliate(s). Entries to the competition must be by a team comprised of at least three or more students. The intent is to encourage group dynamics requiring assignments, compromise, and/or consensus building. 

Multiple teams from one Affiliate: CIRT ardently requests and recommends that Affiliates with more than one team contemplate submitting entries in the different challenges rather than multiple ones in the same category. It greatly increases the value of the competition and improves the odds of having one of the teams among the recognized entries when spread amongst the various challenges.

What is the jury criteria?

The panel of judges will be mainly compromised of CIRT member CEOs of the leading design and construction firms in the United States. The overall theme, or evaluation criteria, for the competition is one founded on the practical aspects of the profession, particularly with respect to:

  • Constructability
  • Use of materials
  • Meeting deadlines and establishing realistic/reasonable expenses or budgets

More important than the actual design solution is the methods and processes used to arrive at a solution. Fundamentally, the spirit of this competition is one of design and construction.

During the final round, great weight will be given to the ability of the ACE students (i.e. their selected representative) to articulate a clear, comprehensive, coherent and cogent presentation that persuades the judges as to selecting his/her team as the winning entry. Preparing the student representative is part of the overall process that the other team members will receive benefit from as well. 

For jury review your project should...

1. Respond to the Entry Process Questions:

The following questions are representative of the type of information that would be expected along with the design concepts, renderings, etc.  

**Please note: Jurors will carefully consider your replies to these questions when evaluating your overall project as they work through your ENTRIES.

  • Question A: Define and/or describe the prob­lems/challenges you faced when deciding on the design project you chose to do for the competition.
  • Question B: Thoroughly describe your design process, in writing and through visuals (e.g. sketches, renderings, stepped process, before and after, budgets, timelines, etc.) that specifically and realistically meets the PRECISE or exact nature of the challenge and/or the client goals/needs.
  • Question C: Explain how your design approach is an appropriate, innovative solution that realistically responds to the precise design competition problem. Explain how your design is different from other approaches or processes, if such is the case; and/or meets budgetary constraints, timeline issues or other challenges.
  • Question D: Describe any social/ecological or otherwise beneficial qualities of your design solution. (For example, is it a universal design? How? Is it environmentally friendly? Does it use cost-effective or recyclable materials?) 
  • Question E: Describe what you learned from this design competition.

2. Consider Design Aspects/Construction Elements

The following design/construction aspects will be evaluation criteria, and should be explained where appropriate:

  • Site selection and its context (built and/or natural)
  • Constructability (structural challenges, materials, textures, colors, etc.)
  • Strategy for sustainability 
  • Surrounding landscape/external spaces
  • Life and activities, in and around the building, including the qualities of enclosed spaces showing furniture, fittings and finishes (where needed or appropriate to the design competition selected). 

What is expected for overall presentation/final boards?

The overall presentation of images, renderings and other supporting materials (design materials) on your final board(s) submitted for the competition is extremely important. These will be reviewed and inform jurors’ decisions for the initial cut down to three finalists. The design materials therefore must be clear, concise, complete and well thought out with sufficient and compelling information to stand independently from any written narrative or report.  The judges are looking for clarity, understandability, constructability, completeness, flow of ideas and how the proposed solution realistically and fully meets the challenge.

Here are some suggestions:

  • A brief written explanation describing something about the context and thinking behind the scheme should be included on the board(s)
  • Photographs (of the site, 3D model, etc.) may be mounted or scanned onto the displays 
  • No specific drawings or scales are prescribed, but the presentation must convey the ideas underlying the design (whether a building or not), its overall forms and spaces, its character and atmosphere
  • As much narrative addressing the entry questions (above) should be on or presented as part of the boards

What does past student work look like?

Check out the gallery from the 2016 competition
Watch this video of the final presentations from the 2013 competition finalists

How are awards determined?

Any ACE Mentor Affiliate/Chapter can volunteer to participate in the National Design Competition, which uses design challenges adapted and/or modified to accommodate the competition’s parameters. The true goal is to judge the ability of the students to make a reasoned, coherent, well thought out, clear presentations on their team’s design/construction approaches within the project’s objectives and/or constraints, etc.

What are the program awards?

CIRT will present prizes for the top three national finalists ($5,000, $3,000, $2,000 respectively), plus some for runner-ups, in addition to providing a logistical/travel expense stipend (approximately $1,000 per team) to put towards costs associated with attending the final round as the Affiliate/Chapter best determines.

What happens if I'm a finalist?

CIRT will notify finalists on March 21, 2017. Finalists will be asked to print and mail their boards or have them produced and delivered locally to CIRT no later than Friday, March 31, 2017 (A list of possible printers will be made available to the finalist). Team representatives must have their hotel rooms in Washington D.C. booked by March 31, 2017. The presentation materials submitted for the competition will be retained by CIRT.

The finalists can select a representative of their team to present their project in D.C.. CIRT will provide up to $1,000/team for the travel expenses for the finalists attending the CIRT Spring Conference in Washington D.C. Team representatives will present to the CIRT Panel of Judges on April 24, 2017, and the winners will be selected and announced at that time. CIRT will present the top three national finalists with prizes.

Finalists must have their boards printed.

The final boards initially submitted to the Registration Application must be printed for the final round of jury review. Finalists can print a maximum of two boards, each approximately 841mm x 594mm or 24”x36”, horizontal or vertical, mounted on two A1 lightweight boards. If boards printed for final review have been edited or altered, beyond image clarity and file size adjustments, in any way from the original submission, finalists are subject to disqualification.

Need help?

If you have a question about the competition challenges, requirements or content specifics, please select Competition Questions below. If you have questions about using the Registration Application, working collaboratively in DiscoverDesign, or any other technology related questions please select Technical Support.

Technical SupportCompetition Questions

Who do I contact for more information?

Mark A Casso, Esq. President
Jane Bonvillain, Director - Association Programs

Construction Industry Round Table
8115 Old Dominion Drive, Suite 210
McLean, VA 22102
(O) 202.466.6777

Monica Worheide, Regional Director - Central
ACE Mentor Program of America

DiscoverDesign Team
Chicago Architecture Foundation



The project options for the CIRT Design Competition may have been derived from actual competitions that are underway or have been recently completed.  The information furnished has been edited and/or modified so as to meet the needs and form the basis of the CIRT competition.

If for any reason you believe a key piece of information is missing or you are unclear as to a specific reference in the information provided – please make an educated guess or assumption that would further your proposal (and simply indicate what that assumption was and why you made it).  Please do not let a geographical reference or other individual piece of information prevent you from completing the CIRT design competition submission!

By competing all team members grant CIRT permission to use any photograph, likeness, or any work produced during the CIRT competition for promotional purposes that it deems appropriate. The purposes may be for internal or external use and may include collateral materials, newsletters, advertising, marketing, publicity, or other uses. All submitted digital files belong to CIRT and may be used for promotional and/or educational purposes. Images and original content will be credited to CIRT and the competing team as able and appropriate.

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