2015 CIRT – ACE National Design Competition Finalists

VOA-mentored ACE Chicago Team 1 reaches national finals with “Park City” entry

The CIRT (Construction Industry Round Table) recently announced the three national finalist teams that will compete in the final presentation round of the 9th Annual CIRT-ACE National Design Competition to be held on April 27, 2015 in Washington, D.C.  I’m thrilled to tell you that the ACE Illinois/Chicago Team 1, mentored by VOA designers after-hours, was chosen as a first time finalist to make a final presentation of its “Park City” entry at CIRT’s Annual Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C. alongside finalist ACE teams from Florida and Frederick, MD. This year, a record 46 entries nationwide were submitted and evaluated in the national design competition.

ACE students at VOA

ACE students at VOA

VOA’s Chicago office participated in the ACE (Architecture, Construction and Engineering) Mentor Program for the fourth year in a row along with partner firms in construction and engineering. Founded in 1994, the ACE Mentor Program advises and instructs high school students interested in pursuing careers in design and construction. It reaches over 8,000 students annually nationwide and has awarded over $14 million in scholarships since its founding.

During the 19-week program, Chicago’s ACE students (drawn from Chicago public high schools) were introduced to the ACE professions, toured the offices of participating firms and worked on a competition project. Chicago Team 1 started off in November with firm visits and design exercises (the initial VOA visit had ACE students designing hats). Mentors conducted a college night to answer questions about the academic path to architecture careers and led construction site visits. You can read a week-by-week account of Team 1’s experience by VOA’s Lindsay Boley on the Ace Mentor Chicago blog.

Next, Team 1 jumped into the competition project, the City Centre Challenge. This year entrants were “challenged to generate innovative ideas for renewing your town/city center.” The “innovative, transformative, and challenging” idea had to be a viable way to create real change in an identifiable area of the city. Team 1 visited its site of choice and met at VOA every Thursday night for weeks to develop its design while VOA mentors (Lindsay Boley, Rachna Bhatia, Natalya Falk, Breah Page, John Scherer, Nathan Sonoskey and myself) helped students navigate the basics of CAD, Sketchup, Photoshop, Revit and hone their project presentation skills.

Team 1 developed its own master plan for new construction and rejuvenation of an underutilized area of Chicago near the Chicago River. The team visited the site and talked to locals about their needs before choosing to develop the area in five different zones, each with its own urban attraction. Groups of 3-4 students were assigned to each zone (recreation center, landscaped amphitheater, skate park, food truck park and dog park) and each group was represented by its own “project manager” who sorted out design details between the groups. Team 1’s competition submission included designs for all five areas as well as explanations of project budget, sustainability and schedule. The team presented the Park City project in the first week of April at the UIC Forum where it was chosen a finalist.

ACE – CIRT will sponsor one student and mentor from Team 1 for the final presentation round. And efforts are underway to raise funds for more students to attend the D.C. final in late April. As it has done in the past, VOA will sponsor an internship for an ACE team member this summer. Xochitl Castel will join us in 2015.

ACE Chicago recently set a record, raising $237,000 at its 15th Anniversary luncheon, which will enable it to offer more scholarships and continue investment in the Summer Design-Build Project with the Chicago Park District. VOA is proud of its continued association with ACE Chicago. Please head over to Acementorchicago.org for more information on the ACE program in Chicago. 

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