AISC


IDEAS² Competition Rules and Guidelines

What are the IDEAS² Awards?

Sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction, the Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel (IDEAS²) Award program recognizes projects that illustrate the exciting possibilities of building with structural steel. The IDEAS² awards showcase the innovative use of structural steel in:

  • the accomplishment of the structure's program

  • the expression of architectural intent

  • the application of innovative design approaches to the structural system

  • leveraging productivity-enhancing construction methods

AISC’s award programs have celebrated landmark structures built with structural steel since 1960. These architectural icons span generations and stand the test of time. AISC recognizes and promotes these projects in recognition of their impact in terms of structural innovation, advances in safety, benefit to the local community, and environmental consciousness.

While many of the winners are landmark structures, the awards program also honors smaller, less well-known projects. What all of the winners share is a commitment to innovation and imaginative design!

What you'll need to enter:

Be sure to have the following on hand to fill out the entry form:

  • information and a contact person for all of the companies that made a substantive contribution to the design’s innovation, including the owner, architect, structural engineer, general contractor, steel fabricator, steel detailer, bender/roller (if applicable), steel erector, and other key consultants.

  • what makes your project an example of innovative design and construction excellence. You’ll find more details about what this should include in the “How to enter” section of the full rules further down on this page.

  • 3-20 print-quality images that show off the project and its most exciting features. AISC recommends a selection of interior, exterior, and construction shots as well as technical drawings and renderings. Images must include photo credit information and should be jpg, tiff, or eps files that are at least four inches wide at 300 dpi. The full rules listed below include a suggested photo list and additional technical information.

How it works:

Any member of a project's team can submit it for an IDEAS² award. However, a fabricator, erector, detailer, or other firm eligible for AISC Full or Associate membership submitting a project themselves must be an AISC member in good standing at the time of entry.

A panel of professionals from the design and construction industries will judge the entries in five categories according to constructed value (in U.S. dollars):

  • less than $15 million,

  • $15 million to $75 million,

  • $75 million to $200 million, and

  • greater than $200 million.

There is also a category for sculptures, art installations, and non-building structures.

There is no fee to enter the competition.

Judging criteria

The judges will consider the project's use of structural steel from both an architectural and structural engineering perspective, with an emphasis on:

  • creative solutions to the project's program requirements

  • application of innovative design approaches in areas such as connections, gravity systems, lateral load resisting systems, fire protection, and blast resistance

  • aesthetic and visual impact of the project, particularly in the coordination of structural steel elements with other materials

  • innovative uses of architecturally exposed structural steel (AESS)

  • advances in the use of structural steel either technically or in architectural expression

  • use of innovative design and construction methods such as 3D building models, interoperability, early integration of specialty contractors such as steel fabricators, alternative methods of project delivery, or other productivity enhancements

  • sustainable design

National and Merit awards, recognition for non-building structures, and the Presidential Award of Excellence are bestowed at the judges' discretion. 

Eligibility

  • Any member of a project's team can submit it for an IDEAS² award. However, a fabricator, erector, detailer, or other firm eligible for AISC Full or Associate membership submitting a project themselves must be an AISC member in good standing at the time of entry.

  • New buildings, expansions, and renovation projects (major retrofits and rehabilitations) are eligible.

  • Building projects in the 2023 competition must be located in the U.S. and must be completed (either occupied or ready for occupancy) between Jan. 1, 2021, and Sept. 8, 2022.

  • At least 50% of the structural steel for the project must have been produced and fabricated in the U.S. by a company eligible for AISC full membership, or a unique or distinctive feature of the project must have been fabricated by a company eligible for AISC full membership, in a facility located in the U.S.

  • A significant portion of the framing system of a building must be wide-flange or hollow structural steel sections (HSS).

  • Pedestrian bridges entered in the competition must be an intrinsic part of a building and not stand-alone structures. If you would like to submit a bridge project, we encourage you to enter the National Steel Bridge Alliance's 2024 Prize Bridge Awards.

Tell us about your project

The online form will include space for you to describe what makes your project special. In preparing to enter, we suggest you think about the following:

  • innovative uses of architecturally exposed structural steel (AESS) and aesthetic impact of the project, particularly in the coordination of structural steel elements with other materials

  • advancements in the use of structural steel, either technically or in architectural expression

  • applications of innovative design approaches in areas such as connections, gravity systems, lateral load resisting systems, fire protection, and blast protection

  • the use of innovative design and construction methods such as 3D building models, interoperability, early integration of steel fabricators, modular or prefab design, alternative methods of project delivery, and sustainability or resiliency considerations

  • implementation of new and evolving principles and tools that drive the progression of modern design and project planning, such as data-driven design and the use of technology such as drones, VR, and AR for design and construction review

The written descriptions and the images you submit should give the judges a sound understanding of the general characteristics of your project and the specific way in which it demonstrates design excellence.

The descriptions should not repeat what is already clear from the images you submit but it should include project intentions—program requirements, site features, cost data, etc.

Image criteria

Print-quality photographs and graphics should show off your project and provide an adequate basis for a sound and comprehensive evaluation of the structure and its design. Technical drawings and renderings can also be helpful.

Images are mandatory, but there are no specific requirements as to what they depict. AISC suggests that a selection of exterior, interior, and steel construction images—all with photo credit information—accompany each entry.

A thorough image submission for a given project would include:

  • at least one image showing each exposed side of the building or environment

  • at least one additional image showing the immediate context of each exposed side of the building or environs (omit if the project's relationship to its environs is clearly defined in other images)

  • for a group of buildings, at least one image of the project that is sufficient to illustrate the concept and scale, including its relationship to its environs

  • for projects involving exterior alterations, at least one image of each altered (exposed side) together with at least one image of the side before alteration (unless evidence is submitted on the unavailability of the latter)

  • a site plan, floor plan, and one or more sections that explain the project solution

Technical details:

  • Images should be high-resolution (at least 300 dpi), at least four inches wide, and submitted as jpeg, tiff or eps files.

  • Images can depict the construction and erection processes as well as the finished project.

  • You may submit up to 20 images per entry.

  • All images must include credit information in the filename. (Example: Willis Tower exterior-creditJohnSmith.jpg)

  • Submitted photographs and images used for exhibition or publication purposes will bear the customary photograph credit line provided; however, AISC is not responsible for errors or omissions. AISC reserves the right to use all submitted materials indefinitely to showcase the winning projects, feature innovation in the structural steel industry, and promote the IDEAS² program. Submitting an entry to AISC constitutes acceptance of this policy by firms, companies, and project photographers and indicates or confirms that these submitting parties have copyright ownership or express permission to submit them, that they grant AISC a royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive license to publicly display, distribute, reproduce the submitted materials in any media, and that they agree to hold AISC harmless from and against all claims of any nature arising in connection with the submittal of materials.

What you should know about entering:

  • Entrants agree to abide by all rules and regulations of AISC's IDEAS² Awards program as defined in this document. AISC is not responsible for errors or omissions in entries.

  • Firms may submit multiple building projects. Each entry will be considered separately.

  • By entering, you grant AISC permission to disclose information about the recipient of the award and the building project, including budget and cost details.

  • Firms that worked on submitted projects should expect to be asked for additional information and commentary about their projects by representatives of AISC and the media. Those on the project's steel team will only receive recognition if they are AISC members in good standing at the time of the award announcements; AISC will recognize other firms on the AEC team at its discretion.

  • AISC will make every effort to include all AISC members in good standing who were involved with winning projects, but omissions happen. Please notify us of errors as soon as possible.

  • Submitted photographs and images used for exhibition or publication purposes will bear the customary photograph credit line provided, however, AISC is not responsible for errors or omissions. AISC reserves the right to use all submitted materials indefinitely to showcase the winning projects, feature innovation in the structural steel industry, and promote the IDEAS² program. Submitting an entry to AISC constitutes acceptance of this policy by firms, companies, and project photographers and indicates or confirms that these submitting parties have copyright ownership or express permission to submit them, that they grant AISC a royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive license to publicly display, distribute, reproduce the submitted materials in any media, and that they agree to hold AISC harmless from and against all claims of any nature arising in connection with the submittal of materials.

Questions about anything you've read here?

Please contact Dani Friedland or Keith Grubb for assistance.