Achieving construction and design excellence in difficult economic times is no easy task. It requires equal measures of experience, imagination and unwavering commitment, according to this year's judges for ENR California's Best Projects competition.

Photo by Henry Cabala, Henry Cabala Photography
CENTER STAGE The Kravis Center at Claremont McKenna College was named the Best Regional Project for 2011.

This year the competition increased, with the addition of projects in Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska to the program. Taken together, Engineering News-Record's group of regional editions expanded their Best Projects contests to all 50 states, which will provide national coverage for its upcoming Best of the Best competition.

This year, the ENR California call for entries resulted in 116 submitted projects. Nine judges selected 34 winners. They also named one of them the Region's Best Project: the Kravis Center at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont.

"It was impressive to see the quality and caliber of projects in spite of the effects of the economy on the A/E/C profession," says judge Andrea Cohen Gehring, principal at DLR Group WWCOT, Los Angeles.

She adds, "Project challenges were expertly handled with effective team collaboration. And the variety of projects was an unexpected surprise, especially the energetic pedestrian bridges forming important civic gateways. This year's projects did not disappoint!"

Another judge, John Nunan, president of Unger Construction, Sacramento, says he was gratified to see the high level of project quality in light of the soft economic conditions. "I am always amazed at our industry's ability to raise the bar of quality, innovation and safety in spite of tough times," he says.

Judge John Saliba, vice president at FTR International, Irvine, notes, "Not surprisingly, the overall winner, the Kravis Center, is a LEED-Silver project that utilized building information modeling."

Saliba adds, "Its inviting modern design and success in achieving the submitter's stated goal in regard to 'the element of transparency and relationship between interior and exterior spaces' led to this project's top prize award."