A total of 106 project teams entered ENR Midwest’s Best Projects competition, one of the strongest fields of innovative construction achievements we’ve ever had.

A college football practice facility and athletic center had a second-floor field cantilevered over the edge of Lake Michigan because of a tight site. A downtown convention center hotel was completed in record time thanks to BIM coordination and prefabrication, including bathroom pods that were delivered directly to the site for installation. Several bridge projects defied the elements and accomplished engineering feats such as extradosing and plans for future deck replacement thanks to the dedicated design and construction teams behind them.

In infrastructure, two major storm water tunnels were completed despite challenges such as drilling through karstic limestone. When it comes to building program innovation, we had two K-12 school winners that really moved the ball forward in both green construction as a teaching tool and interactive learning.

The strength of the field went far beyond how much owners had to spend. Small projects such as a hiking trail in Wisconsin and structural renovations to 1900s water intake cribs in Lake Michigan that purify Chicago’s drinking water showed that design and construction innovation doesn’t need a large price tag.

Our judges were Dana Gilberti, architect at Griskelis Young Harrell; Geoff Weisenberger, editor of Modern Steel Construction; Lynda Leigh, project manager at Turner Construction; Jeff Emrick, director of safety and compliance at Ozinga and Sam Mishelow, chief strategy officer at Meyer Najem Construction. All five panelists generously donated their time and expertise in judging such a diverse and strong group of entrants.

The Excellence in Safety award is judged separately and with different criteria than the others. Our safety judges, Jeff Emrick and Sam Mishelow, gave thorough grades to all projects focusing on the safety challenges presented by each submitting team.

Overall, we had 40 Best Projects and award of merit winners, including three projects that won safety awards in addition to awards in the main contest categories.