The 2019 ENR Southwest Best Projects competition recognizes more than 30 projects as the region’s best. The winners include Project of the Year Finalists, such as the new student union at Central Arizona College in Coolidge, Ariz., and Excellence in Safety winner Palace Station Casino, Las Vegas. Other Project of the Year Finalists include Kitt Recital Hall at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and Little America Hotel, also in Flagstaff.

Winners in many categories—including Project of the Year finalists and the Excellence in Safety winner—were built while the facilities were operational, with students and customers only a few feet from construction activity.

Other projects were lauded for using materials not commonly seen on construction sites. The Biomimicry Center at Arizona State University has lichens embedded into concrete walls. Canyon View High School in Waddell, Ariz., turned to bio-phase change materials to improve energy efficiency. In New Mexico, the 14,000-sq-ft Albuquerque BioPark Penguin Chill exhibit was built in the middle of an open zoo and features a 75,000-gallon water tank.

Each of the winners impressed this year’s judges in their own ways. The seven judges reviewed more than 70 projects completed between mid-2018 and mid-2019. The judging panel included: Pat Edwards, Burns & McDonnell; Kai Kaoni, Northern Arizona University; Craig Randock, Corgan; Bill Sabatini, D/P/S; Brent Wright, Wright Engineers; Dave Alben, Jokake; and Rebecca LaMotte, hardison/downey.

Judges rated entries based on the following criteria: overcoming challenges and teamwork; safety; innovation and contribution to the community; construction quality and craftsmanship; and the function and/or aesthetic quality of the design. Judges were asked not to review projects in which they had a conflict of interest.

Judges for the safety awards were Jon Wickizer, chief technology officer, Acknowlogy, and Dara Lesmeister, safety manager, Caesars Entertainment.

More than 40 safety entries were evaluated based on OSHA incident rates, lost-time accidents, total work hours and the overall quality of the safety programs.