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The 2023 ENR California Best Projects competition featured a host of innovative work that spanned the construction and design spectrum.

From dynamic student-housing projects with carbon-neutral designs to major highway upgrades with challenging worksite limitations and cutting-edge energy facilities keeping a close eye on environmental impacts, this year’s winners grappled with pandemic-related safety measures and supply chain issues to find innovative solutions and produce outstanding examples of construction expertise.

ENR California Best Projects are divided into two regions, Northern California and Southern California (which includes Hawaii). A total of 75 projects were submitted for judging in this year’s competition. From those, the independent panels of judges selected 44 for recognition—18 projects in Northern California and 26 in Southern California.


Judging Panels

Judges from all corners of the AEC community spent weeks reviewing entries for achievement in five areas: project challenges and solutions, safety programs, innovative design and construction solutions, contribution to the construction industry and the community as well as design quality and craftsmanship. Projects were ineligible for an award if they had a construction-related death.

Entries from each California region—Northern and Southern—were evaluated by separate panels of judges. Over the course of a month, the judges independently reviewed the entries, scored each project on specific criteria and then convened virtually with fellow judges to finalize their choices for Best Projects, awards of merit and Projects of the Year.

Judges were asked to recuse themselves in cases where their firm participated in a project or if they had any other conflict of interest.

Special thanks go out to this year’s team of Northern and Southern California judges:

  • Amer Bata, deputy department manager, AECOM
  • Doug Conrath, principal, CRB
  • Donald Kahn, project executive, Largo Concrete
  • Phil LeCocq, project management, division of engineering, California Dept. of Water Resources
  • Thomas McNulty, project manager, JTM Construction Group
  • David Mori, engineering manager, city of Anaheim Public Works
  • Allison Otto, president and CEO, Otto Construction
  • Caleigh Raymer, president, Genton Cockrum Partners
  • Sam Tso, senior vice president transportation, HDR

Best Project-level winners for each California region will now advance to the national contest, where they will compete with the winners from nine other regions for ENR’s Best of the Best awards. Judging for the national contest will begin later this year, and the results will be announced in early 2024.


Excellence in Safety and Sustainability

This year’s contest also features two special awards for each California region: Excellence in Safety, which has been a part of the competition for more than a decade, and Excellence in Sustainability, which is in its third year. The judges recognized two safety winners and five sustainability winners between the two regions.

The two special awards for sustainability and safety for both of the California regions were judged by separate independent panels.

Safety judges were Brian Sorensen, director of safety for Exxel Pacific Inc., and Alan Hayes, safety director, California at JTM Construction Group.

Sustainability judges were Raven Adams, sustainability manager, Granite Construction, and Erin McConahey, principal, ARUP.

Potrero Canyon Park

The landscaping for Potrero Canyon Park in Los Angeles was a winner in Southern California's landscape/urban development category.
Photo by Multivista Systems LLC

Projects of the Year

In addition to selecting category winners, judges for the main competition also chose three projects from each California region for consideration as Project of the Year, the regional contest’s highest honor.

For Southern California, the Project of the Year finalists were the (W)rapper (Best Project for office/retail/mixed-use) and Snapdragon Stadium (Best Project for sports/entertainment). The Southern California Project of the Year honors went to the Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project (Best Project for highway/bridge).

For Northern California, the finalists were Russian River Health and Wellness Center (Best Project for health care) and Gateway at Millbrae Station (Best Project for residential/hospitality). Northern California Project of the Year honors went to the SFMTA Central Subway Underground Stations (Best Project for airport/transit).

The winning project teams for Northern California will be celebrated in San Francisco on Oct. 17 at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in the Merchants Exchange Building. The winning project teams for Southern California will be honored on Oct. 19 in Los Angeles at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza.

Sacramento I-5 Corridor Enhancement Project

The Sacramento I-5 Corridor Enhancement Project took top honors in the highway/bridge category in Northern California.
Photo courtesy Teichert Construction

The Projects

Southern California

Northern California