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Joint DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team Proposal for Homeless Shelter Places Third in National Design Competition

DDC: Shoshana Khan, 718-391-1251,

(Long Island City, NY – June 9, 2021) The NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and NYC School Construction Authority (SCA) announced today that the joint DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team 8’s proposal for a homeless shelter in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx has placed third in a national design and construction competition designed to address the homeless epidemic. There are 25 high school students from 16 public schools throughout the City on this year’s DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team 8.

The DDC/SCA team’s proposal, entitled “Case Verde,” would create an ecologically friendly men’s homeless shelter with training and educational programs and employment readiness initiatives for up to 135 residents who would be eligible to stay at the facility for six to eight months. It was presented by the team virtually as part of the Homeless Shelter Challenge of the Construction Industry Round Table’s 15th Annual National Design & Construction Competition. Overall, 16 ACE Mentor teams from around the country chose to participate in the Homeless Shelter Challenge in the competition.

Rendering of homeless shelter

A rendering of the men’s homeless shelter “Casa Verde” proposed by DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team 8

“We are extremely proud of DDC/SCA ACE Team 8 and the national recognition they’ve received for their work in this prestigious design competition,” said DDC Commissioner Jamie Torres-Springer. “Students interested in STEAM career fields are encouraged to participate in a team in their area to learn lessons about the built environment, foster connections and receive mentorship that’ll last for years to come.”

“These programs provide the skillset and tools that will develop our future leaders in the design, architecture and construction professions just like ACE Mentor Team 8. I commend them on their strong showing in this year’s competition,” said SCA President and CEO Nina Kubota. “The ACE Mentor Program is also perfectly aligned with various SCA programs including our High School and College Internship programs, workforce development program, and Opportunity Academy that prepare students to join the construction industry and excel in their careers.”

“Congratulations to Team 8 and the amazing mentors from DDC and SCA, we are incredibly proud,” said DDC Deputy Commissioner for Community Partnerships and STEAM initiatives Lee Llambelis. “Team 8 worked hard to envision a men’s shelter that would address the real-life needs of our homeless neighbors. Their project is both innovative and practical. Our wonderful mentors have provided our students with a unique learning experience that will open the doors to opportunities in the ACE industries. I look forward to all your bright futures!”

“Congratulations to the participants of ACE Team 8 for their national recognition of the innovative and holistic design of the ‘Casa Verde’ men’s homeless shelter,” said SCA Senior Management Specialist for Business Development Ruby Saake. “This innovative approach is an excellent blueprint for people trying to solve the problem of homelessness.”

“We are incredibly proud of ACE GNY Team 8 for doing so well in the CIRT competition. The challenges faced this year were unprecedented – and yet, the students and mentors persevered,” said Executive Director for ACE Mentor Program of Greater NY Sue Veres Royal. “Their final project was one of the best that I have seen since my time with ACE, and the fact that it was on such an important, needed project – homeless shelters – only made it more memorable. The students drew strength from the challenges facing NYC families, used the knowledge shared with them by their mentors, and used their own creativity to create an inspiring project and are well deserving of this honor.”

Rendering of homeless shelter green roof

A rendering of the green roof for the men’s homeless shelter “Casa Verde” proposed by DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team 8

“There is so much I can say about our ACE Team 8 students who all performed exceptionally well considering an arguable once in a lifetime pandemic occurrence that caused the world to stand still,” said DDC Director for Public Buildings Oral Selkridge. “These students have shown me and others that they are ready for the future and can also lead many into the future. The future is exciting, challenging, scary at time but is filled with so many possibilities and I truly believe that the students of ‘ACE 2020’ will help lead in this new adventure.”

“Even though the ACE program was fully virtual this year, we saw an incredible effort put forth by the students and mentors to make it just as productive as in previous years. Unprecedented levels of coordination were needed to design ‘Casa Verde,’ and we are extremely proud of the end result,” DDC Engineer in Charge for Infrastructure Madeline Skoblik. “Placing third in this national design competition for the second time in three years shows that ACE Team 8 has the necessary tools and motivation to compete on the national stage. I only see more success for these students and for ACE Team 8 in future competitions!”

“We are really impressed by an extraordinarily talented group of students in DDC/SCA ACE Team 8 this year. Despite working remotely, the students were able to quickly grasp concepts of architecture, engineering and social sustainability, after which they were able to tackle a variety of challenges faced when designing a modern homeless shelter,” said DDC Auditor for Engineering Audit Office Salman Javed. “Their hard work and ingenuity is captured perfectly in their final project. We were especially blown away by their exemplary commitment to social welfare in our City. Congratulations to everyone who was a part of Team 8. I have no doubt we will read more about their incredible achievements in the future.”

“It was very inspiring to see how students addressed one of the toughest design challenges, researched the topic to understand the depth of the issue, and created a meaningful design. All of this in a virtual zoom setting,” said DDC Sustainability Coordinator for Infrastructure Ankita Nalavade. “Team 8’s hard work and enthusiasm were unparalleled throughout the project. It only shows how eager and dedicated they are to explore the potential of the built form. The seamlessness with which they weaved different aspects of sustainability and biophilia into the project design only informs us that we are looking at a talented cohort and I am extremely eager to see them working in the field.

“Thank you for the endless support that you have not only given me but all of my fellow teammates! I cannot express how much I will miss coming back to participate in ACE Mentor Team 8,” said DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team 8 Participant Pamela Bernal. “I’m excited to attend City College in the fall! I hope to see all of you again.”

“Thank you so much for what you have done for me and the other students over the last few years,” said DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team 8 Participant Md Hoque. “I had almost no experience in the field prior to participating in ACE Team 8, but after two years in the program I feel confident in pursuing architecture and continuing my journey at Syracuse University in the fall.”

“I never met a group of people who are so caring, supportive and helpful,” said DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team 8 Participant Shahema Reha. “Each and every one of my mentors and team leaders were truly dedicated to help me learn and they pushed me and my teammates to see our full potential. I am truly grateful for meeting everyone on ACE Team 8 and learning from them. Thank you!”

The ACE Mentor Program was designed to “engage, excite and enlighten high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering and construction through mentoring and to support their continued advancement in the industry.”

For the national competition, teams were required to apply design and construction techniques to create an inviting environment that would attract the indigent and homeless to abandon their nomadic or street existence for something more nurturing and secure found in a homeless shelter. The shelters would address the various needs of its occupants including health, safety, hygiene, nourishment and drug/alcohol treatment. Teams had to describe challenges they faced when choosing the project; the design process through writing and visuals, including budgets, timelines and workflow; how their chosen approach was innovative, realistic and different from other approaches; social, ecological and beneficial qualities of their design solution; and what they learned from the competition. A total of 27 ACE Mentor teams submitted for the three challenges that were part of the competition this year.

The shelter would be located at the former Spofford Juvenile Detention Center and would feature spaces for security, resident intake/processing, counseling units, staff offices, recreational activities, a kitchen, a dining hall, multipurpose community room, residential pods, green market, training center, parking lot and loading dock. The Center would be redesigned with locally sourced eco-friendly materials and include green infrastructure including permeable asphalt and bioswales. Additionally, the transformed site would meet the requirements for LEED Gold certification and would be the first LEED certified homeless shelter in the City.

The students estimated the cost of repurposing the 144,000-square-foot area would be $102 million, with anticipated funding from the City and private investments. In comparison to the City industry average of $800 to $1,200 per square foot, the shelter would cost approximately $700 per square foot. It would take approximately 18 months to transform the former Center into “Casa Verde.”

Founded in 1994 by a group of leading architects, contractors and engineers in New York City, the ACE Mentor Program has served over 77,000 students nationwide and over 14,000 students in New York alone. Today more than 13,000 students and 4,100 mentors participate in ACE each year in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Three-quarters of ACE students come from minority and underserved communities.

DDC’s partnership with SCA and ACE Mentor is organized under the DDC’s STEAM education initiative, established in 2014 as a pipeline for City students to career fields related to science, technology, engineering, art/architecture and mathematics.

The DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team 8’s Closing Ceremony can be viewed here and the proposal can be viewed here.


About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $15.5 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit

About the NYC School Construction Authority
The School Construction Authority's (SCA) mission is to design and construct safe, attractive and environmentally sound public schools for children throughout the many communities of New York City. We are dedicated to building and modernizing schools in a responsible, cost-effective manner while achieving the highest standards of excellence in safety, quality and integrity. Established by the New York State Legislature in December 1988, the SCA has provided over 265,000 new school seats, not including Temporary Classroom Units (TCUs), to New York City students, opened the nation’s largest free Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) network providing almost 8,800 seats under the Mayor’s UPK initiative and protected, repaired and upgraded over 1,800 schools in over 1,400 school buildings with over 12,500 capital improvement projects.