About




Large Project of the Year Winner – Kornberg Center, Promega, SmithGroup

Promega Corporation is an international biotechnology company serving life science research and applications with values in creative thinking, flexibility, and transformational development. The new 280,000-square-foot, three-story Kornberg Center research and development facility advances research in creating tools and technologies that support novel methods in research, drug development, forensic science, clinical and molecular diagnostics, and applied testing. Nestled into a clearing surrounded by woodlands, the design takes inspiration from nature, scientific workflow, and a people-centric business that facilitates leading-edge scientific discovery.

SmithGroup worked in partnership with Ramlow/Stein Architects + Interiors on the Kornberg Center. The design process was remarkably transparent and inclusive, involving scientists, company leadership, construction experts, a full architectural and engineering team, climate engineers, and facility managers from the very first workshop. The resulting design is an embodiment of a profoundly interdisciplinary, collaborative culture of partnership and teamwork within the Kornberg Center. The design allows scientists to work together in a way they had not experienced before. The open floor plan and breaking down of hierarchy with no private offices is reflective of Promega’s people-centric culture.

Small Project of the Year Winner – Omega Yeast, Valerio Dewalt Train

As one the largest suppliers of brewer’s yeast in the U.S., the Omega Yeast production facilities set a new precedent for the beer making industry. This design project exemplifies change within the industry in terms of the resources that were used, its integration within the city of Chicago, and its economic efficiency. As a manufacturing facility, the building was designed for efficiency and approached sustainability measures from its inception. The facility was thoughtfully built using a small set of economical materials and is simultaneously efficient and budget conscious.

Located within a residential area, the building’s design both focuses on noise reduction for the community while allowing for possibilities for that same community to have a glimpse into the science and inner-workings of the Omega Yeast production through innovative design. The design of Omega Yeast’s facility is a result of not only high collaboration within the internal team, but also high collaboration with the client and their external consultants. The facility accommodates research, development, and manufacturing, which led the team to learn every aspect of the process in order to exceed client expectations. Valerio Dewalt Train’s dedication to collaboration led to a highly functional scientific building as well as a highly functional facility for employees, the direct community, and the environment.

Sustainability & Wellness Winner – ESD

What if… every downtown Chicago building over 300,000 square feet built between 1980-1995 replaced their existing end-of-useful-life chillers (Typically utilizing R-11 refrigerant) with new chillers utilizing (R-514A refrigerant)? How much carbon reduction could be achieved? ESD’s research team, led by Andrew Lehrer, found that the costs to replace these end-of-useful-life chillers are not prohibitive when considering available incentives, and offer significantly more carbon reduction compared to other commercial refrigerants typically utilized: equivalent to 68,650 cars removed from the road for a year. The results help us understand how investment decisions with relatively minimal cost and schedule effect can have a significant impact toward reducing carbon output from their buildings that can be clearly quantified to their tenants as well as staying ahead of regulations and their competition.





Young Leader of the Year Winner – Samantha Davidson, ESD

At a young age, Samantha Davidson has proven to be a successful and essential project manager on the Commissioning (Cx) team, and has been trusted with leadership roles from very early in her career. Currently, she is the primary manager responsible for providing end of life building automation systems commissioning services for a portfolio of properties operated by a major financial services company. To date, this includes a portfolio of 10+ commissioning projects totaling approximately $1M sales in Cx work and continues to grow. In addition, she has also served as the lead project manager for over 100 tenant interior and new construction LEED Fundamental and Enhanced Commissioning, International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) Commissioning, and basic commissioning projects.

Since joining ESD, she has earned three certifications: QCxP, LEED AP BD+C, and Fitwell Ambassador. She has demonstrated an exceptional ability to work across internal ESD groups to meet the client’s needs and expectations, and successfully collaborate and coordinate both internally and externally, resulting in good relationships and sustained business development. Samantha was recently named to the Programs Committee for CoreNet Global Young Leaders. She is also the secretary of ESD’s Network in Empowering Women (NEW). In every role, Samantha has proved to be a go-getter, a team player, flexible and adaptable in the face of the unexpected, and relentless in her pursuit of new business opportunities as well as personal growth in every setting where she finds herself.

Diversity + Inclusion Winner – Taft Cleveland, SmithGroup

Taft Cleveland, Associate AIA, LEED GA, AORN, NOMA, is a Senior Architectural Designer at SmithGroup, based in their Chicago office. He is actively involved in building a culture of social justice and inclusion for the national design firm. Taft serves as one of fifteen members of SmithGroup’s national Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) committee, working towards creating a more equitable work culture for the 15-office firm. The overarching goal of the committee is to make changes that promote justice and equity at both SmithGroup and in the built environment. Taft contributes to the mentorship program within the JEDI committee and is a resource for young professionals in the firm. He also recently developed a matrix system to ensure equitable promotions and hiring occurs across the firm; his framework can be applied to any position of any level in any office.

Taft is the founder of SmithGroup x HBCU, a program in which SmithGroup partners with architecture programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country, and oversees the program’s growth. The goal of this partnership program is to address equity by building the talent pipeline and creating a more diverse architectural profession, offering academic mentorship, and internships. With this, Taft hopes to address some of the inequities facing Black architecture students, thereby increasing the number of graduates into the field of design. Through targeted partnerships with HBCUs, SmithGroup will have mentored over 150 students (from freshman to fifth year) in their first year of the program. In 2021, he designed the Community Achievement Racial Equity framework (C.A.R.E.) to end racism in healthcare. The framework identifies methods to break down socio-economic barriers, create a healthier community and provide recommendations for change to hospitals in their facilities and the surrounding community. C.A.R.E offers a scoring exercise based on a 15-minute walkable radius surrounding each hospital, and identifies criteria like access to healthy food, public transportation, and healthy and safe recreation. SmithGroup supported Taft’s work on the C.A.R.E framework by awarding Taft an exploration grant to conduct research and refine C.A.R.E, one of five design professionals awarded this honor among 1,200 staff.

Diversity + Inclusion Winner – POPCourts, Lamar Johnson Collaborative

Imagined as a respite from the challenges brought on by the pandemic, PopCourts provides much-needed outdoor amenity space, including a stage for neighborhood gatherings, a mouthpiece for community artists, and a safe space for the local youth, right in the heart of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. The 20,000 SF project includes three zones, “Courts,” each serving various community functions, with the programming meant to be flexible, allowing activities to “Pop” up and transform over time.













Nominations are now closed

Winners will be announced late-January.

View Awards & Judging Criteria Document

REAL Awards will support the CoreNet Global Chicago Chapter University Alliances Scholarship.