The Detroit Waterfront District rewards steel: offsite as an innovative technology for sustainable urban regeneration

The Detroit Waterfront District is the context of the second edition of the Manni Group Design Award: the contest of ideas run by Manni Group, in collaboration with YAC – Young Architects Competition and Sterling Group, is an international chance to reflect on the sustainable redevelopment of cities through more innovative building technologies.

The reference site is the city of Detroit, specifically the deserted riverfront area where the Joe Louis Arena used to be. The participants of the 2020 contest are required to design a new mixed-use district which includes luxury residences, hotels, business area, commercial and cultural centres.


The focus is therefore urban regeneration with low environmental impact with the use of the construction paradigm that Manni Group and its companies have been promoting for years: offsite construction with steel.


Steel and dry building

Offsite construction makes it possible to build and pre-assemble most of the components directly during production, thereby limiting the actual work time on site and the related costs. For Manni Group, this approach translates into the use of steel for the structural frames and sandwich panels for the envelopes.


Three Group companies are involved:


Manni Sipre – which produces semi-finished steel structural elements;

Isopan - which focuses on the production of insulation envelope design solutions;

Manni Green Tech – specialised in the construction of Light Steel Frame, they deal with the engineering aspect of dry projects.

Unlike traditional construction which uses large amounts of water, dry building with steel fulfils the criteria of sustainability, recyclability of materials and energy savings, combined to guarantee the minimum environmental impact, granting the designer maximum freedom of expression.


Contestants of the Manni Group Design Award are given a schedule of technical possibilities that can be used in the design of the Detroit Waterfront District, useful for obtaining one of the competition’s four GOLD Mentions.

Manni Group Design Award II partners. Main Sponsor is Tata Steel

Alongside the companies of the Group, this year the contest once more features the collaboration of an international Main Sponsor: Tata Steel, one of the world’s main steel companies, is one of the major European steel producers with steel sites in Holland, Great Britain and production sites across Europe. They mainly work in the building and infrastructure, automotive, packaging and engineering industries.


The Tata Steel solution suggested by the contest schedule is Colorcoat Prisma®: a three-layered cutting-edge production technology used to create an optimised, sturdy and chrome-free pre-coated steel product. This solution provides dry façades with designer finishes, available in a broad range of colours to achieve the aesthetic result imagined by the architect.


In fact, as the Main Sponsor, Tata Steel awards a GOLD Mention to projects that present designer finishes to building façades. In fact, Claudio Chimienti, Regional Manager of Tata Steel for Southern Europe, will participate in the panel, alongside internationally renowned architects.


Sponsors: Dow and Rockwool

The following shall be participating as Sponsors:



Dow, an American chemical company which, founded over 100 years ago, is now one of the most important in the world. The polyurethane technology by Dow, as the technical partner for Isopan, applied to the insulation of the architectural envelope, covers an essential role in the design of buildings that fulfil the environmental and almost zero-energy standards. This collaboration, in fact, enables the development of innovative technologies, such as Leaf, to improve insulation.


ROCKWOOL, a Danish group that provides rock wool solutions for construction. The rock wool insulating panels developed from the collaboration between ROCKWOOL and Isopan offer excellent fire resistance performance, a solution that can also be applied in the GreenROOF system.

Sterling Group

The Detroit Waterfront District contest is promoted by Manni Group in collaboration with Sterling Group, a private real estate investment company founded in Detroit in 1988, which buys and manages high potential properties. The CEO, Elie Torgow, is on the panel of the Manni Group Design Award.

The design schedule and the GOLD Mentions

The prize money foresees, other than the winners, the assignment of 4 GOLD Mentions related to the technologies presented in the competition schedule on 3 possible design nodes, which will be at the centre of the required 1:20 scale detail.

NODE 1 - Structure

For this node the use of Manni Sipre heavy steel frame or the Manni Green Tech Steel Frame is suggested to earn the “The Power of Steel” GOLD Mention.


The use of steel presents numerous advantages, which include:


  • Versatility of application and freedom of expression;
  • full recyclability without losing any of its original properties;
  • Maximisation of interior spaces

NODE 2 – Wall solutions | Isopan ADDMIRA

The use of Isopan ADDVISION with Tata Steel - Colorcoat Prisma® is recommended for the “Aesthetics that Lasts” GOLD Mention.


The advantages of this solution:


  • exceptional UV performance and corrosion resistance
  • broad choice of standard colours
  • it provides improved aesthetics and long-term performance.


Isopan ARK WALL, on the other hand, is recommended for the Isopan “Ventilated Façade” GOLD Mention. This is a system for ventilated façades comprised of components and layers mechanically secured to the building. ARKWALL guarantees:


  • infinite cladding possibilities
  • high thermal performance

NODO 3 – Tetto piano

Isopan PVSteel and Isopan GreenROOF are both suggested to achieve the “Flat Roof Solutions” GOLD Mention.


Specifically, Isopan PVSteel:


  • significantly reduces the ‘heat island’ effect thanks to Cool Roof systems, obtaining an improvement of the albedo and thermal insulation;
  • reduces energy consumption;
  • lowers CO2 emissions in the atmosphere;


Conversely, the green roof cover solution GreenROOF, which consists in fitting the green roof system onto a flat roof made from sandwich panels, offers:


  • bioclimatic improvement
  • efficient management of rainwater
  • improved soundproofing
  • trapping of particulates