New Homes Awards 2013: who is designing the best houses?
The hunt is on to find the capital's best new homes — from one-off mansions to imaginative affordable apartments London and the M25 commuter belt have the world's most dynamic property market — one that poses constant challenges for house-builders and architects who have to respond to a discerning buying public as well as the demands of politicians, planners and environmentalists.
The Evening Standard New Homes Awards celebrate the best examples of residential development, big and small, and we are now seeking entries for the 2013 competition, one of the leading events in the property calendar.
Awards are given in 10 categories that collectively recognise excellence across the housing spectrum — from first-time buyer flats to one-off luxury mansions. New-build properties and conversions qualify. Housing associations that build shared-ownership schemes and affordable flats for key workers and others can also apply. Plus we are looking for notable regeneration projects that transform a decaying urban area and bring something fresh for the local community.
Winning an award is a huge prize for developers and designers. The accolade of an Evening Standard award confers kudos and helps promote the builder's brand.
Hand-picked reader judges
The awards are judged by a panel of respected industry experts and handpicked Evening Standard readers, with recent buying experience.
Award entries are judged according to set criteria, including design flair, eco-friendliness, innovation, energy efficiency, quality of finish and use of space. Above all, winners have to demonstrate "value for money", so lower-priced homes have a chance to shine and win one of the coveted trophies.
A special "Grand Prix" award goes to the individual home or development considered to be the most outstanding. All category winners are automatically entered for this award. Last year's winner was the spectacular Neo Bankside development alongside Tate Modern.
London and the South East are at the forefront of housing and design trends and demographic shifts. Population growth is putting extra pressure on land and resources, meaning that new housing requires inventive thinking.
Twenty-first century homes must meet the everyday demands and lifestyle needs of buyers, whether that be micro pads for young singles and couples, intelligently designed houses for families, or lock-up-and-leave homes for downsizers. New-builds should be exciting and glamorous, opening a new chapter in buyers' lives, and be flexible enough to adapt to changing needs.
Affordability is another factor. While the capital's "safe haven" status continues to attract the global rich, who are the single biggest factor propelling prices to a record high, many of its "locals" struggle to get on the property ladder. Government schemes to overcome the deposit hurdle faced by first-time buyers are only part of the solution. Our awards celebrate those forward-thinking builders, architects and housing associations who are finding fresh ways of delivering well-designed homes for a realistic price.
Urban living is about more than fabulous interiors. The best developments not only respect the heritage of surrounding buildings and fit into the urban fabric, they enhance the neighbourhood by improving the public realm and by bringing new amenities. This is what town planners call "place-making".
Not just a roof
Gone are the days when property merely provided a roof over our heads. Developments now offer a complete lifestyle package — security, leisure, shops, restaurants, even a place to work.
Live-work enclaves are emerging on the back of internet technology — places where people can avoid the stress of commuting and network with the like-minded. Interior design has to respond to this — hence the fashion for moveable walls and novel storage ideas.
London is awash with sites ready for developers to unlock — sections of derelict riverside, former industrial zones, outdated office blocks, redundant colleges and hospitals, factories and warehouses.
Conversions, another of our award categories, are a wonderful opportunity for developers to excel. It might be a small-scale refurbishment executed with panache — say, a factory turned into designer lofts, or a quirky church conversion. Or it might be a redevelopment of a magnificent redundant Victorian asylum.
Green housing is a top government priority and our Eco Living Award reflects the urgent need to protect the planet through sustainable development.
By 2016 all new homes will have to be "carbon-free". Some developers are already achieving the target energy-efficiency ratings, resulting in much-reduced bills for householders. The continuing challenge is to build homes that look good and are comfortable and satisfying to live in as well.
Past winners of our awards have gone on to achieve hard-won recognition from homebuyers, which has given them a competitive edge over rivals.
The closing date for entries is February 1 2013. For more details about award categories and to download an entry form, visit homesandproperty.co.uk/nha.