CHAIRMAN'S OVERVIEW

The BCO Awards 2007 justify their premier status in part because of the quality of entries but equally due to a judging process that looks beyond the architectural merit to function and fitness for purpose.

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This year's entries have been exceptional, representing the beginning of a trend towards a new generation of buildings that not only excel as functional spaces but are lean in construction, beautiful in execution; exceptional in terms of energy consumption and simply delightful.

The judging is unusual in that it covers all these aspects, looking also at how the projects contribute to the wider environment in terms of landscape and public value.

The joy of judging is being able to see each project through the eyes of one's fellow judges, be they agent, architect, developer or engineer, gaining in the process a fund of knowledge that fuels the next year's work.

Particularly evident this year was a group of exceptionally low energy buildings, exploiting a full range of technologies that are destined to become mainstream in the near future. Whereas last year the National Trust was an exception, this year there are a number of developer-led designs that have been won as a result of clients setting well thought-out briefs with challenging energy targets that have been more than met by developers and backed up by young talented design teams.

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New thinking about the future of offices also came through this year. The innovation award reflects a revolution driven by start-ups and occupiers who can work from portable computers almost anywhere. It points the way to how all office work may evolve.

There are still huge barriers to overcome but they are being tackled with gusto. The refurbishment award shows how the toughest off-centre location can be recycled successfully, while a central London site so difficult that it had lain idle for 25 years has been rescued to produce a simple and elegant landmark which fully justifies the commercial award.

The importance of sticking to design briefs rather than cutting corners to save pennies cannot be exaggerated. This came through in the top corporate building; a public project which meets all new demands for highly insulated, naturally ventilated space at a budget appropriate to a commercial office

Nor can the importance of small projects be overlooked. The award for this sector demonstrates how a quaint old building can create memorable working conditions and support a modern commercial business through a sensitive and sustainable approach.