CHAIRMAN'S OVERVIEW

Entry criteria in 2008 gave a clearer sense of what judges were looking for when assessing buildings. The wide ranging criteria that buildings are judged by are unique among the many award schemes for office buildings and make a BCO Award so valuable.

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Judges were looking for excellence in architecture, clarity of purpose from those commissioning the building, ingenuity of the product, clever design solutions, delivery on time and budget and that special aspect of a project that makes it a delightful and productive place of work. Quite rightly, a lot of emphasis was placed on the ability of the workplace to support the occupiers' business needs and, of course, an attention to sustainability that occupiers increasingly expect as standard.

Regarding this year's entries, we have seen some fantastic projects that are addressing many of these objectives. However judges were somewhat surprised that attention to sustainability is a long way from universal, be it through the formality of a process such as BREEAM or simply part of the brief and the solutions. In some cases this was the difference between winning and missing out an award.

Projects up to 2000m2 were very strongly represented this year across all regions and produced the first Best of the Best award from this category.

The Refurbished / Recycled Workplace category proved to be a very closely fought three-way battle for the national award and, indeed, the award for Innovation also went to a building in this category. It was encouraging to see so many clever solutions to the re-use of existing building stock.

While the regional and national fit-out winners were deserved, there was surprisingly little competition in a category where we would expect to see many more strong entries.

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The winner of the Commercial Workplace Award demonstrated how redevelopment can deliver significant public realm improvements as well as a fine building.

This year's Best of the Best left a group of experienced judges all wishing they could work in such a building. It demonstrates high architectural quality and design integration, is good value for money but also sustainable, convivial, full of light and fun. It is essentially a simple building in many ways but executed with thoughtfulness and panache on a fixed budget. The client got exactly what they were looking for in an office that is a joy to work in and so obviously delivers on the client's business case of creating an open, collaborative environment dedicated to excellence.

There were several buildings vying for the national award in the Corporate Workplace category where experienced teams of clients, designers and contractors combined to produce some excellent examples of high quality, flexible workplaces.

Next year will see all regional awards taking place within the regions. Following this year's Northern Awards Dinner, the Northern region has demonstrated that this approach should deliver even more high quality entries in the future.