The AJ's special awards are given to practices that have excelled in specific areas. The judges for this year's awards were: Isabel Allen (chair); Sara Fox (client/project manager); Maxwell Hutchinson (SMC Group); Mark Whitby (Whitbybird); and Paul Finch (Architectural Review/CABE).
LARGEST PRACTICE Sponsored by Schüco
WINNER: BDP REGIONAL WINNERS Sponsored by Griffiths & Armour Scotland SMC GROUP North East BOND BRYAN ARCHITECTS North West SMC GROUP Midlands RPS GROUP Wales CAPITA PERCY THOMAS South West ANSHEN + ALLEN South East/ London FOSTER + PARTNERS Northern Ireland BDP HIGHEST FIRST-TIME ENTRANT Sponsored by Keim Paints
WINNER: SMC GROUP HIGHEST CLIMBER Sponsored by Autodesk
WINNER: MAKE BUSINESS
ACHIEVER OF THE YEAR Sponsored by BST Global
WINNER: DYER For a edgling practice to double turnover and staff in its first year is an impressive achievement. With barely a glance behind since severing ties with Anshen Dyer - its larger joint venture partner - Dyer's estimated turnover for the year ending July 2007 stands at £8.4 million, up from £4.2 million in July 2006. The jury, which voted unanimously for Dyer, was especially impressed by its new focus on international retail, leisure and mixed use, which has yielded numerous commissions, not least a raft of shopping malls in the Russian market. Dyer anticipates further expansion over the next six months thanks to an ever-increasing client list including Kodak, Peel Properties, and London Merchant Securities. Repeat business is evidence of an architects' commitment to consistent quality - and there's no shortage of repeat bookings here. Aston Villa Football Club has resigned Dyer to upgrade the club's Villa Park ground, while some 15,000m 2 of office and ancillary space has been designed for bank MBNA over the past decade.
INTERNATIONAL PRACTICE OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Davis Langdon
WINNER: FOSTER + PARTNERS Foster + Partners' trophy cabinet is positively groaning with awards won over the past 12 months - 38 in total - including the Berlin Architecture Award for the Free University, Berlin. But what really impressed the panel is the diversity of new contracts in both existing and fresh markets, such as Abu Dhabi, Argentina, Bulgaria, Egypt, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam.
In the same period, this practice has grown from 650 to 950 staff and its international office network has expanded from 16 to 20. Foster + Partners now works in 27 countries and its share of overseas work has leapt from 57 per cent to 70 per cent. The Palace of Peace, Kazakhstan; Hearst Tower, New York; and Dresden Station redevelopment are a mere hors d'oeuvre of its current workload. Foster + Partners has been synonymous with trailblazing design for over 20 years; from awe-inspiring skyscrapers to knock-out sports stadia; this dedication to quality in the built environment has assured its place in the pantheon of world renowned architects.
BEST MARKETING INITIATIVE Sponsored by Pipers
WINNER: AEDAS As a young brand, Aedas has launched a daring marketing strategy to raise brand profile, nurture customer relations, and focus business development. Strategic advertising and increased exposure in high-profile design and lifestyle titles, such as the Architectural Review, are but two elements of this hugely successful drive. By creating a key-accountmanagement system using 'relationship owners', Aedas has sharpened its understanding of both client and market requirements. Aedas is reviewing print and online marketing to ensure future initiatives reect a global and local approach while embodying the firm's commitment to design excellence.
With its brand consultant, Bostock and Pollitt, the architect has devised a web-based knowledge bank enabling the global organisation to share expertise and create design responses 'far greater than the sum of its parts'. In so doing, Aedas is demonstrating diversity, progression and teamwork - adjectives that sum up Aedas' raison d'être.
SUSTAINABILITY AWARD Sponsored by Interface
LOR WINNER: KEPPIE DESIGN The AJ100 jury is, rightly, tough to please. But Keppie Design's new HQ for Scottish Natural Heritage in Inverness was an instant hit - not least because it has the highest-ever BREEAM score of 84.01 per cent. This 6,700m 2 design demonstrates that sustainability and commercial viability are not mutually exclusive. Open-plan office space is structured around a vast atrium. Materials, components and systems are A-rated by the BRE Green Guide. Solar energy heats water and exposed-concrete thermal mass cools the building. Ponds and wetlands incorporate local species. Even heated bat roosts have been woven into this sensitive design. Great Glen House, as it it known, is a positive contribution to the Inverness landscape and, arguably, sets a precedent for commercial projects earmarked for rural settings.
EMPLOYER OF THE YEAR Sponsored by SIV
WINNER: JESTICO + WHILES Directors at Jestico + Whiles have made the ultimate sacrifice to retain and nurture their most valued asset. They've given the firm to staff - lock, stock and barrel.
Ownership has been transferred from shareholders to an employee benefit trust - an act of altruism that won the hearts and minds of the jury. But Jestico + Whiles' commitment to staff doesn't end there.
Bosses have sponsored over 400 international study trips enabling staff to gain valuable experience in overseas practices. Naturally, Jestico + Whiles runs regular in-house training as well as technical and design reviews on all its projects. Hosted by senior architects, these sessions give everyone a chance to share expertise and gain knowledge. And now, in a further step, staff get a free half-day every month for 'extra curricular activities'.
Jestico + Whiles boasts an above-average ratio of female architects (22 per cent) - a crucial factor in the Sunday Times' decision to vote it one of the UK's top 100 companies to work for. This attention to equality also convinced the AJ100 panel to name Jestico + Whiles Employer of the Year and will, undoubtedly, bring the firm greater rewards in the future.