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The Architects' Journal is delighted to present the winning schemes in this year's National HomeBuilder Design Awards.

As the UK starts its most comprehensive programme of housebuilding since the post-war period, it is particularly important to identify, reward and publicise instances where excellence has been achieved.

Sadly, the standard displayed in the shortlisted and winning projects remains the exception rather than the norm.

According to CABE's extensive survey into the performance of volume housebuilders across the country, the quality of new homes bears little relation to whether the project is large or small, in the North or the South. Its findings suggest that providers of new housing will respond directly to the quality requirements indicated by local planning authorities: the tough guys end up getting better projects on their patch.

CABE's conclusion is that there is no point in disparaging housebuilders; their own economic imperatives dictate that they will simply respond to market and regulatory pressures as they currently exist. It is highly unlikely that the housing industry, any more than any other, metaphorically wakes up each morning and thinks: 'Let's go out and do something bad today'. The dilemma is always that if you spend more on quality and your rival spends more on the bid for land then it is quality which will lose out.

We have to create the conditions that make the quest for quality obligatory and economically worthwhile. The challenge is to argue the case for quality to those responsible for the standards of both provision and construction in their area. If the UK is to get the housing that it deserves, then the government and planning authorities must insist on higher delivery standards wherever people choose to live.

As this judges' report makes clear, we have plenty of architects and developers who ourish under pressure to deliver outstanding results.

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