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Judgement Day

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Meet the dedicated Housing Awards judges who travel throughout the country during all types of weather to visit every entry.

Housing author

Kerryn Ramsey

There’s a sense of excitement when the HIA–CSR Australian Housing Awards are announced every year but while emotions run high for nominees, it’s the judges who have been immersed in this journey for the past year. 

HIA award judges are located all around Australia, covering 11 housing categories and four kitchen and bathroom categories at the Australian Housing Awards (AHA). Apart from experience and knowledge in residential building practices, the judges also need a passion for driving. As they hit the wide, open road, collectively they have been known to visit over 2600 entries over a three month period.

Going the distance 

Since HIA members are located around the country, judges are committed to visiting every entry. They have to cover long distances through all different weather conditions. According to one of the Tasmanian judges, he travelled more than 2000 kilometres last autumn to visit 60 projects. 

During this time, Australians saw the devastating effect of the months-long bushfire crisis, with thousands of homes destroyed. Despite this tragedy – or maybe because of it – the AHA judges were impressed by a selection of bushfire-resistant homes that were entered for the awards. 

One of the South Australian judges was working in the midst of this re-build process. ‘Some of the new builds that were finished during this period introduced innovative water storage facilities and fire-resistant materials used on the facades of homes in bushfire prevention areas,’ she says. 

While our well-seasoned judges are always prepared for the unexpected, one WA judge was taken aback a few years ago when he spotted an unusual ‘guard dog’. ‘I was down in the Esperance region where one of the homes had a pet joey kangaroo. It acted like a guard dog alongside the owners’ own dog,’ recalls the judge. ‘Whatever the dog would do, the roo would copy!’ 
‘The opportunity to network across our industry and view the craftsmanship, innovation and design with industry leaders is a terrific experience’

Meet and greet 

One of the highlights of being a Housing Awards judge is getting to meet clients. It’s always interesting to hear the back story of a build and how the owners feel about living in the house. 

Like all our judges, one of the Victorian representatives says that meeting owners is always a pleasure. ‘The pride the owners and builders have in their work is quite overwhelming,’ she says. ‘A few years ago, one builder showed us their entire home – every inch as if he were trying to sell it for top dollar! Funnily enough, he had only entered his kitchen but wanted to show the entire project inside and out.’ 

One of our Tasmanian judges continues: ‘We have the privilege of meeting most of the owners and builders. The questions we ask the owners are mostly about their experience during the building process and the majority respond favourably. They are very pleased with the final product and are still talking to their builders,’ he says with a laugh. 

While it’s a pleasure conversing with clients, it’s the builds that always amazes and impresses the AHA judges. As one of our Tasmanian judges says, ‘Each has its own signature on the land.’ 
There is a gamut of styles but some of the key elements are the property’s originality and quality of build. The Tasmanian judge was stunned when he visited one of the houses. 

‘It stood on a large family estate separate from the main building, reflecting the design of the early shearing sheds by lifting the floor on columns and using custom orb as cladding,’ he says. ‘The quality of workmanship and the pride shown by the builders as they explained the reasoning of some of the details and layouts stood out for me.’
One of the judges travelled more than 2000 kilometres last Autumn to visit 60 projects

Current trends 

For many entries, sustainable materials have been almost a necessity. Meanwhile, one of the SA judges found that the preservation of original buildings was a highlight of the 2020 entries. ‘Many of the owners were inspired to sustain the original but also utilise some of the elements through the new part of the home that was extended and renovated.’ 

One of these entries was an old school that was being transformed into a beguiling home. ‘They retained the front part of the residence but used some material they found onsite during their excavation,’ explains the SA judge. ‘Attention to detail is certainly at a new height.’ 

Finding the passion 

Many of the judges have taken part in this process for many years. So, what inspires them to take on those endless drives through all types of weather? 

One WA judge explains: ‘What inspires me is the chance to be part of a process that’s confidently backed by Australia’s leading industry body. The opportunity to network across our industry and view the craftsmanship, innovation and design with industry leaders is a terrific experience.’ 
An SA judge agrees: ‘Giving back to the industry has given me so many opportunities. I also get to meet new people and appreciate innovative designs.’ 

According to a Victorian judge, she enjoys seeing how HIA helps our members get ahead with their goals. ‘I saw this when I first spoke at one of the HIA events,’ she says. I then wanted to be a part of the HIA community and offer my assistance to the members. Being a judge was just the start and nine years on, I’m glad I took the step.’

Are you interested in being an awards judge? For more information on becoming a judge go to: https://hia.com.au/awards/become-awards-judge