Awards show vibrant Northern Ireland property sector
I had the pleasure of being one of the judges of the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards recently. It was a pleasure, in part because it highlighted to me that the property sector in Northern Ireland, which for so long was at the sharp end of economic challenge, has got much of its vibrancy back.
Property - its design, planning, location, cost, availability and quality - is never far from people's lips, or the headlines, but it is only recently that excellence and achievement are being celebrated so fulsomely.
It was great to see the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards back bigger and better than ever before, celebrating excellence and innovation, highlighting entrepreneurship in all aspects of the world of property.
The Belfast Telegraph Awards shine in a collection of property-related awards in Northern Ireland, including those of the RSUA/RIBA, RICS and CEF.
Each has a different focus and the Belfast Telegraph Awards throw a spotlight on the growth and commercial success of the industry. Categories have grown to 16 over the past few years and amongst the newest additions was an award for Innovative Use of Smarthome Technology.
This category is going to grow and grow, with innovations in house design, construction and maintenance designed to improve the life of the owner/occupier.
The use of technology in the design of Portland 88, winner of the category this year, exemplifies the use of cutting-edge technology integrated into new homes, helping to bring Belfast one step closer to becoming a smart city.
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This is one of the hottest topics in property at present and one that is crucial to the industry's future. Indeed, technology is going to continue to play an ever-more important role in the property sector.
Advances in artificial intelligence, big data computing and blockchain are set to radically change the way we develop land and manage property in our cities.
These innovations are disrupting long established business models and we can already see tech firms' increasing presence in the property industry, such as Google's smart city development in Toronto and Airbnb's growing dominance in the hospitality industry.
It was also a pleasure to judge the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards because of the high standards of practice that were evident.
To win an award, entrants need to demonstrate exacting standards of professionalism, integrity, knowledge, energy and, above all, a desire to 'punch above your weight' in your specialist area.
The number of entries in this year's awards exceeded all expectations. The importance of the property sector to the economy cannot be underestimated and it is vital that we celebrate success where it is merited.
Attracting a skilled workforce and new entrants to the sector is key to its continued success. How better to do this than through promotion of excellence through awards competitions.
The quality and quantity of entries in this years' awards made it quite a challenge for the judges to decide the winners.
The judges are always on the lookout for new ideas and evidence of people 'going the extra mile' to achieve their goal.
This made the Young Agent and Young Architect categories particularly difficult to judge as each of the entrants had achieved so much in such a short space of time.
I was delighted to be one of a number of property professionals judging the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards, and know that they will continue to go from strength to strength as the awards reflect the importance and vibrancy of the property sector in Northern Ireland.