We are delighted to announce our Project of the Year — the Girdwood Community Hub in North Belfast — and the other eight category winners for the RICS Awards, Northern Ireland.

In total, 32 of Northern Ireland’s most impressive and community beneficial property schemes battled it out for top honours at the prestigious 2017 RICS Northern Ireland Awards.

Broadcaster Paul Clark hosted the sell-out ceremony, held at the luxurious La Mon Hotel near Belfast, which attracted more than 200 local property professionals.

View the winners' brochure

Project of the Year  – Girdwood Community Hub

The highly acclaimed Project of the Year title is presented to the scheme which demonstrates overall outstanding best practice and an exemplary commitment to adding value to its local area.

Delivered by VB Evans and Co, Michael Whitely Architects and O’Hare and McGovern for Belfast City Council, the site of a former British Army Base has been transformed into a vibrant community resource.

Surrounded by communities separated by decades of sectarianism and paramilitary control, the site had been earmarked for housing. But rival groups prevented the project which might see a majority of Protestants or Catholics in the area ever seeing daylight. When Belfast City Council stepped in with the ambitious cross-community hub concept, it seemed a noble but impossible idea. Yet in two years since opening it is in full use by all communities. It has opened previously blockaded streets and peace walls and has created a positive ripple-effect, impacting the built environment dramatically and positively.

Winners, and highly commended entries, from the eight other categories are:

Building conservation - John Bell House, Belfast (sponsored by Michelle Atkinson Surveying)

The design team were faced with the challenge of inserting a mix of 413 modern, en-suite bedroom units and studio apartments into a prominent, listed building, and did so with minimal intervention to the historic fabric. With the use of innovative design and traditional conservation principles this building has been saved from neglect and regenerated into a living building once again.

Commercial - Waterfront Hall, Belfast, (sponsored by Sika)

A complex and demanding scheme with the main client establishing high expectations of this finely built extension to an existing structure abutting Belfast’s riverside. Although built to a cost of £29.5 million, in its first six months of operation the facility delivered 15 major conferences, including 16,540 delegate days, generating an economic impact for the city of £9.5 million — a figure which is anticipated will rise to £45 million by 2020/21 when the venue reaches its full potential. This is indeed a worthy public investment giving benefit to many and well deserving of its BREEAM “excellent” rating

  • Highly Commended: Novosco

Community benefit - The Junction, Dungannon (sponsored by Kingspan)

Located on a community interface and the derelict site of the former railway goods shed, The Junction serves diverse communities in the Dungannon area. It provides a high-quality, multi-use, flexible space for communities to gather together and access support services and attend voluntary/educational groups. Facilities include extensive meeting spaces, from one-to-one counselling rooms to high-quality conferencing facilities serving 300+ people, which have attracted international recognition. It is a place where all can truly feel at home.

  • Highly Commended: Brooke Park

Design through innovation – Main site tower and Peter Froggatt Centre, Queen’s University, Belfast (sponsored by Forbo)

The old multi-storey tower was stripped back to its frame and several floors removed.  A steel frame was attached to the outside and brickwork, glazed screens and bronzed anodised panels were used as external materials. Atria were provided in the centre of the building by cutting out sections of floors. Innovative design involved the use of BIM and meeting BREEAM excellent standards, mainly through energy efficiency and ventilation. The reconstructed building was successfully linked to an adjacent refurbished building and a historic tower, all within the remarkable setting of the university’s central quad. Innovation was also demonstrated in off-site fabrication and dry construction techniques required to meet the needs of the university calendar.

  • Highly Commended: Arvalle School and Resource Centre

Infrastructure - Stoneyford Integrated Constructed Wetland (ICW)

This flagship project provides a sustainable, environmentally-friendly replacement for the overloaded wastewater-treatment works serving the village of Stoneyford. Although with only a population 1,000 people, the principles established from this very successful scheme will be replicated elsewhere. The judges were particularly impressed with its fresh sustainable approach and partnerships with local universities ensuring maximum learning outputs to shape further similar projects. The development team established a dialogue with the local community at a very early stage to overcome concern and secured a “Green Apple” environment award in 2015 for enhancement of the local ecosystem.

  • Highly Commended: A2 Shore Road from Carrickfergus to Whiteabbey

Regeneration - North Queen Street, Belfast (sponsored by WYG)

This former police station had lain derelict for many years when it was acquired by Newington Housing Association for 26 two- and three-bedroom social houses at a cost of £3.3 million. Despite difficult ground conditions, contamination and proximity to a motorway, a high-quality scheme has been completed and occupied, one which reflects the historic street pattern and the proximity of the listed Clifton House. Before and during construction intense community engagement was undertaken and the contractors employed some local long term unemployed people to work on the project.

  • Highly Commended: Manor House Rathlin Island

Residential - The Gallery, Belfast

This city-centre residential development appears to have genuinely excited agents as much as purchasers in its short marketing period. Its novelty of size and simplicity of layout matched with its affordability and style will be replicated in the future. Sold as “modern living in the city centre”, without car parking but instead a discount bicycle voucher and safe cycle storage. With a top-to-toe quality finish, the scheme represents a clear vision executed with panache and a firm grasp of the bottom line. It works from all perspectives and makes a strong contribution to the regeneration of Belfast, bringing people back to city-centre living.

  • Highly Commented: Meadowvale Court

Tourism and leisure - Bishop’s Gate Hotel, Derry~Londonderry

This B1 Listed Building located within the Historic Derry City Conservation Area dates from the late 19th Century. For over 170 years it has been an integral part of the social, commercial and political fabric of the city, serving as mess headquarters for army officers in both World Wars. As a gentlemen’s club, the building has hosted notable figures, such as Winston Churchill, Edward Carson and W B Yeats. Now a 31-bedroom boutique hotel, Bishop’s Gate has won many industry awards within its first 12 months of opening. Previously known as ‘The Northern Counties Club’, which revolved its door for the first time in 1893, that same door that has been lovingly restored and is revolving again today.

  • Highly Commended: Northern Ireland National Football Stadium

View the winners brochure

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