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2018 Project of the Year: RICS Awards, North East

We're delighted to announce the RICS Project of the Year 2018, North East — the Hitachi Rail Europe (HRE) plant in Darlington - along with the winners and highly commended for the RICS Awards 2018, North East.

Over 55 of the North East’s most impressive and community beneficial property schemes battled it out for top honours at the annual RICS Awards, North East. Veteran BBC TV news presenter, Alex Lovell hosted this year’s ceremony – supported by headline sponsor, Sika Sarnafil - held at the Marriott Hotel, Gosforth Park in Newcastle on 20 April.

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Project of the Year — Hitachi Rail Europe, Darlington (sponsored by Ward Hadaway)

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. Not only does the Hitachi Rail Europe (HRE) plant facility build and deliver a new generation of high speed passenger trains, it also provides an important import and export facility and has helped return train manufacturing back to the North East. 

RICS judges praised the project team - including Merchant Place Developments, Shepherd Construction and Ryder Architecture – for what they described as an outstanding and remarkable facility that is acting as a catalyst for further regeneration in the area. It has also brought much needed employment opportunities to the area, creating over 1,200 directly employed by HRE, whilst a further 8,000 further jobs have been created within the supply chain.

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high speed train, hitachi, 180418, mb
Credit: Philip Hunton Photography
Hitachi rail plant, Darlington, 180418, mb
Credit: Philip Hunton Photography

Category winners and highly commended entries

Building Conservation

The Boiler House, Newcastle upon Tyne

After a comprehensive refurbishment and conversion project, the former redundant half of Newcastle University’s ‘The Boiler House’ – built in 1923 to house the main boilers serving the other buildings on the campus – has been transformed into a modern multi-purpose events space.

Still known as ‘The Boiler House’, the £2 million venue is used for congregation receptions, exhibitions, social events and musical performances. RICS judges said the project team – including Howard Litchfield and PF Burridge & Sons – have created a valuable asset for the university that is highly energy efficient with heating sensors and an improved electrical system.

Highly commended: Armstrong Building, Newcastle upon Tyne


Sponsored by Forbo Flooring Systems

Wylam Brewery, Newcastle upon Tyne

The Wylam Brewery development – delivered by One Concept, Wylam Brewery and Xsite Architecture - is not only a fully-operational brewery, but also a unique 800-capacity event space with a centralised office operation, all of which has allowed the business to flourish.

Housed within the Palace of Art at Exhibition Park – the last remaining building from the 1929 North East Exhibition – RICS judges said Wylam Brewery has breathed new-life into a neglected listed building, attracting a wide variety of popular events, from beer and food festivals, to weddings, christenings and corporate dinners. In turn, the success of the brewery has provided a renewed focus for Exhibition Park, increasing visitor numbers by 200,000 and raising its profile to the benefit of all businesses and events.

Highly Commended: Earl Grey House, Newcastle upon Tyne

Community Benefit

Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre, Morpeth

Nestling on a nature reserve, the stunning Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre provides an incredibly diverse offering from wildlife education, sites of archaeological interest; climate change education and star gazing to name a few. It also offers a natural playground and quality café, and has proved to be a much-loved attraction, demonstrated in recent visitor numbers revealing over 45,000 members of the public have visited the centre over an eight-month period.

RICS judges said the £600K facility – built on a site that was formerly an open cast mine – is an exceptional asset and praised the project team – including Andy Laurie Construction Consultancy, Bright Blue Studio and Northumberland Wildlife Trust - for creating what is arguably one of the North East’s greenest buildings for people of all ages to enjoy.

Highly Commended: The People’s Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne

Design through Innovation

Sponsored by Sika Sarnafil

Urban Sciences Building, Newcastle upon Tyne 

The £58million 12,500 sq.m Urban Sciences Building (USB) – delivered by Bowmer & Kirkland Construction, Hawkins Brown, Ryder Architecture and Turner & Townsend -  is a flagship ‘living laboratory’ for Newcastle University and its School of Computing.

Complete with a living green roof, the building’s walls, windows and fittings are connected through thousands of sensors, to ensure this ‘intelligent’ building will help the university better understand how to create more sustainable, efficient buildings for the future. RICS judges described the development as inspirational and futuristic, having achieved excellence in innovation, sustainability and environmental performance.

Highly Commended: Mitford Adult Autism Inpatient Unit, Morpeth 


Killingworth & Longbenton Surface Water Management Scheme, Newcastle upon Tyne

The £5.2 million Killingworth & Longbenton Surface Water Management Scheme – delivered by Esh Construction-MWH, Northumbrian Water and Turner & Townsend – involved storing and managing surface water across 5 ponds using sustainable techniques with one pond doubling as a new school amphitheatre in drier conditions.

RICS judges were highly impressed that the scheme has provided flood protection to over 3,500 properties with total project benefits estimated at over £30 million. The judges also praised the project for providing opportunities to increase biodiversity through the creation of new wetland habitats, ponds and wildflower meadow, which are being used as outdoor learning facilities for local school children.

Highly Commended: No1 Quay Reconstruction & Dredging, Middlesbrough


Sponsored by Northumbria University

Hitachi Rail Europe, Darlington

The biggest investment that County Durham has seen since Nissan, the state-of-the-art Hitachi Rail Europe (HRE) plant is a purpose-built building, built to accommodate large scale rolling stock assembly for two initial contracts – the Great Western rail route and the East Coast Main Line upgrades.

Not only has the facility brought much needed and extensive employment to the area, it has also acted as a catalyst for further regeneration in the area. Most recently, the University Technical College was established by Sunderland University to support of the HRE facility.  This has created an additional 600 opportunities and jobs for young apprentices in the North East which will help improve the skills levels and shortages throughout the region.

Highly Commended: Byker Hobby Rooms, Newcastle upon Tyne

Residential property

The Maltings, Alnwick

The Maltings, is a stunning and imaginatively designed conversion of the Grade II Listed Bolams Mill and Kiln House in Alnwick town centre, into to 37 unique apartments.

Once the home of Alnwick Brewery, the derelict buildings have been sensitively restored and converted by Ascent Homes and ID Partnership, with RICS judges praising their collaborative efforts for delivering contemporary yet unusual homes that have much of the historical features of the original buildings still intact. The judges also recognised that this conversion project has not only protected the listed building for many years to come, it has also preserved a rare part of Alnwick’s historic fabric in what is an important conservation area.

Highly Commended: Maple Lodge, Ponteland

Tourism & Leisure

Sponsored by Turner & Townsend

Wylam Brewery, Newcastle upon Tyne

The project to deliver Wylam Brewery within the Palace of Art at Exhibition Park – the last remaining building from the 1929 North East Exhibition – aimed to give a sustainable new life what had become a neglected listed building, invigorate the park and help facilitate the growth of Wylam Brewery as a brand and business.

RICS judges said the team behind the project – including One Concept, Wylam Brewery and Xsite Architecture – have achieved just that. In its first year of opening, the business has outperformed every target, attracting significant visitor numbers, and hosting a range of events including: live music, food and beer festivals, tea dances, yoga, corporate dinners, as well as awards and charity fundraisers.

Highly Commended: The Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre, Hexham

Thank you to our sponsors

  • Headline and Design through Innovation Category Sponsor

  • Project of the Year Sponsor

  • Commercial Category Sponsor

  • Regeneration Category Sponsor

  • Tourism and Leisure Category Sponsor

  • Supporting Sponsor