The RIBA President’s Awards for Research is now accepting entries so we thought it would be interesting to check back with some past winners to see what their Award meant to them.

First Chris Halligan of Stephen George and Partners, whose Guide to Building Materials and the Environment won the in the 2011 Practice-led category, has kindly agreed to share his thoughts with us.

Front Cover - Building Materials & the Environment

Receiving the 2011 President’s Award for Outstanding Practice-Located Research was possibly the greatest personal achievement of my career to date. Not only due to the recognition it brought myself, Joanne Denison (my co-author) and Stephen George and Partners – but also because it was totally unexpected.

When we wrote the Guide to Building Materials and the Environment, we never considered it to be true “research”. To us, “research” meant either laboratories full of people in white coats testing theories against empirical evidence or strange looking jet aircraft gleaming as they nudged hypersonic speeds at the edge of the atmosphere. Our own aim was just to provide a practical resource for use within our own company which would help us avoid the frustration we had encountered when seeking information for a project. The suggestion from Nick Austin, our practice manager that perhaps we should consider entering our work for the President’s Research Awards just wasn’t taken seriously by Joanne and I. (After all, we didn’t wear lab coats or own a wind tunnel…) However, Nick was insistent that we should enter and moreover, he felt the Guide stood a chance of being a contender. Credit must go to Nick for convincing us to make a submission in the end – and when we received the news that we had in fact won, the shouts of shocked elation were audible across the street!

Winning the Award presented us with several subsequent opportunities to appear at various prestigious events. One of the most memorable for myself was to be asked to lecture at the Thirteenth World Triennial of Architecture in Sofia, Bulgaria run by the International Academy of Architecture. This resulted in being presented with a very touching gift of architectural literature from the Dean of Architecture at Tbilisi University in appreciation of the high standard of our contribution to the event. The next evening, I was asked by the British Ambassador to Bulgaria to be interviewed with him on Bulgarian television to promote the sustainable credentials of the London 2012 Olympics. It’s quite something to hear yourself being dubbed into a foreign language!

Since we won the Award, it has been difficult to find the time to update the Guide as often as I would like. Probably in common with many other practices, the economic downturn means we are all working twice as hard just to stay in one place! However, we continue to acquire and collate information on materials and the third edition of the Stephen George & Partners Guide to Building Materials and the Environment should be available before the end of the year.

Research Awards 2013

The RIBA’s annual research awards exist to promote the innovation and insight that emerge from excellent research. The awards acknowledge and encourage fresh and strategic thinking in architectural research for the benefit of the profession as a whole.

Projects are judged by a distinguished panel of experts in four categories:

  • Master’s degree thesis
  • PhD thesis
  • University-led research
  • Practice-led research


The deadline for receipt of entries is 5pm on 20 May 2013. For full terms and conditions and to enter please see


About anne.dye
Anne Dye is the Head of Technical Research at the Royal Institute of British Architects, and is responsible for delivering the RIBA’s research agenda. This includes the development, support and promotion of a range of strategic built-environment research projects both within the RIBA, in partnership with other organisations and within the wider research community, as well as providing advocacy for research to key stakeholders. She has spent the last decade undertaking quantitative and qualitative built-environment research, as part of multi-disciplinary teams, at the University of Cambridge and later at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. Her main research interests are housing quality, sustainable communities and design team / client dynamics. She has a background in science, and prior to concentrating on research was an engineer at Max Fordham LLP, undertaking a diverse range of projects. Anne joined the RIBA in 2011. Follow Anne on twitter at!/AnneDyeResearch

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