Assisting with the judging of the recent UDIA industry awards offered Village Building Company’s Melissa Anderson invaluable insights into broader trends in the housing industry, as well as an opportunity to work with senior industry colleagues.

Mel, Village’s General Manager Sales, Marketing & Communications, said it was such a worthwhile experience she hoped to judge again in future years.

“I picked up so many new ideas in different development areas – innovative collaborative approaches, landscaping treatments, built form strategies and so on. These are lessons that I can bring back into our business and have discussions around.”

“The diversity of entrants was amazing,” she added. “You’re seeing the best of the best.”

Mel’s judging journey began in January 2019 when the UDIA put out a call to the industry for interest in the judging roles. “There was a screening process, and I was fortunate to make it through,” Mel explains. “Then they assigned judges to different panels in assessing a total of 16 awards.”

Each panel was responsible for several award categories. Mel found herself on a panel with ex-UDIA president and respected developer Terry Goldacre, principal of Northrop Consulting Engineering, Mal Brown and councillor (and former Hills Shire mayor) Tony Hay OAM. “It was a diverse group with significant experience across a range of fields,” Mel said. “This was particularly useful as we considered so many aspects of the projects, from their design and placemaking aesthetics to their community integration. Each of the judges brought different backgrounds and experience to the decision-making process.” Mel herself has 13 years’ experience in the property industry, working for multinationals such as Delfin, Lend Lease and Mirvac, and a three-year period with the ACT’s Suburban Land Agency, as well as her time with Village.

Mel’s group of judges were responsible for assessing entrants in three categories: excellence in affordable development; excellence in residential development; and best masterplanned community. This meant reviewing all applications and visiting a total of 16 finalist sites, with a presentation at each by the applicants.

While many hours were spent on viewing and assessing the award applications, not to mention the travel involved, Mel appreciated this rare chance to step out of her usual day-to-day job and engage with other developers. “When you’re busy in your job it can be hard to get out to see other developments or engage with other developers outside of your usual jurisdiction. Judging forces you to get out, and the quality of the entrants provides for a truly meaningful and insightful experience.”

At the sites Mel viewed, she noticed a strong emphasis on built form, particularly townhouses and their need to meet the “missing middle”.  She also experienced the focus on community connections and ensuring that shrinking lot sizes were compensated for by beautiful shared open spaces and amenities. “Larger, older developers have been implementing this practice as standard within their developments for years, but it was nice to see the creativity, innovation and community focus underlying many of the submissions.”

Surprisingly, despite the diversity on the judging panel, Mel said the group generally agreed on their judging decisions. “And where we didn’t agree at first, we were able to thrash it out and persuade each other to reach a shared decision.”

The full list of finalists and award winners in the 16 categories can be found here.