2023 Southern Counties Winners

Congratulations to the Master Builder companies and tradespeople from the Southern Counties who were announced as winners at the South Master Builder Awards ceremony on 17 March, sponsored by Openreach. Well done to all those who were nominated for an award, and thank you to everybody who joined us for the ceremony.

Southern Counties Apprentice of the Year - Kenny Thompson of Biocraft Ltd

Kenny Thompson, Biocraft Ltd, 2023 Southern Counties MBAs Apprentice Award winner

Having finished the first year of his apprenticeship with employer Biocraft Ltd, Kenny Thompson is now well on his way to completing his course and earning his NVQ2 in Carpentry from Reading College. Initially recruited as a labourer, Kenny showed a keen interest in learning a trade from the get-go and proactively pursued an apprenticeship following discussions with his Managing Director.

Since joining the team, his employer describes him as 'a breath of fresh air' who is always willing to learn, and to support colleagues with their workloads, stating that he is never seen on-site without a smile on his face and a 'can-do' attitude. The judges were impressed by his accumulation of qualifications in health and safety training, asbestos awareness, emergency first aid, manual handling, working at height and more, describing him as a 'credit to himself and his employers'.

Find out more about Biocraft Ltd.

Apprentice Award (Highly Commended) - Oliver Rowles of Ridgeback Projects Limited

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The judges praised Oliver’s keenness to learn, despite taking on his carpentry apprenticeship during challenging times through Covid. Oliver's school cancelled his work experience due to the pandemic, but through nothing more than his own determination, Oliver decided to pursue the work experience with Ridgeback. Impressed with his character and enthusiasm, five days’ work experience became two months' paid experience, which in turn became a full apprenticeship placement at Nescott College.

His determination and ability to knuckle-down to tackle the academic aspects of the apprenticeship received regular praise from his college, and his employer highlighted that he’s a real team player -  sharing his skills with others. They’re proud of his achievements as Oliver moves on to the next phase of his career following qualification. Ridgeback Projects Limited say: 'He’s a shining example of how apprenticeship schemes can and should work for both the individual and the company.'

Find out more about Ridgeback Projects Limited, who are also an FMB insurance customer.

Southern Counties Bathroom Project winner - Bespoke Living Construction Ltd

Bespoke Living Construction Ltd, 2023 MBAs Southern Counties Bathroom Project winner

Part of a single-storey extension and refurbishment project, this stunning luxury bathroom from Bespoke Living Construction features a micro cement shower, bespoke sauna, vibrant living wall and a beautiful vanity unit with stylish vertical cladding. Bathed in natural light thanks to the fully vaulted ceilings and new gable glazing, the freestanding cast iron matte black bath serves as a fine centrepiece amidst the Lusso Stone sanitaryware.

This project was completed within a tight budget and challenging timeframe, with the client stating they would happily recommend the builder to family and friends. The judges loved the attention to detail and the well-considered integration with the rest of the property, stating that the bathroom would not be out of place in a luxury hotel.

Find out more about Bespoke Living Construction Ltd.

Southern Counties Building Company of the Year - Lofthouse Residences Ltd

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Despite only trading for the past three years, Lofthouse Residences Ltd have already made their mark in the SME construction space – particularly around the use of renewables and sustainable building. Their company mission is 'Building Extraordinary Everyday', which they have met by carving out a niche customer-centric concierge service, delivering an exceptional experience and finished product.

Lofthouse’s team-focused approach stood out for the judges, who praised their ‘great ethos to invest in their team first with the aim that good business will follow.’ Talent recognition is encouraged through training, mentorship, and apprenticeships, with the judges commending their inclusivity and ‘great support of employees and subcontractors’. Lofthouse are also nurturing the next generation of master craftspeople through college apprenticeship funding.

Their community work also drew the judges' attention, with their sponsorship of local youth football and cricket teams. Lofthouse Residences Ltd provide kit and equipment for all ages and take care to ensure the sports are accessible for disabled participants.

Find out more about Lofthouse Residences Ltd.

Southern Counties Commercial or Public Sector Project winner - All Build Construction Services

All Build Developments Ltd, 2023 Southern Counties MBAs Commercial Project winner

Taking on the challenging brief to transform two derelict barns into luxury accommodation, All Build Construction Services pulled out all the stops to make this project a success. Despite disruptions to working patterns because of COVID restrictions and having to apply to the council to replace broken windows, the team have brought the buildings back to life by installing underfloor heating throughout, dual hot tubs, a mezzanine floor, bespoke lighting and a ceiling created from reclaimed wood pallets.

Their longstanding client completely trusted the team to overcome all obstacles, praising All Build's ’ 'can-do' attitude and ability to take the stress out of any project.

The judges appreciated the builder’s commitment to delivering a high-quality finish throughout the properties, and to maintaining regular communications via Zoom with their client when traditional in-person meetings became impossible.

Find out more about All Build Construction Services.

Southern Counties Heavenly Builder of the Year - Keestone Ltd

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Our winners were nominated by a client who told us that Keestone Ltd had ‘Seriously restored faith in builders’. They gained the trust of the client, who were delighted that Keestone went the extra mile to do little tasks that made a big difference to a growing family. Details like putting up a door number, adding lighting and outside sockets, and silencing loud stairs meant a lot to the client and went above and beyond the original specifications.

Their communication stood out to the judges: ‘They took charge of communications with external stakeholders to reduce overall stress on the client and were also mindful of the impact that their building work may have on neighbours.’

Judges commented that ‘It's great to see a team of builders that are committed to deadlines and fulfilling the clients brief (and even doing a bit extra). The behaviour and attitude of Keestone is exactly what I would expect of a Master Builder.’

Find out more about Keestone Ltd.

Heavenly Builder of the Year (Highly Commended) - Alex Hunt of Bright Green Homes LLP

Alex Hunt, Bright Green Homes LLP, 2023 Southern Counties Heavenly Builder award highly commended 2000px

Alex Hunt, Managing Partner and owner of Bright Green Homes LLP was nominated following his work to nearly double the size of a client's house and increase its sustainability throughout using new technologies such as grey water harvesting.

He holds a voluntary position on the Board of Retrofitworks, which endeavours to implement largescale retrofit projects around the UK. Alex has worked with the Retrofit Academy to help train the next generation of Retrofit Coordinators to face the challenges of achieving the UK's net zero emissions targets, and has also trained several apprentices in aspects of energy efficiency.

The judges were impressed by this builder's efforts in championing and implementing sustainable technology, sharing his extensive knowledge in the field of retrofit, and setting a wonderful example for future generations.

Find out more about Bright Green Homes LLP, who are also an FMB Insurance customer.

Southern Counties House Builder Award winner - Build My Home Ltd

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Build My Home Ltd’s project in Brighton was ambitious – demolishing eight garages on a tight urban plot and constructing a two-storey, three bedroom home, all under restrictive planning regulations. The lower storey sits beneath ground level and required extensive excavation work and the judges praised it as ‘an outstanding example of what can be achieved in a challenging plot - with contemporary design coupled with technical building systems to allow the underpinning and basement construction.’

The team had to work around a listed boundary wall and liaised with arborealists to preserve two elm trees. Neighbours were cautious about the scheme, but Build My Home Ltd made time for regular progress updates which helped to allay concerns and maintain relationships.

The owners commented 'We were very impressed with all his team and the quality of workmanship from the very start to the final result. Excellent communication, great attention to detail, and they don’t cut corners. A first-class quality house builder that you can trust!’

Find out more about Build My Home Ltd.

Southern Counties Kitchen Project winner - Bagshots Ltd

Bagshots Ltd 2023 Southern Counties MBA Kitchen project winner 2000px

This project involved the modernisation of a newly purchased farmhouse kitchen to upgrade the features whilst still maintaining a traditional look and feel.

Bagshots provided their client with 3D visuals to help inform their stylistic choices prior to commencing works, before adding a raft of solid oak features integrated with bespoke furniture for a truly unique look. The team added a downdraft hob to eliminate the need for an overhead extractor, and even manufactured a solid oak stable-style door along with aged oak cladding over the rolled steel joist (RSJ) (a beam commonly used for structural steelwork) in their workshop.

The judges were impressed with the dedication the builder showed in conducting daily visits and involving the clients in each step of the renovation journey, ultimately yielding a vast improvement on the original kitchen.

Find out more about Bagshots Ltd, who are also an FMB Insurance customer.

Southern Counties Large Renovation Project winner - Phoenix Design and Construction (South East) Ltd

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The judges praised Phoenix Design and Construction’s adaptability to change – as the design needed to be amended several times. They also commended their skill in working with the Grade II listed building and the restrictions that entails – the team liaised with an archaeologist and were able to develop a good working relationship with them. The project joined the main house to an outhouse building, adding a large open-plan kitchen with a seamless polished concrete floor, boot room and WC. As COVID restrictions hit, the team also showed great consideration to the client, not leaving them without a working kitchen, and adding in a few extra surprises to the completed project, much to the client’s delight.

The owner commented 'As the current custodians of the property we wanted to find an experienced, conscientious builder who understood working with a Grade II listed property.'

Find out more about Phoenix Design and Construction (South East) Ltd.

Southern Counties Medium Renovation Project winner - Houghton Lewis Group Ltd

Houghton Lewis Group Ltd, 2023 Southern Counties MBAs Medium Renovation project winner 2000px

This project in Guildford saw Houghton Lewis Group carry out a single-storey wrap-around extension, incorporating a line of glazed roof windows within an artificial slate roof.

Internal refurbishment measures include the installation of under-stair storage, a new bathroom, new kitchen, a new stove, and integrated snug seating. The team worked diligently with local water service providers, neighbours, an architect, kitchen providers and of course the client to ensure a smooth project delivery that met the approval of all concerned.

They held regular meetings to provide updates and insights, with the client stating 'As soon as I met Simon and Tim, I knew they were the right team to trust with the development of our build. Simon was brilliant at keeping us informed, as well as providing immediate solutions to unforeseen challenges that arose...'

Find out more about Houghton Lewis Group Ltd.

Southern Counties Small Renovation Project winner - Oakston Solutions Limited

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Oakston Solutions Limited were tasked with creating a useable outdoor living space with multiple functions, including a barbeque area, bar, hot tub, seating and cloakroom. They made the most of the space with an L-shaped garden room with bi-fold doors flowing on to the deck. Privacy was considered with the inclusion of a cedar screen. The result was a social space with exceptional flow and useability.

The team maintained an excellent relationship with their clients with regular meetings to address budget changes and walk through the tasks for each day. The judging panel commended the use of multiple techniques to add concealed lighting with no compromise to the design.

The clients commented: ‘We have had trouble in the past with tradesmen but our faith has now been restored. We are over the moon with our new space and getting a lot of use out of it all year round.’

Find out more about Oakston Solutions Limited, which is also an FMB insurance customer

Southern Counties Sustainability Award winner - Bespoke Living Construction Ltd

Bespoke Living Construction Ltd, 2023 Southern Counties Sustainability Award winner 2

Shaped like a butterfly, this eco dream home makes use of naturally occurring, chemical-free underground water reserves rather than being connected to a mains supply - meaning no water bills for the client.

The north wing features a beautiful sedum green roof, which reduces the building’s carbon footprint as well as reducing heating energy requirements during winter, whilst also improving air quality and providing a habitat for local wildlife. The south wing houses 60 solar PV panels which together yield an 18.6kWp output, estimated to provide around £85,000 in energy savings over the next 20 years.

The home is not connected to gas or mains drains as Bespoke have installed a Bio Bubble domestic solution, which transfers wastewater into an underground Bio Bubble where it is treated, so it can flow directly into the adjacent ditch and stream safely thereafter.

The judges loved the innovative approach to incorporating eco-friendly technology, and the builder’s project management during the disruption caused by COVID lockdowns.

Find out more about Bespoke Living Construction Ltd, who are also an FMB Insurance customer.

Sustainability Award (Highly Commended) - L P Harman Building Services Ltd

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L P Harman Building Services Ltd have been highly commended for their Coppice Gardens development, where the objective was to create seven family homes that set a new standard for greener, forward-thinking construction.

The adoption of air-source heat pumps and solar panels, and construction of an air-tight, insulated shell, means each unit is ready thermally efficient and ready to save each new occupier money on their energy bills. They have also future-proofed each property with electric vehicle charging points and smart controls - making them not only greener, but smarter homes.

The team have been committed to sustainable construction methods throughout using electrically powered plant machinery, reducing waste on site and reducing their emissions during the build.

The judges commented that ‘The long term benefits of these homes are endless - if all houses are built this way it helps massively towards a greener and sustainable future.’

Find out more about L P Harman Building Services Ltd, which is also an FMB insurance customer.

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Meet the 2023 Southern Counties judges

Harvey Fremlin

Harvey Fremlin

Managing Director, National Self Build & Renovation Centre

Helena Blundell

Helena Blundell


Richard Hibbert

Richard Hibbert

Chairperson, The Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association