In August, I was invited to serve on the judging panel for the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County Remodelers Council STAR Awards program. This program recognizes outstanding achievement in remodeling projects throughout Raleigh/Chapel Hill/Durham, North Carolina.

Over the years I have become frustrated with awards programs even though our firm has had more than our share of successes participating in them. The majority of the programs we enter, or I have judged previously, were photography based. In other words, the judges all sat in an office and looked at photographs of finished work without ever touring the actual projects. This approach never seemed quite right to me.

For the STAR awards, judges were divided into groups of three. With score sheets and award submission notebooks in hand, a driver took us around to each project. Once on site, we got a hands-on look at the finished projects AND met with a representative from the remodeling company that did the work. In most cases, we also met the homeowner. In my view, this allowed for a thorough evaluation of each project. On top of photograph submissions, judges were able to see the “real” work and, more importantly, engage the people and witness the relationships that had produced the work. This is an awards program I would like to win.

The cliché, you can’t judge a book by its cover rings true in remodeling as I have always believed you can’t judge a project by its photography. Case in point; there was one project that had less than inspired photography in its award submission. However, on-site and in person – it was a beautiful job. There was another project that had exceptional photography, but close inspection of the workmanship revealed another story – the kind you won’t see in the photographs.

Congratulations to the Home Builders Association of Raliegh-Wake County for developing such a wonderful awards program. More importantly respect and congratulations to all the entrants. Your willingness to open your work up to inspection by peers was only reinforced by the pride with which each job was presented. It was an honor to be involved.