The Privilege of Judging BALA

Judging the Best in American Living Awards is one of the best things a housing professional can do. 

October 5, 2016

There are many awards programs for new-home design, but I contend that the best and the brightest is the Best in American Living Awards. Last week I was honored to be one the judges in the 2016 competition. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been a BALA judge, but it was the first time in a number of years, and I was amazed at the diversity and high quality of the entries. The judges had to make some pretty tough calls.

For the time being, I’m prohibited from naming the winners or discussing specific projects that were entered in the competition. But I can share some general observations:

** Some of the new high-rise multifamily buildings coming online today are simply gorgeous. Think offset balconies that form a wave-like pattern on the exterior.

** Homes are being designed to fit their sites (rather than the other way around), to dramatic effect.

** Intricately designed staircases, hand-hewn countertops, etched-glass art panels, and other features are taking custom homes to a new level.

** The mid-century modern craze is far from over.

** Warm contemporary is still hot.

** Homes with traditional exteriors and contemporary interiors are sizzling.

As far as community trends, planners and developers are making an effort to provide a variety of elevations that create lively streetscapes, as well as age-targeted amenities and outdoor spaces that encourage both active and passive relaxation. Even in affordable housing, there are elements in place to promote social interaction in a safe environment for both children and adults.  

One of the things I love about being a BALA judge is the opportunity to evaluate housing types that I do not typically write about, such as the aforementioned high-rise multifamily. Remodeling is another example. I am in awe of the pros who can take apart a complex, difficult project and put the puzzle pieces back together in a beautiful way.

Judging is hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun. The judges’ backgrounds are diverse, but we all share a passion for housing. We have spirited discussions, we laugh a lot, and we form lasting relationships. I personally would like to thank the NAHB staff — Debra Bassert, Alexandra Isham, Debra Lesesne, and Claire Worshtil — for doing an outstanding job of organization and taking such good care of us. 

If you’re interested in being a judge next year, contact Debra Bassert at And be sure to look for coverage of the BALA winners in the January 2017 issue of Professional Builder.


Senior Editor

Susan Bady has been writing about the housing industry for 30 years. She is senior editor of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines, and produces the Design Innovation e-newsletter.  Bady has also written for such consumer magazines as Cabin Life and Better Homes and Gardens’ Home Plan Ideas


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