The brightest young professionals in the UK’s commercial property sector and their best achievements have been recognised at the British Council for Offices’ (BCO) NextGen Awards ceremony.
The NextGen Awards is a key feature in the BCO’s NextGen programme, which offers commercial property professionals under the age of 35 a platform to exchange ideas and knowledge. With over 1,200 members – representing a quarter of the BCO’s overall membership – the NextGen programme also connects young professionals with the BCO members of all ages and across all fields of activity. The annual awards celebrate the achievements of the sector’s rising stars, as well as acknowledging talented graduates, inspirational leaders that support the NextGen, diversity and inclusion champions and the UK’s best NextGen employers.
The 2023 winners were selected amongst 109 nominations, the largest number that the BCO has received to date. This year’s awards recognise the NextGen’s engagement in sustainability and social value initiatives, whether by supporting charitable initiatives, inspiring peers through mentoring, or driving forward the commercial real estate industry’s decarbonisation efforts.
The winners of the BCO NextGen Awards 2023 are:
- NextGen Rising Star London & the South East – Kwamena Beecham, Architect at BGY
- NextGen Rising Star Midlands & East Anglia – Simon Pope, Associate at Howells
- NextGen Rising Star North – Amelia Walsh, Project Manager at Turner & Townsend
Highly commended: Jessica Spencer, Senior Architect at Cartwright Pickard
- NextGen Rising Star Scotland – Robin Ellis, Architectural Designer at Graven
- NextGen Rising Star South-West England & Wales – Ioana Price, Senior Structural Engineer at AECOM
- Graduate of the Year – Jerryl Ong Jun Wey, Graduate Sustainability Consultant at Cundall
- Inspirational Leader of the Year – Winner: Clare Ashmore, COO at Parkeray
- Diversity & Inclusion Champion of the Year – Ayo Ambali, Architectural Assistant at WILL+Partners
- Employer of the Year – AECOM
The awards ceremony, held at Quaglino’s in St. James’s on 1 November 2023, was attended by more than 400 BCO members who came together to celebrate each other’s success. The event also marked the appointment of Oliver Hall, Partner at Make Architects, as Chair of the BCO NextGen committee for London and the South East. Oliver takes over from Hannah Buxton, Associate Partner at RX London, under whose leadership the committee launched the BCO NextGen Wellness Programme.
Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the BCO, said: “The talent and passion amongst our BCO NextGen community members is inspirational, and it is always a great joy to celebrate their achievements. In designing exceptional buildings, and devoting time and effort to sustainable and social value causes, this year’s winning cohort are shaping the future of the commercial property sector for the better.”
Despina Katsikakis, President of the BCO, added: “As an organisation the BCO takes pride in nurturing our growing NextGen community, supporting them in amplifying their careers and in driving the industry forward. The success of the BCO NextGen Awards is a testimony to the young talent in our industry and to those championing future leaders. It is fantastic to see so many of our members embracing these opportunities, and for all of us to come together to celebrate them.”
Hannah Buxton, Associate Partner, RX London and NextGen Committee Chair for London: “The BCO NextGen Awards is the biggest night of the year for the BCO NextGen committees around the UK. As NextGen membership numbers and range of exciting events and activities the programme offers continues to grow, I am proud that this year also marked the largest numbers of NextGen Awards submissions. This reflects a recognition of the value of our industry’s young talent and their hard work and dedication.”
The award winners:
NextGen Rising Star – London & the South East
Winner: Kwamena Beecham, Architect at BGY
The judges were impressed by Kwamena’s impact across the practice, the architecture profession, and the wider build environment. His input to research outside of his day job, along with his clear adaptability to the challenges of life around his work, shows resilience, passion, and intelligence that made him stand out.
NextGen Rising Star – Midlands & East Anglia
Winner: Simon Pope, Associate at Howells
Simon is recognised as someone who goes above and beyond, both in his professional work and his extracurricular fundraising activities, making him an outstanding winner in the judges’ eyes. He provides inspiration to many of his younger colleagues and mentoring has been a constant thread throughout his career. That he does this whilst designing and delivering outstanding office projects is a credit to his professionalism, passion, and dedication.
NextGen Rising Star – North
Winner: Amelia Walsh, Project Manager at Turner & Townsend
Highly commended: Jessica Spencer, Senior Architect at Cartwright Pickard
Amelia dedicates significant time to corporate social responsibility initiatives, such as the Great North Run and the South African Bambisanani Partnership, alongside offering support to local charities. Concurrently, she has been advancing her professional growth by pursuing joint accreditations in RICS, an MSc in Construction Project Management, and attaining certification as a Passivhaus tradesperson.
Jessica has had a positive influence through founding UrbanistasNW, a female-led advocacy group for all women working regionally in the built environment.
NextGen Rising Star – Scotland
Winner: Robin Ellis, Architectural Designer at Graven
Robin has devised innovative processes and steered Graven’s approach to the principles of the circular economy. Her initiatives have not only streamlined operations but have also become benchmarks for efficiency and eco-consciousness. Robin also shines through her award-winning projects that stand as testaments to her dedication to her craft. Moreover, her commitment extends beyond Graven, as seen in her involvement with the Sustainable Futures Trust (SFT).
NextGen Rising Star – South-West England & Wales
Winner: Ioana Price, Senior Structural Engineer at AECOM
Iona Price has made remarkable contributions both within and beyond her organisation. Her participation in Women’s Engineering Society’s Climate Group and speaking at COP26 demonstrates the time and effort Iona puts into promoting decarbonisation and effecting change within the industry. Additionally, her work within AECOM to develop tools to reduce carbon emissions and share knowledge show initiative and drive to create a positive impact.
Graduate of the Year
Winner: Jerryl Ong Jun Wey, Graduate Sustainability Consultant at Cundall
Jerryl’s passion for sustainability and drive for innovation mark him as stand out winner. The judges were impressed by his contribution to pursuing BCO Net Zero transition goals and his dedication to innovation is evident in the development of customised tools which apply quantitative methods to sustainability principles. As an active member of BCO North and honorary secretary for CIBSE North West, Jerryl has shown a commendable commitment to driving decarbonization efforts in the commercial sector in Manchester.
Inspirational Leader of the Year
Winner: Clare Ashmore, COO at Parkeray
Clare is an inspirational leader, who, alongside her day-to-day role as COO at Parkeray, gives an enormous amount of time to mentoring the next generation. From the dragon’s den initiatives that she runs with local schools through to her role as National Chair of the BCO mentoring scheme, she believes in the changes the industry can make to people’s lives and in creating a diverse future.
Diversity & Inclusion Champion of the Year
Winner: Ayo Ambali, Architectural Assistant at WILL+Partners
Ayo is a genuine advocate for diversity and inclusion, showcasing his commitment through tangible actions within the property industry. He has actively educated industry professionals on crucial diversity and inclusion matters. She authored articles that draw from his experiences as a Black British architect and shed light on the industry’s challenges while offering potential solutions. A recipient of the competitive Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust Scholarship, Ayo has played a significant role in raising awareness of the charity and its contributions to D&I objectives within the property sector.
Employer of the Year
Receiving the award for another year running, AECOM stood out to the judges for its demonstrable focus on creating new opportunities for NextGen staff and fostering their development. As a employer, AECOM offers robust internships, graduate development programmes and volunteer opportunities that encourage a diverse culture and break down barriers for routes into the business.