Fourth winners of Clarion’s William Sutton Prize revealed  

Clarion Housing Group has revealed the winners of the fourth William Sutton Prize at an awards ceremony which took place on Wednesday.

The winner of The William Sutton Prize for Sustainability and Placemaking is Mole Architects for their proposal for a zero-carbon homebuilding system designed to support the development of Group-Build community housing. The system sets out a step-by-step approach from land purchase to completed building, facilitating community-led housing and tackling associated barriers, with the aim of enabling greater numbers of people to come together to build their own homes.

The aim is to use the £20,000 prize fund to contribute towards the development of an illustrated document and website, forming a toolkit that sets out the approach to engage landowners, local authorities, politicians, and future residents. It will also help fund initial design work on a modular housing system, comprising a building system and engagement model.

The winning concept will also be trialled on one of Clarion’s upcoming development sites, with the Mole Architects team also benefiting from expert support and guidance to turn their idea into reality.

Highly commended was a proposal by Optimised Environments Ltd (OPEN) for a practical toolkit outlining different ways social landlords can provide access to growing spaces and improve connections to the natural environment in order to help improve residents’ health and wellbeing. The £5,000 prize money will help expand and refine the existing outline toolkit before it can be piloted on a scheme.

Pride of Place Living took home The William Sutton Prize for Social Innovation for their proposal for a scheme that will provide multigenerational, lifelong and inclusive living for LGBTQ+ people in Leeds. LGBTQ+ communities are disproportionately affected by homelessness and social isolation, and Pride of Place Living will provide a safe and supportive living environment for its residents, helping to tackle these issues.

The £20,000 prize fund will be used to further develop the concept with the support of finance and design experts, as well as running workshops to engage with and secure the support of the LGBTQ+ community in Leeds. In addition, Pride of Place Living is part of a national housing network of LGBTQ+ organisations, enabling learnings to be shared and replicated to accelerate progress elsewhere.   

Highly commended was a proposal by PhD candidate Hannah Absalom from the University of Birmingham to develop a model that utilises psychological insights to support the allocation process for social housing providers. The aim is to ‘put the heart back into allocations’, building relationships with new tenants and staff that result in sustainable tenancies and designing impact measures and training to scale the approach. The £5,000 prize fund will help develop the concept further, with additional support and expertise from Clarion.

Now in its fourth year, The William Sutton Prize was developed by Clarion Housing Group to celebrate the legacy of its founder, William Sutton, as a 19th century innovator and philanthropist who bequeathed his fortune to improve the quality of social housing.

It encourages individuals and organisations to present a new concept, service or idea that will benefit social housing residents and communities, with a prize fund on offer to help develop the idea and maximise its impact. The funding is provided by Clarion Futures, the charitable foundation of Clarion Housing Group.

The winning entries were determined by panels led by Clare Miller, Chief Executive of Clarion Housing Group and including Jas Bhalla, Founder of William Sutton Prize-winning Jas Bhalla Architects, Alastair Mant, Director of Business Transformation at the UK Green Building Council, Matthew Morgan, Director of the Quality of Life Foundation, as well as Sebastian Rocca, Founder and CEO of Micro Rainbow which won The William Sutton Prize for Social Innovation in its inaugural year and has gone on to be named one of the top 100 UK social enterprises in NatWest's SE100 Index.  

Clare Miller, Chief Executive of Clarion Housing Group, said:

“I’m delighted that we will be supporting Mole Architects and Pride of Place Living through The William Sutton Prize. Our winners are inspiring and innovative projects that have the potential to change lives, and that’s what the Prize is all about.

“Not only will the winning teams receive financial support, but we’ll also be working with them to offer guidance and expertise to help turn their bright ideas into reality. Mole Architects’ proposal will be trialled on a future development site and we’re excited to see how it can help support community-led housing at scale.”

Meredith Bowles, Founding Director and Principal at Mole Architects, said:

“At Mole Architects, we’re committed to making this project happen no matter what, but winning The William Sutton Prize means that we can focus proper time and energy, which will give it a much greater chance of success. We’d noticed The William Sutton Prize each year it’s happened, and have admired the ethos behind it as much as the fantastic schemes. It fits our aspirations as a practice perfectly and we’re excited to have the opportunity to trial our winning project on one of Clarion’s upcoming development sites.”

Jas Bhalla, Founder of Jas Bhalla Architects and former William Sutton Prize winner, said:

“It was an absolute pleasure judging this year’s William Sutton Prize for Sustainability and Placemaking; we were overwhelmed by the creativity and variety of the shortlist. Combining innovation with a focus on delivery, Mole Architects’ ‘Home Made’ project was the standout entry. The project builds upon the team’s growing expertise in group-build to explore ways of delivering new forms of community housing across the country. Given the importance of diversifying the types of new homes brought forward, ‘Home Made’ offers an exciting proposition to create new housing focused on the specific needs of a particular community.”

Jane Stageman, Chair of Pride of Place Living, said:

“We were inspired to enter The William Sutton Prize because Pride of Place Living tackles some of the key issues affecting society today and offers a real opportunity to make a difference to the LGBTQ+ community in Leeds. It seemed an ideal match and winning the Prize will enable us to progress our project to the next stage, turning a concept into what we believe will be the UK’s first multigenerational LGBTQ+ housing community.”

Sebastian Rocca, Founder and CEO of Micro Rainbow which won The William Sutton Prize for Social Innovation in its inaugural year, said:

“Winning The William Sutton Prize was transformational for Micro Rainbow: it enabled us to make the jump between an early piloting phase to scaling our housing scheme for homeless LGBTQI migrants nationally. When we won The William Sutton Prize we were running a small safe house of four beds. We now offer 25,000 bed-nights a year in three locations in the UK and we are still growing.

“This year’s finalists were truly inspiring in their diversity, vision and ambition in creating solutions to tackle some of the most pressing housing issues that we face. I am full of admiration for all of them. In times when divisions seem to prevail over unity, it is heart-warming to see so many projects that focus on community and environmental cohesion. It has been an honour to win The William Sutton Prize in 2018 and to be one of this year’s judges. I am confident that the Prize will be transformational for this year’s winners as it has been for Micro Rainbow and I look forward to seeing their progress.”