Elevating Every Designer: How DMN's 2024 Building Design Awards are Shaping an Inclusive Industry

The Design Matters National Building Design Awards are taking bold strides in 2024 to redefine the landscape of building design accolades. This year marks a transformative expansion from 41 to 48 categories, reflecting DMN’s steadfast commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and equitability in the built environment sector. By reconfiguring the Awards to embrace a more diverse spectrum of talent, DMN is ensuring that every designer, regardless of age, gender, geographical location, or budget, feels that these accolades are within their reach. DMN CEO, Danielle Johnston, explains the motivation behind the revamped categories: "Our goal this year is not just to honour spectacular designs but to spotlight how design excellence is achieved under diverse circumstances. We recognise that great design isn't just about grandeur; it's about thoughtful consideration of the client’s budget, needs, and the sustainable integration of these elements. By introducing broader and more inclusive categories, we're showcasing design excellence that anticipates future needs and rises above traditional expectations." As part of the changes to the DMN Awards this year, the theme 'Elevating Design Excellence' not only aims to raise the bar in architectural innovation but also, quite literally, to elevate every designer involved. This thematic focus is not just about spotlighting the highest standards in design but also about lifting up the entire design community, ensuring every participant feels seen and valued.

Danielle reflects on this inclusive approach, saying, "While we're elevating design excellence, we're making sure we bring every designer along for the ride. It's like an elevator; there's room for everyone, and we're going up together!" This metaphor demonstrates DMN's commitment to fostering a collaborative and supportive environment where all designers, regardless of their starting point, can ascend to new heights of professional achievement.

Significant among this year's changes is the introduction of categories that consider the varying economic scales of projects, such as the consolidated price range categories in residential designs and the inclusion of small-scale commercial projects. These modifications are designed to ensure that no project, no matter its scope or budget, is overlooked. The Awards now cater to a broad audience, from solo designers working on modest budgets to larger firms handling multi-million-dollar projects. Discussing the impact of this consideration, Danielle adds, "The DMN Building Design Awards have always been a celebration of innovation and skill in our industry. This year, by diversifying the categories, we're taking a step further to ensure that every designer, no matter where they are or what resources they have, can see their work recognised. From grand architectural achievements to the most modest designs, each entry has the potential to inspire and push the boundaries of what is possible in building design."

The replacement of the standalone Environmentally Sustainable Design category with integrated sustainability criteria across all categories is a testament to DMN's vision that green design principles should be a universal standard, not an optional specialty. This change emphasises the importance of sustainable practices in every aspect of design, further democratising the Awards by aligning them with the ethical responsibilities of modern design practices.

In addition, the renaming of the Student Awards to Emerging Designer Awards represents a deliberate move to foster a nurturing environment for newcomers to the field. By broadening the definition to include graduates, DMN is expanding its support for the next generation of designers, offering them a prestigious platform early in their careers. "Supporting our Emerging Design talent is crucial to the future of our industry. By transforming the Student Awards into the Emerging Designer Awards, we are not simply recognising the achievements of students and recent graduates; we are investing in the next generation of designers. It’s essential that as a membership organisation we provide a platform for these young visionaries to display their new approaches and fresh perspectives. Their success and integration into the community is fundamental to the sustained growth and evolution of building design excellence across Australia," Danielle said.

The introduction of the NDIS/Supported Living and Special Residential categories is particularly noteworthy. These categories acknowledge the growing need for designs that accommodate diverse lifestyles and abilities, further broadening the Awards' scope to encompass designs that are as varied as the clients they serve. Danielle passionately highlights the importance of these new categories, stating, "The introduction of the NDIS/Supported Living and Special Residential categories marks a crucial evolution in our Awards. These categories were introduced to showcase projects that address the unique needs of individuals with disabilities, ensuring that our Awards celebrate designs that are not only aesthetically pleasing but profoundly impactful in enhancing quality of life. By doing so, we aim to inspire the entire industry to consider broader accessibility in their projects, truly reflecting the diverse needs of the community we serve."

As the awards approach their 38th year, the changes implemented for the 2024 ceremony are set to make it a milestone event in the industry. These Awards encapsulate many things; they celebrate the past, but they also pave the way for a future where the field of design is as diverse as the community it serves. Reflecting on the community aspect of the awards, Danielle states, "We encourage all our members to participate, not just as competitors but as part of a vibrant community that values the power of design to improve lives. These Awards are a testament to the hard work and creativity of our designers and are a crucial part of continuing our tradition of excellence in building design. We're excited to see how our members come together to elevate design standards across Australia."

With these initiatives, DMN continues to champion excellence in design while fostering an inclusive environment that empowers all designers to aspire to and achieve greatness.