Fewer than 500 homes
Stamford Homes introduced a culture change that put people first – unsurprisingly, climbing profits weren't far behind. The firm stood out in this British Gypsum-sponsored category

1st - Stamford Homes
A commitment to people was what made this Peterborough housebuilder stand out. Not just to its site workers – who have benefited from a 32% reduction in reportable accidents over the past year – and its staff – who enjoy the advantages that Investors in People status brings – but also to its customers. Stamford Homes has halved defects on new houses and slashed the cost of remedial works by 68%. Stamford says that this recently adopted attitude has transformed the company, both as an employer and as a business performer – it has more than trebled profit in the past three years. The judges also loved Stamford's exemplar project: a sustainable community called Berwick Place in Hampton Vale, which comprises a range of high-density, high-spec modern homes, a school, retail and community facilities, leisure spaces and transport links.

'The massive transformation in culture that has taken place at Stamford Homes helped it differentiate itself from the others'

2nd - Urban Splash
For a comparatively small company, Urban Splash has been making some huge waves. A regular headline-hitter in Building and the winner of the entrepreneur category, this Manchester-based urban regeneration company specialises in turning derelict land and buildings into modern, sustainable housing. And we're not just talking reducing waste and building on brownfield: it's New Islington development in Manchester will generate its own electricity and use the by-product – heat – to provide hot water and heating.

'It caught our eye for its boldness in tackling challenging sites and buildings and the cool look of many of its projects'

3rd - Emlor Homes
Spencer and Clinton McCarthy, sons of John, of McCarthy & Stone fame – see the housebuilder category – seem to have hit the jackpot. After a few years as builders of luxury country homes, they decided to follow in their father's footsteps and refocus Emlor Homes as a retirement home specialist. The decision has yielded a 968% leap in operating profit in the past year alone and they have just rebranded Emlor as Churchill Retirement Homes.

'The firm scored the best in our independent survey of purchasers'

4th - Sunley
The Sussex-based housing arm of property and venture capital group Sunley Holdings, Sunley "Homes for Living" is doing rather well. A consistently sound financial performance over the past three years has suddenly become an impressive one, with sales and output doubling in 2002. The judges were particularly impressed by Sunley's case study, a development on a former aerodrome in Kent – awarded "highest-rated scheme" in CABE's Building for Life campaign.

5th - Banner Homes
Buckinghamshire housebuilder Banner aims to give satisfaction. This is why it implemented a thorough customer care scheme that includes a dedicated quality manager to make sure each home is perfect two weeks before handover, and to fix any problems prior to occupation. This kind of service has given Banner a 90% satisfaction and recommendation rating in its customer surveys. And it pays dividends: the firm saw an 85% increase in profit last year.

6th - Pegasus Retirement Homes
Britain's ageing population means big money in retirement homes, which brings another specialist to our shortlist: Gloucestershire-based Pegasus. Following a successful management buyout in 1998, this 19-year-old company refined its strategy, overhauled its housing designs and hasn't looked back since. Pegasus saw a 90% jump in unit sales last year, yielding a similar rise in operating profit – what's more, the firm does all of its building on brownfield land.