This year Wates came out on top, thanks to a splendid combination of economic success, innovation and social responsibility

This award was aimed at firms with a turnover in excess of £500m. The judges were looking for evidence of success during 2008.


  • Wates Group

Wates is a contractor that has really come of age. The family-run business soared through the £1bn turnover barrier last year and grew its construction profit 37%. It achieved success after success on projects as diverse as the £34m Stratford Eye tower (a flag bearer for the regeneration of the Olympic area) and Rochester Prison, completed in a mere 34 weeks. More than 80% of Wates' work is repeat business, partly because clients are won over by its commitment to innovation - for example, its overhaul of the design and construction process at Rochester saved the Ministry of Justice £2.5m. Add the fact that the firm's staff volunteered 8,000 hours to help local communities and it's no wonder Wates stands head and shoulders above the rest.


  • Balfour Beatty

Balfour Beatty is celebrating its centenary this year, and on the strength of its current performance it's no wonder it has lasted so long, or established itself so firmly in Britain's construction landscape. Education secretary Ed Balls hailed its £163m schools scheme in Knowsley, Merseyside, as a project that will “lead the way” for the government's £45bn school building programme. He could have said much the same thing about the firm's pioneering work in the healthcare and leisure sectors. There are few contractors that can handle large projects with the skill and tenacity of Balfour Beatty - it may be toasting its 100th birthday, but it's likely the country will be reminded of its work for another century or two.

  • ISG

The past year was never going to be easy for any firm associated with the commercial market, but ISG has responded with aplomb. Over the year, its work in the education, public, leisure and retail sectors grew 100% on the previous year, and it's fast acquiring a reputation for excellence in its new markets. It won the contract for the 2012 Olympic velodrome, and has secured a five-year contract with Lloyds TSB. It has also transformed itself into an international business over the past two years, with wins in Moscow proving its services are no less in demand overseas than they are in the UK.

  • Kier

Kier's reputation as a first-class contractor is growing at a rate of knots - as rapidly, in fact, as its operating profit, which rose more than 50% over the past year. That was the firm's 17th year of growth, and it achieved it by moving swiftly to counteract the deterioration in the residential market with a string of wins in construction. Sitting pretty on government frameworks across the health, prisons and education sectors, Kier has also formed divisions to target retail, airports and leisure. And nobody should doubt its commitment to its clients, as Vodafone will testify. The phone company's headquarters at Newbury was flooded to a depth of more than three feet, but Kier got them back in business within days, rather than the months envisaged by insurance assessors.

  • Sir Robert McAlpine

Ask most firms to deliver two of the largest retail-led regeneration schemes constructed this decade within three weeks of each other, on time and on budget, and most would quail at the challenge. Not Sir Robert McAlpine. Its work on Cabot Circus in Bristol and Highcross in Leicester epitomises its commitment to delivery on the UK's most prestigious projects. Its reputation for innovation is also first class - it made 3,000 prefabricated cabins for Colchester Garrison, which helped it to deliver the project 21 weeks early - not bad when you consider it involved the design and construction of more than 110 buildings.

  • Willmott Dixon Construction

Want to see the future? You could do worse than borrow a pair of specs from Willmott Dixon. This company has come on in leaps and bounds over the past year, a fact nowhere more evident than in its approach to sustainability. The company has drawn up a list of 10 sustainable project criteria which it hopes 75% of its jobs will reach by 2012 - a big commitment, as the targets are designed to get tougher each year. Even Willmott Dixon's projects look to the future: in a market where education has never been more important, the firm is the joint best performer on the government's national academy framework.