Lafarge sponsored this award, which saw four very individual and market-focused practices rewarded for innovative designs
Haworth Tompkins Architects

After the all-round success of its £14m redevelopment of London's Royal Court Theatre, Haworth Tompkins has developed a theatre specialism with two more live projects and feasibility studies for the Almeida, Young Vic and Royal National theatres. But the practice also has a wide client base, winning a Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment commendation for Coin Street social housing, masterplanning a waterfront scheme in St Helier, Jersey, and securing a major city-centre redevelopment in Liverpool. Innovations include low servicing strategies, specialised theatre seating systems and a research programme that revisits each project three years after completion. The practice is working towards Investors in People accreditation but already takes good care of its staff, having introduced equal paternity rights, sabbatical rights and part-time working options.

Gareth Hoskins Architects

Last year's winner has built on its success with a string of arts buildings and community facilities. Gareth Hoskins has worked closely with suppliers and consultants to find innovative solutions on projects including an "Arts Factory" for a deprived area of Glasgow and a hospital ward for dementia sufferers. The Glasgow-based practice puts the environment at the heart of its work, and always aims to use local materials creatively.

Hudson Featherstone
The practice works within the genre it calls the "modern British house", a non-doctrinal doctrine of off-the-peg construction techniques, sustainable design and loose-fit interiors. Examples include the compact, flexible Drop House in Hertfordshire, which features greywater recycling, and sliding internal screens. The practice has also worked on brownfield regeneration sites in east London, and has started building work on a family house in Delhi.

Stock Woolstencroft
In its first decade, Stock Woolstencroft has broadened its workload from healthcare and social housing to include education, private residential and urban design. An impressive 74% of last year's commissions were repeat business, which has helped the practice on a steep growth curve from a fee income of £250,000 to more than £1.5m in the past three years. Partnering arrangements with several housing associations deliver 20% of the practice's workload.