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Contractor of the Year: Winner

Winner: Gilbert-Ash

Gilbert-Ash embarked on a three-year business improvement plan in 2014, which has culminated in it being crowned Contractor of the Year at the Construction News Awards 2018.

Judges called the company a “class act” for a submission that wowed with the technical quality of its projects, its progressive approach to staff mindfulness and a strong business strategy.

The company has more than doubled in size to a turnover of £175m and is now employee-owned.

The past 12 months have seen it work on schemes with clients including the City of London Corporation, King’s College London and the BBC. 

Projects the firm worked on in 2017 included the technically complex Royal College of Music’s redevelopment, the National Army Museum revamp, and the spectacular Abu Bakr Jamia Mosque in Cambridge using a double-curved cross-laminated timber frame (pictured).

Gilbert-Ash’s community ethos was demonstrated while refurbishing the National Army Museum, where Chelsea Pensioners would gather at lunchtime to read newspapers. The group set up a space for the pensioners to continue to visit while work was ongoing ahead of reopening their revamped home.

In 2017 the firm ran an initiative with seven schools, challenging them to build a replica of its AC Marriott Hotel using the popular video game, Minecraft. This earned it a 10/10 score for innovation on the Considerate Constructors Best Practice Hub.

Gilbert-Ash also supports the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in more than 40 countries worldwide, working with the department on projects in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Hungary to name a few during 2017.

“Gilbert-Ash changed its business and improved its core principles. The quality of its design approach blew us away. A real touch of class”

Judges’ comment

The contractor has an employee retention rate of 87 per cent and is working to upskill its staff, with many travelling from Northern Ireland to work on UK projects as it expands.

With women making up 21 per cent of its workforce, the business is trying to attract and retain more women and has been an early adopter of gender diversity initiatives.

The contractor has also implemented bespoke software to gather information on supplier performance across its projects, looking at criteria such as sustainability, safety, quality, health and wellbeing, while ensuring its suppliers are paid on time.

Having delivered more than 1,800 hotel rooms in the last three years with the same amount under construction today, Gilbert-Ash was named Whitbread Supplier of the Year in 2017 and appointed a technical director to its board to focus on client relationships. 

Judges hailed the contractor’s design-led approach, which one judge said had “blown me away” and demonstrated “a touch of class”.

The panel said its array of complex projects, efforts to improve workforce culture and its investment in people made Gilbert-Ash a worthy winner. 


  • Canary Wharf Contractors
  • Graham
  • Metnor Construction
  • Robertson Group
  • Wates Group
  • Willmott Dixon

CN Awards 2018 sponsors_SAS logo

CN Awards 2018 sponsors_SAS logo

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