How it feels to be told you’re the best

By Francie Healy

When a renovator wins an award, it’s reason to feel proud.

When a renovator becomes “Greater Ottawa Renovator of the Year” – well, says Steve Barkhouse, it feels “about 172 times better.”

Steve has been feeling pretty good over the past eight years. He and his company, Amsted Design/Build, have won the prestigious award four times – in fact, every single time they were eligible (you can only enter the award process so often).

In addition to “Renovator of the Year”, Amsted Design/Build has been the winner of several Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association Design Awards. It has won the Canadian Home Builders’ Association Award of Excellence. It has been named the Ottawa Construction Company of the Year as well as receiving Green Project of the Year and the Ottawa Heritage Award.

Anyone who submits an application as Renovator of the Year faces a gruelling procedure. A renovator must undergo intense scrutiny by a panel of industry professionals. The judges look not only at the quality of a renovator’s work but at client service, value to customers, creativity, problem-solving, and code of ethics, among other critical issues. It’s a lengthy, arduous process. Renovators must supply a massive amount of information: detailed descriptions, photos, drawings, letters from clients, for instance.

“There’s no higher criteria required for any other award submission”, Steve says. “It’s fantastic for us, but it’s even better for clients.”

Steve considers himself and his staff of 26 to be perfectionists, not only in what they do but in their core values. When they’re down to the nitty-gritty and making the tiniest adjustment – one that would not even be noticed – Steve admits he sometimes wonders if they’ve gone too far with their code of ethics.

But then an award like this comes along, again and again, and, he says, “you know you’re doing the right thing.” And it propels him to keep going. “We do it until it hurts,” he says, “and beyond.”

It’s unique to win Renovator of the Year more than once, let alone four times.

Steve calls the submission “a good tool” when they’re finished, because it becomes a kind of scrapbook or archives of their work. “It’s fun to stand back and look at it, and then to package it up,” he says.

And when the results come in?

Steve laughs. It’s a great moment of jubilation for everyone.

“We celebrate,” he says. “We have a party!”

Renovation is hard, hard work, he says. It’s hard for any good renovator. Like other certified companies, Amsted is dedicated to excellence, and it prides itself on customer satisfaction.

“But to be recognized for excellence as a company for everything you do…” he says. “Well, that’s kinda cool.”