2015 Aurora Awards: They're golden


The Aurora Awards design competition is normally dominated by high-end custom and semi-custom homebuilders — the cream of the crop of the building industry.

In comparison, Josh Wynne Construction represents the little guy — building just a one or maybe a few houses at a time, and doing the best job possible.

The master bathroom inside "Lotus on Orange," a house designed by Chris Leader and built by Josh Wynne, was co-winner of the Gold Aurora award from the Southeast Building Conference. Ryan Gamma Photography.

The master bathroom inside "Lotus on Orange," a house designed by Chris Leader and built by Josh Wynne, was co-winner of the Gold Aurora award from the Southeast Building Conference. Ryan Gamma Photography.

But at the 2015 Aurora Awards, presented at the Southeast Building Conference in Orlando, the little guy rose up and pushed the big boys off to the side. Josh Wynne, teaming with designer Chris Leader and several other key players, won the Golden Aurora at the recent awards show.

Actually, the vote was a tie. Wynne won for a spec house, since sold, at 1414 S. Osprey Ave. in Sarasota.

The Wynne team had to share the Golden Aurora with ... itself. The other top house in the Southeast this year was the Wynne/Leader collaboration known as Lotus on Orange.

“It was a shock,” said Josh Wynne. Between the two houses, Wynne took home 20 total awards, for best overall design, sustainability and similar

"Lotus on Orange" is co-winner of the 2015 Gold Aurora award from the Southeast Building Conference. Ryan Gamma Photography.

"Lotus on Orange" is co-winner of the 2015 Gold Aurora award from the Southeast Building Conference. Ryan Gamma Photography.


Leader’s former employer, Jonathan Parks and his Solstice Architects, won Sarasota’s other big honor at the SEBC, a Grand Aurora for a modernist house known as Thirty Oaks, on Siesta Key.

The pair of Gold Auroras stunned Wynne.

“I was surprised,” Wynne said, “because there were a lot of $3 and $4 million projects. Until the last year, those are the only projects that ever own the Golden. But they made a big deal this year at the Auroras about a more auditable and accountable judging criteria.”

The judging was done blindly to avoid favoritism, Wynne said.

“I didn’t expect win as big with 1414 (S. Osprey) as we did,” he added. “Its category was $300,000 to $500,000. You just don’t expect a less-than-$500,000 demonstration home to best a 32,000-square-foot, $5 million house. You don’t expect to win against houses like that.”

This year, though, $500,000 spec houses were not judged against $5 million houses. “The home with the highest scoring criteria wins the show,” Wynne said. “We weren’t necessarily competing against a $5 million house. We were competing to do the best $500,000 spec home that we could possibly do, and then you compare that with the best $5 million house you could build.

“It keeps everything apples to apples.”

Lotus on Orange was the best in show in the $750,000 to $1 million price range.

The Aurora Award entries are complicated — a collection of supporting documents, high-quality photographs, and energy-performance forms.

“They want to make sure people aren’t making claims that are unsupported,” Wynne said.

It was the second year in a row that Wynne won a Golden Aurora. He took one home in 2014 with the “Tip Top House” on Westway Drive in Lido Shores, done with Jonathan Parks.

“It is fun to walk up there and accept the awards.” Wynne said. “But these projects are highly collaborative. There are a lot of people involved in these projects.”

He cited designer Leader (not yet a licensed architect) and architect Sultana, landscape architects Michael Gilkey and Tim Borden, Punit Patel of Sawa Design Studios, photography Ryan Gamma, along with the contractors and his own staff.

“Great projects are the result of great collaboration. A lot of talented people are invested in making the best projects we can possibly make.

“And, it takes great clients who are willing to break out of the mold and let people do some pretty unique things. Without that, it doesn’t matter how great your collaboration is.”

Wynne also won an Aurora Awards for energy efficiency in the $500,001 to $750,000 category for its Phoenix project on Longboat Key, in collaboration with architect Mark Sultana of DSDG Inc. and Drew and Debbie Smith of Two Trails, Inc.

Thirty Oaks

Parks’ Thirty Oaks project, which won awards for custom home design and energy efficiency in the $1.5 million to $2 million price range, was a collaboration with Voigt Brothers Construction and landscape architect David Young. But structural engineer Steve Wilbur played a key role, too.

“We called it Thirty Oaks because it felt like a forest of 30 oak trees,” Parks said. “We designed the house around the trees. Steve developed the building to span over a giant root structure.”

The house was the first to be built by Voigt Brothers to achieve LEED-Gold certification for sustainable construction. And this was not a checkbook-green project, where a wealthy owner writes a check for a lot of photovoltaic panels to chase LEED points and get the HERS index down to zero.

“It is almost impossible to be LEED-Gold without those add-on components,” Parks said. “It was a well thought-out design from the get-go.” Helping the thought process was Two Trails Inc.'s Drew Smith, the green consultant who has coached builders on dozens of Aurora Award-winning projects.

“Our main category was sustainability,” Parks said, “and the Aurora Awards were all about that this year. The projects that were sustainable were the ones that were honored.

“Sarasota has a group of folks who are pushing sustainability, and it is being recognized. The momentum in Sarasota was never lost, which is great.”

Parks praised Wynne’s “regional focus” on sustainability, which is the process of using passive design, resource-conserving methods and materials, and green technology to design homes with a low carbon footprint and long lifespan.

PGI Homes in Punta Gorda won an Aurora Award for interior kitchen merchandising and interior detailing for its Casa Colonia. Team members include Dewalt Design Group. PGI Homes also won a number of awards for its Casa Vidrio house in Cape Coral.

Flad Architects won an award for Best Community Site Plan, for CORE at Lakewood Ranch.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: August 3, 2015
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