Every two years, something special happens in Europe. Courtesy of host Saint-Gobain, loads of drywallers, plasterers and builders from each corner of the world gather together to attend a truly remarkable event: to compete to see who is named “the best” in several different categories. And this year’s 11th Annual Gypsum Trophy Awards event, held in Lisbon, Portugal, in late March, showed just who’s the best of the best. 

The brilliance of this event—despite its scale, extravagance, exotic locations, logistics—is that it gives contractors an opportunity to really introduce themselves to one another that would otherwise have no opportunity to meet under normal conditions. So, the common tongue is typically English but if you know French, Deutsch, Spanish or Mandarin, it might help you communicate with your Northern vs. Southern Hemisphere counterpart. 

This year, North America’s representation came from two U.S. and two Canadian contractors. Out of these four, Canadian contractor Smith Brothers’ Contracting Corp., of Ancaster, Ontario, did walk away a winner. 

This is Walls & Ceilings third event attending. We appreciate Saint-Gobain’s enthusiasm to invite the magazine to report on this important and fun event. 

Michael’s Homes

Michael’s Homes was one of two participating U.S.-based companies to be a contestant for its Residential Category submission of a 2,700 square foot home. Michael’s Homes is a residential construction company building custom and speculative, energy-efficient homes throughout Middle Tennessee and Chattanooga. The company has more than 25 years of experience and its quality workmanship has earned them a reputation as one of the premier builders in Tennessee. Its memberships to various associations and affiliates include the National Association of Homebuilders, an Energy Star Partner, Certified Green Builder Professional, and an accredited A+ rated business with the Better Business Bureau.

Building homes in Chattanooga and Murfreesboro, the company’s 25-plus years experience in new home construction has enabled Michael’s Homes to integrate various processes with technology to create a positive experience during the home building process. The company has built hundreds of custom and speculative homes where clients have the flexibility to customize the interior and exterior of their home. Additionally, its standard features are generous, giving clients added value. The builder’s mobile application (BuilderTrend) allows clients to track progress and the cost of their home during the construction process.

The company’s owner Michael McCann has been in business with Michael’s Homes for 15 years though he doubles that time in the construction field with 32 years under his belt. The company is largely a residential contractor though does some “smaller” commercial projects. He was introduced to the trades by his dad, who was a civil engineer. 

“For some reason I decided to get into residential construction,” says McCann. He adds that since his 15 years in business with Michael’s Homes, that business has been good and steady though, in his words, says there are still some growing pains. 

“Housing is in great demand but it is hard to keep up, with labor shortages and price increases,” he says.  

The home that was submitted for the Residential Category is 2,700 square feet, two stories, just outside of Chattanooga, Tenn., in Soddy Daisy overlooking Chickamauga Lake.

With stunning views of the river, mountains, and wildlife the River Watch Home was voted the 2017 “Showcase Home of the Year” by the HBA of Greater Chattanooga. This four-bedroom home has an open floor plan with a vaulted great room that opens to the eat-in kitchen that features a walk-in pantry and access to the covered porch. The main level also has a formal dining room, utility room, master bedroom with en-suite, additional bedroom, and full bathroom. The upper level has two additional bedrooms, full bathroom, and a bonus room. The home is a strong showcase of not only quality construction and attention to detail, but how homebuilders like Michael’s Homes look beyond the aesthetic to provide their homebuyers a house built with features that run deeper than the surface aesthetics. A number of high-performance wall systems were utilized throughout the home providing lasting comfort and performance for the life of the home.

Michael’s Homes was responsible for the complete design and build, and the builder used the following CertainTeed Gypsum products: 

  • AirRenew 
  • SilentFX 
  • Type X Fire Resistant
  • Habito  
  • No-Coat cornerbead

L&W Supply and KenCo were distributors for this project. 

Sears Contract

Since 1995, Sears Contract has led the Triangle-area in North Carolina in commercial drywall and construction applications. Taking a personal approach to construction management, the company takes great pride in translating the creative plans of an architect into their physical reality. With both large and small-scale commercial metal stud construction, Sears Contract works in many areas including corporate centers, retail malls, educational institutions, churches, data centers, healthcare, hospitality and high-rise office and residential buildings.

The company has been in business for 23 years. The contractor has an interesting history: Its President Lynn Sears started off working for an architect; husband Jim Sears started with a drywall company as a first job. 

“It was a natural fit to start our own commercial construction company,” says Lynn.

The company currently employs 300 and subcontracts anywhere from 600 to 800 subcontractors. 

“When we first started, I told Jim one of our biggest challenges would be to manage our growth and grow at a pace we were comfortable with and not dictated by the market,” says Lynn. “That is still a challenge today.”

She says a lot of lessons have been learned over the years and these still continue today, even after decades in the business. “We are in a market where we are attempting to be a little more selective—there are quite a few opportunities out there,” Lynn says. “One of the challenges is having adequate resources.”

The project that landed Sears Contract as a contender at the International Gypsum Trophy Event was the The Holy Name of Jesus Church. The house of worship is a cruciform shape cathedral with a Romanesque design that is built with modern construction materials. The vaulted ceilings are 78 feet and lead to the magnificent dome of 140 feet.

Sears Contract was hired to install metal stud framing, drywall, insulation and exterior FRP.

Some of the unique and special design elements of the project include barrel vaulted ceilings and eyebrows, arches at the ribs and dome soffit. The arches varied in style and radius. In the dome, apse and tabernacle, wallboard was twisted and molded to achieve the desired architectural design.

For this project, these CertainTeed products were used:

  • Type X Drywall, 
  • M2Tech Drywall 
  • Diamondback
  • GlasRoc
  • CertaPro Acousta Therm/Batts R19 & Batts R11

Smith Bros.

Established in 1932, Smith Brothers’ Contracting Corp. has successfully worked with area contractors, architects and owners serving the Southern Ontario marketplace. The company was originally established as a residential plastering contractor and has evolved into a fully integrated interior contractor. The company provides a broad range of construction services including drywall systems, acoustical ceiling systems, demountable partition systems, sprayed fireproofing, spray-applied acoustical and thermal insulation and lath and plaster systems. So given its lengthy history in the wall and ceiling industry, it was a matter of time that the company be given such an award on an international level.

Current management represents the fourth generation of continual involvement of the Smith Family.

The company now has the capability to perform all functions within the interior contracting realm. Projects range from small renovations to large scale multi-million dollar contracts. The company’s diversification has provided the opportunity and experience to develop full interior contracting capabilities. Currently the Canadian company employs approximately 100 staff (field and office). 

The market for this interior contracting approach continues to grow and Smith Brothers’ Contracting is proof. The company was the sole North American contractor to win this year’s Plasterboard’s Category for the St. Mary & St. Samuel Coptic Orthodox Church in Markham (see entry in the Event Winners section). 

“We did all heavy gauge framing and sheathing of the entire church,” says Adam DeWitt, vice president with Smith Bros. “All interior framing and drywall of all walls, ceilings and bulkheads.”

The company installed CertainTeed’s:

  • Type X, M2Tech and Extreme Abuse gypsum board
  • Glasroc Sheathing
  • Ready Mix Compounds
  • Setting Compounds
  • Paper Tape
  • No-Coat Corners
  • CT Insulation

Donmor Drywall

The fourth North American contractor to be nominated for a project is Donmor Drywall. The company, based out of Bolton, Ontario, submitted its project for the Guelph University, Athletic Department Renovation & Expansion Project. 

The contractor has been in business for 15 years with a focus on industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) construction projects. Currently, Donmor employs roughly 100 people. 

Its President Frank Morelli was in Lisbon along with the other North American contractors. 

The project saw the contractor install both exterior and interior walls. Donmor Drywall installed the following CertainTeed products:

  • Easi-Lite
  • Type X
  • M2Tech
  • GlasRoc Panels
  • CertainTeed Finishing products

Winners of the Event

Prior to the evening gala dinner, press and contractors had the opportunity to view the competing projects at a showcase set up in the host lodging at the Epic Sana Lisboa Hotel. Four hundred and fifty guests, including contractors, architects, journalists and Saint-Gobain employees mingled and were able to see all phases of a project at the category “stations” that had interactive displays with project details on iPads.

During the course of the ceremony,
12 awards from the six categories were presented.

The award ceremony culminated with the presentation of the Grand Prix and President’s Prize. The President’s Prize, presented by Claude-Alain Tardy, is a unique discretionary award presented to a contractor whose project reflects the Saint-Gobain Gypsum Activity’s overall strategy. This year the award was given to a contractor from a fast growing market.

The projects, especially the 14 total winners, showcase how high performance drywall systems and plasters, combined with skilled workmanship, provide solutions for high quality, safe, comfortable, modular and sustainable interiors across a wide variety of applications throughout the world.

Grand Prix Winner 

Project: ODEON Music and Theatre Hall

Contractor: S. Guldfeldt Nielsen A/S

The new music and theatre hall located in the H.C. Andersen Quarter was created as a cultural powerhouse with four stages and The Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, Southern Denmark all under one roof. The architectural design of the building is inspired by the varied townscape as it borders both the historical town and contemporary multi-story housing. It is comprised of a number of town houses with varying heights in order to harmonize with the neighboring buildings. The cultural house works almost as mini-city within the city, as the town houses are connected by glass-roofed arcades, squares and open spaces. The great hall accommodates approximately 1800 spectators while the small hall accommodates approximately 300 spectators. There is also a chamber music hall and a rhythmic hall, as well as a restaurant, bar/lounge with access to a roof terrace, offices, a canteen and a basement for parking.


President’s Prize Winner 

Project: Aurora Shopping

Contractor: Diviplus Acoustic Solutions

Aurora Shopping is a modern and elegant five-story project with 678,000 square feet of constructed area. Its architectural design has highly sophisticated features offering an attractive array of entertainment, leisure, shopping, gastronomy, services and events in Londrina. This project presents the drywall as a solution in lining, ceilings and walls for completely different environments, making each space more beautiful, comfortable, safe, pleasant and efficient. Almost all Placo plasterboards solutions were installed in this mall, in different situations and to achieve specified performance for ceilings and walls. All standards required for this kind of construction such as drywall procedures, fire safety, acoustic performance, IAQ, lighting and others were considered and fulfilled during the specification and installations.


Plaster Category Winner

Project: Unterlinden Museum

Contractor: Werey Stenger Platre & Staff

The Unterlinden Museum is located in Colmar, in the Alsace region. Housed in a 13th-century Dominican convent and a 1906 former public baths building, it features a large collection of local and international artworks. It officially opened its doors to the public in 1853. When the need appeared for the museum to gain more space, the city of Colmar decided to add supplementary buildings: the adjacent, Neo-Baroque former baths building was transformed into an annex of the museum, and a new building was added. A renovation project was designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, using an architectural language that integrates into the old city, but also reveals its contemporary character. Werey Stenger Plâtre & Staff have conducted the entire range of plaster works required by the project, from drywall, ceilings, traditional plaster to fibrous plaster. It is the traditional and fibrous plaster works that make the project particularly extraordinary.


Plaster Category Runner-up

Project: Restauracion Estacion Internacional Canfranc

Contractor: Carlos Martinez & Escuela Superior de Conservacion Y Restauracion de Bienes Cultural de Aragon

The Canfrac International Station is a railway station located in the Spanish municipality of Canfrac (Huesca). The international station of Canfranc was inaugurated in 1928 with an elongated floorplan, a bright and elegant interior, and a symmetrical structure. It has a functional distribution of the spaces from a covered central hall with a large dome. The project focused on the restoration of the vestibule, where the decoration of the interior plaster had practically disappeared in its entirety. This was the main difficulty in the work given that the missing models had to be modeled with the support of photographs. For its reconstruction, rigid molds were made and, using Iberyola stucco E / 35, replicas were made, taking advantage of the great fineness of the product that allows high whiteness and a perfect finish. The few original remains that have been preserved have been consolidated and reintegrated with Iberyola stucco and inert cargo.


Plasterboard Category Winner

Project: St. Mary & St. Samuel Coptic Orthodox Church

Contractor: Smith Brothers Contracting Corp.

The St. Mary & St. Samuel Coptic Orthodox Church, is a 32,000 square feet, single-story place of worship in Markham, Ontario. The building’s intended use and challenging design required a high level of drywall craftsmanship and skill to achieve the ambitious interior space this church demands. The project required the highest quality drywall finishes to the church’s domes and high ceiling with severe, critical lighting due to massive windows.


Plasterboard Category Runner-up

Project: Saint Carolus Hospital Project

Contractor: PT. Sekawan Bangun Perkasa

The Saint Carolus new hospital building is a modernized development from the previous historical building in Central Jakarta which was built in 1916 and is owned by Perkumpulan Perhimpunan Saint Carolus Vereeniging. It was a revolutionary project driven by ambition to build a hospital with the best performance of acoustic, fire protection, and durability combined with an aesthetic and healthy environment. The major transformation was made by replacing the traditional brick wall with the latest technology from Gyproc for the X-ray protection room and wall partition room, where the drywall application itself is rarely used.


Residential Category Winner 

Project: Quartier 23. Haus im Stadtpark

Contractor: Heide - Aktiv – Trockenbau GmbH & Co. KG

In the trendy area of Lüneburg the modern medium-size apartment building, Hanseviertel, was built in only nine months. Seventeen brand-new individual units were created by using the full range of Saint-Gobain Rigips products, including Habito and Glasroc H. The size of the apartments range from 1,000 up to 1,500 square feet, each with a unique and innovative floor plan with organic forms. The whole building was created with the focus to achieve the DGNB-certification in Gold, and therefore combines the demand for a high quality living space and sustainability. To build this extraordinary project, excellent craftsmanship and an innovative attitude towards the use of new products was necessary.


Residential Category Runner-up

Project: The Star and Garter

Contractor: PM White Drylining

Originally built in 1924 as a home for injured servicemen, the Star and Garter is one of the most opulent and well-known buildings in the picturesque area of Richmond, Surrey. Developer, London Square, worked closely with the heritage department at Richmond Council to restore the landmark Grade II listed building to its former glory—transforming it into a series of two, three and four bedroom luxury residences. With a strong focus on quality and workmanship, these prestigious homes have been meticulously crafted to the highest possible standards. As a premium residential development, the main objective was to sensitively restore the building using the best products and finishes available, while taking utmost care to preserve its heritage. It was therefore decided that durable internal partitioning was a more appropriate solution than block work and wet plaster, when it came to constructing the individual residences within the building’s external shell.


Non-residential Category Winner

Project: Midfield Terminal Building Abu Dhabi Airport

Contractor: International Decor Co. LLC

The biggest and most architecturally imposing structure in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the new Midfield Terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport, is constructed between the airport’s two runways, and is grand by every measure. From its massive six-story covered terminal building, to a soaring roof, everything about the new building has been designed to amaze the 30 million-plus passengers expected to pass through the building over the next few years. To meet the aesthetic and performance requirements set for the project, the internal wall linings were categorized to meet the seismic, acoustic, fire and impact standards in a building capable of accommodating three full size football (soccer) pitches.


Non-residential Category Runner-up

Project: Havenhuis - Port of Antwerp Headquarters

Contractor: Lindner-Welsy 

In the beginning of the 20th century, the Havenhuis was a fire station and it is now the headquarters of the Antwerp Harbor Company. Today, this impressive building is the workplace for more than 500 technical and administrative employees. It has become a prominent meeting point for the many international guests visiting or doing trade with the harbor of Antwerp. For the Antwerp Harbor Company it was very important that the old building was saved and integrated into the new concept. Therefore, they chose the most brilliant design of Zaha Hadid. She created a new asymmetrical volume on top of the old building that can be interpreted as a ship’s bow as well as an irregular shaped diamond; two very important symbols for the city of Antwerp. In the design of the interior, you can clearly see the hand of Zaha Hadid with lots of lines, planes, directions and views that are brought together and give you an exceptional experience.


Innovation & Sustainability Category Winner

Project: Neighborhood One Residences

Contractor: Plafond, Ishtar Decor

The Neighborhood One development is the first residential complex designed in the United Arab Emirates which aims to achieve the extremely demanding LEED Gold and 3 Pearl Estidama sustainability ratings. The project is the beginning of Masdar’s major residential development and currently houses the Etihad airline crew in a total of 500 low-carbon one and two-bedroom apartments with access to a gym, retail facilities and other amenities. The challenge was not only to select a build system that allowed the complex requirements to be completed quickly to high acoustic, fire and other performance standards, but also to ensure the materials used achieved ground-breaking environmental and sustainability standards demanded by this development.


Innovation & Sustainability Category Runner-up

Project: Multi Comfort House Office Reci, Romania

Contractor: Nizar Construct

The project’s purpose was to design a flag-ship two-story office building with a Cross Laminated Timber structure (according to the Austrian and Romanian building regulations), that follows the standards for Multi Comfort criteria. The overall project strategy was based on utmost ecological and long-term sustainability. The project is the first Saint-Gobain Multi-Comfort Commercial building in Romania. It focused not only on saving energy but also on creating a better living environment. Some of the accomplishments are the implementation of individually room-controlled comfort and high-quality work conditions, increased noise protection, passive construction method for insulation and airtightness, ventilation system with heat recovery, fire protection and the use of products with EPD. The Reci also shines for its timber construction, green roofs, enhanced daylight autonomy, recyclability, reduced Carbon footprint, use of geothermal energy and optimization of utilities costs.


Ceilings Category Winner

Project: Municipal Services Building

Contractor: Gerko

The Municipal Services Building is a new office building measuring 16,000 square feet. It is located in the community of Benfeld, in the Alsace region, in the northeast of France. From an architectural point of view, its truncated cone shape is quite atypical. The construction project required the installation of various partitions and ceilings. The key challenge was the application of Rigitone Activ’Air 8-15/20 (random pattern)—a completely seamless and monolithic system, to the ceilings and walls of the main conference room, whose interior design follows exactly the shape of the exterior design of the building: a hemicycle inside a truncated cone.


Ceilings Category Runner-up

Project: Emaar Square Mall

Contractor: Celikeller Dek. Yapi Sist. San. ve Tic. Ltd. Sti.

Emaar Square Mall is a part of the Emaar Square project along with residential units, offices and a hotel forming a complete development. Emaar Square takes its name from the wide and historical squares of Istanbul that unite people and lifestyles, having been envisioned to become a social hub. It has a strategic and central location on the Asian side of Istanbul with a convenient access from the main highways of the city. Successful application by the contractor has also let to monolithic appearance resulting in a high aesthetic finish for curvilinear planes. Being a shopping mall, acoustics was one of the main concerns to be taken care of. High occupancy rate, large volumes, high ceilings and floor openings made the use of materials with good acoustic performance a must. Rigitone acoustic ceiling boards were chosen by the contractor to be able to have a controlled acoustic environment and sound absorption where necessary.