Category Descriptions

NAHB’s Multifamily Pillars of the Industry Awards program highlights creative development concepts, innovative financing strategies, great design, and superior management and marketing in the apartment and condo marketplace.

2019 Multifamily Pillars Eligibility

Apartment and condo communities or marketing activities that pertain to a condo or rental apartment community that first became available for sale or for rent after Jan. 1, 2016, may enter.

  • Exclusions

  • Previous award winners are not eligible to apply in a category they have won.
  • Exception: Multifamily Development Firm and Property Management Firm may enter again after a one-year waiting period.

Category Descriptions

Below are brief descriptions or characteristics used to identify projects in each category. Please note that the descriptions are kept short due to the creativity and variability across multifamily developments.


Developer Awards

Developer Awards encompass the full spectrum of market-rate and for-sale multifamily products, ranging from garden, low-rise, mid-rise and high-rise apartments and condos to adaptive reuse, student housing, mixed-use communities, green building concepts and more. Winning entries are automatically nominated for the Multifamily Community of the Year Award — the Multifamily Pillars Awards’ top honor.

Best Garden Apartment Community (four stories or less)

A garden apartment complex is traditionally characterized as a cluster of low-rise buildings, no more than four stories, on a single parcel of land.  Garden apartment complexes often feature open-air stairways and breezeways, and open lawns or green space. A parking lot, or a series of small lots located throughout the complex, is common. Parking may be covered or uncovered.

Best Low-Rise Apartment Community (non-garden, five stories or less)

Low-rise, non-garden style apartment complexes are traditionally one building or a small complex of buildings. The building often features elevators and units are accessed from interior enclosed hallways. Green space may be from an interior courtyard and parking is usually structured.

Best Mid-Rise Apartment Community (six-nine stories)

Mid-rise apartment complexes are traditionally one building or a small complex of buildings. The building will feature an elevator with units typically accessed from interior hallways. Nominees in this category will range from six to nine stories in height, exclusive of any parking, which is usually structured.

Best High-Rise Apartment Community (10+ stories)

High-rise apartment complexes are traditionally one building but can be a complex of buildings. The building will feature an elevator with units typically accessed from interior hallways. Nominees in this category will be 10 stories or greater in height exclusive of any parking, which is usually structured.

Best Condominium Community

Condominium communities are multifamily communities that offer for-sale residences in a condominium ownership structure. Best Condominium Community can feature either garden, low-rise, mid-rise or high-rise style buildings.

Best Student Housing Rental Apartment Community

Student housing communities are designed to accommodate the needs and lifestyle of college students. Student housing communities are typically located in close proximity to a college or university, and offer amenities that are specifically geared toward college students.

Best Military or Veterans Housing

Military or veterans housing is created specifically for either active-duty military members and their families or military veterans. The housing can be either short-term, transitional, for-rent or for-sale housing that serves this population.

Best 55+ Multifamily Community

55+ multifamily communities are specifically designed to cater to the needs of boomers and beyond. Developments in this category can be either apartment or condominium (garden, low-, mid- or high-rise), and can be either market-rate or affordable housing.

Best Mixed-Use Community

A mixed-use community is a development that blends residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, and/or other uses. A mixed-use development seamlessly integrates the physical and functional features of those differing communities while providing pedestrian connections. Mixed-use developments can take the form of a single building, a city block or entire neighborhoods.

Best Adaptive Reuse Community (from non-residential product to rental apartments)

Adaptive reuse communities are apartments that have been created from the repurposing or reuse of an old building that was not originally built or designed to provide housing. Examples include repurposing former warehouses, factories and schools.

Best Repositioning/Redevelopment of a Multifamily Community

Best repositioning/redevelopment communities involve multifamily assets that have been significantly and successfully renovated, rebuilt and/or repositioned to improve marketability and add value. Repositioning can include redevelopment of a portion, or all, of the project, modifications to the physical appearance, the operations or the general area surrounding the property.

Best in Green Market-Rate Multifamily Community

Green building concepts refer to both the structure and the use of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource efficient throughout a building's life cycle, including siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and demolition. Green building concepts often receive green building designations, such as NAHB’s NGBS or LEED certifications.

Best Community Amenities

Community amenities are features of a building whose existence increases the value or desirability of that property. Amenities can be a lobbies, community rooms, swimming pools, parks and green space, rooftop decks, fitness centers, media rooms, demonstration kitchens, business centers, ground-level retail/restaurants, attractive streetscapes and many other features.


Affordable Awards

Affordable Awards encompass products ranging from affordable apartment community to acquisition/rehabilitation, workforce housing and more. Winning entries are automatically nominated for the Multifamily Community of the Year Award — the Multifamily Pillars Awards’ top honor.

Best Affordable Apartment Community (Up to 100 units)

Affordable apartment communities are defined as apartment developments where the residents earn no more than 60% of the average median income of the metropolitan statistical area. These apartment complexes are often developed with the use of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and/or other federal/state subsidies. Nominees in this category offer 100 units or less. Note: If the project does not utilize the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, it can also be considered for Best Workforce Housing.  

Best Affordable Apartment Community (Over 100 units)

Affordable apartment communities are defined as apartment developments where the residents earn no more than 60% of the average median income of the metropolitan statistical area. These apartment complexes are often developed with the use of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and/or other federal/state subsidies. Nominees in this category offer 101 units or more. Note: If the project does not utilize the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, it can also be considered for Best Workforce Housing.  

Best in Green Affordable Multifamily Community

Green building concepts refer to both the structure and the use of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource efficient throughout a building's life cycle, including siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and demolition. Green building concepts often receive green building designations such as NAHB’s NGBS or LEED certifications. To be eligible in the affordable category, the project must be affordable for residents with incomes up to 120% of the area median income.

Best Workforce Housing Community

Workforce housing communities are defined as any type of multifamily development (for-sale or rental) whose residents earn income roughly from 80% to no more than 120% of the area median income of the metropolitan statistical area. These communities are often targeted at the “essential” workers of a community, such as police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses and service workers. These communities are not recipients of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.  

Best Supportive Services at an Affordable Apartment Community

Supportive services describe the service program(s) that a community offers to residents, which assist them in their day-to-day lives. Supportive services can pertain to education, employment, vocational, health care, veteran services, child care and more.


Marketing Awards

Marketing Awards draw attention to overall community marketing campaigns, product identity and corporate branding efforts that illustrate consistent messages and themes that reflect the core values of multifamily communities and development firms.

Best Interior Merchandising of a Leasing or Sales Center

This category evaluates the interior design of the leasing (for apartment communities) or sales center (for condominium communities). Entrants will be evaluated on the quality, innovation and execution of the concept. The leasing or sales center will also be evaluated on the continuity of the marketing theme; functionality of the floor plan and layout; the use of color, texture and materials; and the interior architecture and art.

Best Interior Merchandising of a Common Area

The common areas of a project are evaluated on the marketing concept, and if they effectively showcase the property’s characteristics and architecture. This category will evaluate if the space is inviting, comfortable and functional. The use of color, textures, materials, furnishings and accessories will be considered to evaluate the common area in this category. A common area is considered space available to any resident or agent of the building — i.e., hallways, lobbies, leasing centers, community rooms and amenity spaces, such as fitness centers, media rooms, demonstration kitchens, business centers, etc.  

Best Interior Merchandising of a Model Unit

This category evaluates the staging and interior design of a model unit either in an apartment community or condominium community. Entries will be judged on how their interior merchandising of the model unit relates to their target market and if the space is inviting and comfortable yet functional. The use of color, textures, furnishings, and accessories will be used to gauge this space and how they complement the interior unit’s space.

Best Overall Leasing Campaign for a Multifamily Community

This category evaluates the overall marketing concept for the building and addresses measures of success, strategies and consumer receptiveness. Entries will be judged on the overall design and execution of the creative strategy, the continuity of the marketing theme, the layout and functionality of the space, and the impact to the leasing or sales made by the marketing plan.

Best Property Website

This category evaluates the functionality, navigability, appeal and user-friendliness of the applicant’s property website, including its flow and aesthetics. The website’s functioning at the time of judging will be used to evaluate the website, along with the quality and continuity of graphics used on the website.


Individual Awards 

This award acknowledges rising stars in the multifamily industry. Finalists and winners are considered the leaders of tomorrow, and have already made a significant impact on their organization through their hard work, diligence and leadership. 

One to Watch

One to Watch candidates, aged 45 or younger, have shown strong leadership and growth in their careers and career trajectories, and can be considered to be leaders of tomorrow. One to Watch candidates will have shown a commitment to growth and to the multifamily industry, and will have made a significant impact on their organizations through their hard work, diligence and leadership.    


Firm Awards

Firm Awards identify the best multifamily development firms, market-rate and affordable property management firms, and general contractor builders in the industry.

Multifamily Development Firm of the Year

Development firm entries are evaluated on the overall quality of projects that have been developed in the previous three years; innovative development strategies and practices; ability to overcome obstacles; and success in achieving the company’s vision and goals.

Property Management Firm of the Year

Property management firm entries are evaluated on significant achievements in property management in the previous three years. Judges will evaluate innovative management practices; success in achieving the goals of the property's owners, including financial performance, commitment to customer service, resident promotion and retention; and commitment to employees through training, development and advancement opportunities. This category focuses specifically on the management of market-rate communities, but portfolios can contain a mix of market and affordable communities. Managers of strictly affordable communities should apply to Affordable Property Management Firm of the Year.

Affordable Property Management Firm of the Year

Affordable property management firm entries are evaluated on significant achievements in property management in the previous three years. Judges will evaluate innovative management practices; success in achieving the goals of the property's owners, including financial performance, commitment to customer service, resident promotion and retention; and commitment to employees through training, development and advancement opportunities. This category focuses specifically on the management of affordable housing communities.

Multifamily Builder of the Year

This category recognizes builders and general contractors that construct high-quality multifamily dwellings. Candidates for Multifamily Builder of the Year will be judged on the quality of their construction and development. Reputation, and history of completing projects on time and on/under budget will be used in the evaluation of the nominees.