Social value in new developments is no longer a mythical concept

17 Oct 2018



Social value in residential developments

How many of us have been asked the question where do you see yourself in five years? How much thought have we given to that question? Understanding the need to develop and seek continuous improvement is something we understand as we develop our respective careers or improve as individuals. We know that what we do today will ultimately lead us to achieving our desired goals in the future.

For developers however, how often are you asked what’s happening with this development in five years’ time? What social impact will your respective development have on its surrounding community in the future?

We seem far more comfortable with the concept of future proofing ourselves rather than with future proofing the developments we work on.

Just as we have aspirations for ourselves we must have aspirations for the projects we develop. Is it still enough that we create something then walk away without considering the impact? Why not challenge ourselves to develop projects which have aspirations, create buildings which look to deliver measurable social value five, 10 or even 15 years after completion?

Capturing social value gives us the ability to set aspirations for developments. It offers us the opportunity to capture the significant difference we can make on individuals and communities. Why wouldn’t we want to create something that improved resilience to health and wellbeing of individuals and communities, reduces anti-social behaviour and delivers what is actually needed rather than what is perceived as the need. The challenge and the opportunity for us is to do all that the initial design stage.

Retrofitting all of the above into the existing building stock is far more difficult.

Expectation is changing, what do we do?

Planning authorities are increasingly asking to see evidence of the social value a given development can deliver. To that extent the UK Green Building Council were commissioned to write a report, "Social Value in New Development". An excellent report it details just how impactful capturing social value can be.  In it, it challenges planners and developers to be far more ambitious in their aspirations they set themselves.

It recognises the challenges of capturing the necessary data to demonstrate success. Yet shows the transformational change that can be achieved if you get it right. It is challenging the sector to take this concept from the exemplar projects and push it through into the mainstream.

How can Delta-Simons help?

Is this the “Kodak moment” for developers? Do we believe that those that choose to ignore this will be successful in the long-term? As expectations change and the need to demonstrate significance increases in social values, having the ability to start the conversations with the right people early enough in the design process becomes vital. It allows for the correct monitoring and data collection to be put in place.

There are numerous methodologies already in existence which capture the social return on investment. What is key is that the data is understandable and appropriate - if we report back that the initial £1.5 million-pound investment delivered £3 million into the local community. What does that mean to the people who live within that community? If we demonstrate that same £1.5 million actually reduced the number of GP appointments by 45%, the community engagement piece becomes far easier as that information is far more tangible to their needs. Simply put, people’s quality of life has been improved because of the development.

Delta-Simons can help our clients understand the potential new developments can deliver. Not only is the social impact important to report externally, many developers will have internal CSR initiatives and goals which will be achieved through this work.  See our new Social Sustainability services here.