I attended an interesting RICS event yesterday, held at the Portico Library in Manchester, which presented an opportunity for a number of speakers from organisations well known in our industry, such as Laing O’Rourke and ARUP, to explore the broad topic of social value. I was encouraged to consider in more depth how the services we provide as designers will improve the economy, environment and longevity of the communities we work with when producing architecture. The earlier we engage with communities then the more successful we will be at delivering social value from our projects.
The nagging question throughout the presentations was: what is social value and how do you measure it? Repeatedly, ‘sustainability’ was discussed as a key aspect of how we can attempt to quantify social value, as it shows us taking responsibility for our actions, but sustainability still felt too huge topic to try and sub-categorise.
I was most inspired by PhD student Lauren Murphy and her presentation on the Bradford Pit Colliery Memorial which has recently been given the go ahead. Her project explored how people connect to their environment’s past and heritage, when all physical evidence has been removed. The Etihad campus stands today where Bradford Colliery used to be, a site far removed from the desolate wasteland which remained for years after the pit’s demolition. For me, the effort she went to engage the local community and reconnect with the past was the most tangible example of reintroducing social value. I guess it was a shock to see how easily developments, if done incorrectly, can sever that connection.