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Thu June 17 2021

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The quest to define social value

24 Jun 20 The UK Green Building Council is seeking a definition of social value for the built environment sector.

"Doing good?"
"Doing good?"

It is no longer enough for building companies to put up a school or a hospital; now they are required to demonstrate social value.

The trouble is, no one really knows what it means, other than ‘do good’.

The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 was meant to help the local companies compete against big national ones, since as local employers they add ’social value’ to projects.

But all it did was create a whole new game that bigger companies prove better at than smaller ones.

While many were glad to see something other than price being considered in the awarding of contracts, what has replaced it often amounts to is bidders saying: ‘give us the job and we’ll take on three apprentices and do two school visits’.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has set up a task group which has been given the task of producing  a definition of social value for the built environment sector.

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Despite growing interest, there is still significant confusion around social value in the context of the built environment, UKGBC says. Planners, procurement teams and investors often don’t know what to require from delivery partners and sometimes set requirements in an inconsistent way. There are often calls for standardisation, particularly around the measurement of social value, but also for flexibility, with practitioners recognising that social value must be considered in local contexts.

Following the UKGBC’s Framework Definition for Net Zero Carbon Buildings last year, which galvanised industry support for a consistent way of defining net zero carbon buildings, UKGBC believes that a framework definition for social value could also help to build consensus on a common understanding of social value in the built environment.

 The task group aims to develop a definition of social value that is relevant to a broad variety of development types, geographies and communities, providing the industry with a common language, consistent principles and an agreed hierarchy of delivery.

The first step will be a consultation exercise later this summer to canvas views across the industry.

UKGBC sustainability advisor Sophia Cox said: “This task group brings together some of the leading organisations working on social value in the real estate and construction sector and places them under a shared purpose: To create a definitive understanding of social value, and resolve the confusion that is preventing practitioners from maximising the value delivered through new development and existing buildings. We know that the built environment shapes the quality of our lives in profound ways – only with a clear definition of social value will the sector be able to understand and enhance the value that high quality, sustainable development brings to communities.”

The task group is being supported by, and includes representation from, various organisations, including the British Property Federation (BPF), Building Research Establishment (BRE), Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

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