Kirk Taylor

Social value should be at the heart of development projects

A sustainable economy is a key goal for the UK. The government has developed a clean growth strategy, which means boosting national income while also cutting greenhouse gases.

While progress is being made in a range of areas, from water to waste, building more sustainable buildings that make a greater social contribution is also a clear priority.

Sustainability is now a core factor for more and more businesses. There is an increasing recognition that companies that have both a social and commercial purpose have a better chance of success as they are in step with long-term trends in both the UK and the global economy. Having a more sustainable approach will help boost UK productivity, career opportunities, enhance people’s earning potential and help protect the environment and climate upon which we and future generations depend.

This shift in attitudes and policy gives the real estate and construction industries the opportunity to develop buildings that not only match the needs of the people working in them, but also the requirements of the broader community. Going forward, this aspect of their development will be given a greater focus to stay in step with what government, society and the new, more socially aware generations – particularly millennials – are seeking.

There are a number of practical steps firms can take to fulfil their social value responsibilities. The starting point is to incorporate the community into the heart of projects. This begins at the planning stage, where issues such as how what is being built help to alleviate the local community’s social or environmental problems can be addressed.

Also key is developing a good relationship with local authorities, as they will have excellent insight into the needs of the community, and building relationships with councillors – as well as key officials – will help give the best overall picture of what will benefit the local community.

Additionally, such issues as the environmental impact of buildings is a key factor as well. The built environment is alone responsible for nearly 40% of the UK’s global energy-related carbon emissions. Following carbon-friendly standards such as BREEAM, Passivhaus and SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure), the government's procedure for energy rating of dwellings can assist here.

Partnering with the right surveyors, architects and planners – who themselves prioritise the social value of their work – can help firms, construction companies and developers to ensure their buildings have a real social impact. Increasingly, this social ethos is being adopted by organisations who now more and more listen to the most diverse group of stakeholders on a development and bring them together to shape the project as one voice.

At Kajima, our ethos has always been to create places for people, with an emphasis on the human, cultural and community aspects of development. We work in close partnership with leading public sector bodies, where we prioritise sustainability and long-term value. This is reflected in our work across education, health and social care.

Our approach is illustrated in a number of Kajima’s major public sector delivery projects. We are partnering with a leading mental health trust to repurpose surplus land at the trust’s site to deliver a people-focused, multi-use hospital and community-centred development. Across our recent PPP projects, we have led the development of extensive employment and skills programmes (ESPs) ensuring we engage with – and where possible prioritise – local suppliers, and work with our supply chain to provide apprenticeships, employment and training opportunities with clearly set key performance indicators. Also, through Kajima’s bookings plus software, we help schools to generate additional revenue and support their communities by making their facilities available for hire by civic and community groups.

ESPs have been public sector policy for some years and while they have delivered direct tangible outcomes, the challenge for the property sector now is to strive to deepen and broaden their impact, integrating wider social values and a defined social value ethos into projects, which also include more transparent, measurable outcomes.

A good example of this approach is through life homes. These are homes that adapt with their owners, facilitating care at home, providing quality of life and social benefit through more efficient care models. They are all about flexibility and adaptability and designed to create and encourage better living environments over lifetimes.

We view our work so far as a strong foundation, but we are ambitious to change norms, further enhance the social value of our projects and work with like-minded organisations to deliver the buildings, schools, hospitals, housing and civic centres that the government requires and society is increasingly demanding.

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