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Last edited 15 Jun 2022
What is added value and why does it matter?
|Words by Karyn Williams FCIAT, Chartered Architectural Technologist, Stride Treglown, published in CIAT AT Journal Winter issue no 140, page 50.|
 What is added value ?
My first sense of what it means to ‘add value’ began fifteen years ago when I presented an interior design scheme to a classroom of five year olds. The hope was I could bring them along on the journey to create their new school. Instead, I found myself awkwardly discussing green carpeting with small children whose attention span was definitely shorter than I was used to!
In the moment, it might have felt simpler and more efficient to make design decisions in isolation. However, looking back, my time with those children was invaluable. It made me realise how important it is to take time to listen and understand those relationships, and the wider needs of our clients, to ensure we deliver what is required for the immediate future but also for the longer term.
It was this early career experience that sparked my interest in collaborative working relationships, the importance of engagement and positive business cultures within project delivery. And now, as Head of Social Value for Stride Treglown, I am proud that our approach to business is one without ego. Our culture and ethos have always prioritised people alongside our planet and partnerships in the places we create.
As an industry, we can no longer design or build without recognising our social accountability – and rightly so. Social value is growing in importance alongside our planetary emergency and our responsibility to design safely.
 What is it all about?
The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 (England) emerged in the industry as a trigger for delivering positive social change, accompanied by Wales and Scotland a few years later. The legislation demands that projects will improve the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the area it occupies and asks how this will be secured.
Almost a decade later, our public clients are referencing a requirement for demonstratable social value within their tenders ensuring a return on social investment is delivered back into the community.
Contracting authorities may assess projects to ensure they provide improved opportunities for employment and skills development, tackling climate change or improving supply chain ethical practice and investment. The weighting can be scored from 5% of the contract value
up to 20% in some cases, with your commitments and delivery plans acting as deciding vote between your cost and quality responses. Some clients may even take this further and apply liquidated damages for failure to delivery against these early social value commitments.
Private clients so far appear to be motivated to collaborate with practices who operate with a similar business ethos and cultural identity. Increasing cultural pressure from their own clients for socially responsible practices may well be a motivator to deliver more positive change formally. Like carbon reduction practices, those that resist may well be left behind.
However, having a socially conscious business with recognisable ethical business markers, such as Considerate Contractors, Carbon Trust Certification or the WELL Building Standard, is certainly worth shouting about. For those that resist change, the local authority planning approval framework provides the perfect opportunity to apply benchmarking standards unilaterally to ensure projects deliver the wider community benefits needed.
Contractors have more experience in engaging with the wider communities at a project level. Previously termed CSR or community engagement, they have been supporting apprenticeships, supply chain and contributing resources before the Social Value Act appeared. It is now time for us as consultants to take responsibility for ensuring the places we create provide positive long-term social, environmental, cultural and economic futures for the wider communities.
As designers, we should lead this discussion and I believe we are best placed to orchestrate and integrate sustainable, innovative and flexible solutions from the start of the design process and not relying on contracting partners to engage towards the end of the process.
As an industry we are certainly reacting to the brief and social value is growing in importance. Industry bodies are collaborating and developing definitions and guidance documentation to support designers with the practical delivery of social value at a project level.
Social value calculators, such as TOMS, HACT or the Value Toolkit amongst others, are widely available to help you establish what social value return has been delivered in financial terms that are easily recognised. Pre-defined metrics enable this return to be calculated for any project sector, value or scope.
Reviewing the wider needs of a project’s community on its own merit helps develop a strategy around it’s specific needs. A hospital refurbishment, mass housing development or new school will offer a different impact within the wider community and discussions to maximise opportunities should begin at the start of the scheme.
The ways in which you can contribute can extend from classroom talks, career mentoring, reducing carbon emissions, travelling sustainably, trainee placements, prompt supply chain payment or providing access to health and wellbeing initiatives. Offering financial contributions to forest planting schemes or food banks is helpful but exclusively donating money in isolation without supporting ethical practice is simply social value offsetting. We cannot continue to operate without conscience and social value should encourage a changing balance towards delivering purpose with profit.
We have a responsibility to ensure our projects leave a positive legacy for our future generations and our recent installation ‘Sinking House’ in Bath is a perfect example of how we can challenge convention and choreograph a positive direction of travel.
The installation formed a key element in our Climate Action Relay, an eight-week programme of sustainability events in the run up to COP26. It was an effective collaboration with local businesses to provoke and inspire action across the built environment, a major contributor to global CO2 emissions, and a call to action for our partnerships to reduce the negative impact this industry has on the planet and its inhabitants. This collaboration is binding the community in Bath and the construction community together.
Not all projects should be focussed on activities which can be financially measured. Some projects confidently and robustly demonstrate added value through their process, encouraging new ways of working, focussed clearly around people and the delivery of meaningful outcomes within the design.
Our award-winning Deaf Academy project delivered social value through the extensive level of engagement and the ways we worked with our client to secure a greater understanding of ‘DeafSpace’ design principles and the latest in deaf technology. The resulting design is completely bespoke and means that deaf children are able to focus on their educational and social needs without added barriers. The added value here is tangible.
 Stronger together! B Corp.
Becoming B Corp certified has allowed us to formalise our stance on social value – balancing purpose with profit is now a legal requirement for employee-owned Stride Treglown, the first AJ100 practice to achieve certification.
B Corp is an emerging movement in the UK, having initially been developed in the USA. Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
We are incredibly proud of the transparent nature of assessment which provides a certified framework to improve our social and environmental impact across our business activities in the future. It provides our clients with a guarantee that we will help them meet their own requirements and together with our recent Carbon Neutral announcement has been a key attraction for recruitment.
 In the end
We all take pride in handing over buildings to delighted clients. It is the dopamine hit we desire that makes the project journey worthwhile, rewards us for working well together and fades away those difficult challenges.
We help to create a powerful legacy for the future of communities and it is undeniable that it is a rewarding feeling when the users are looking forward to their future in the spaces you have helped create.
- Chain of custody.
- Changing lifestyles.
- Climate change science.
- Construction environmental management plan.
- Deleterious materials.
- Ecological impact assessment.
- Eco-Management and Audit Scheme EMAS.
- Energy targets.
- Environmental consultant.
- Environmental impact.
- Environmental impact assessment.
- Environmental legislation.
- Environmental management system.
- Environmental plan.
- Site waste management plan.
- Sustainability outcomes.
- Sustainable materials.
- Sustainable Development Goals and the triple bottom line
- Sustainable urban drainage systems.
- Whole life costs.
- Zero carbon homes.
- Zero carbon non-domestic buildings.
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