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  • 4 minutes
  • 26/01/2021

How your building contributes to the local community – a guide on social value

What does social value really mean for buildings? How is it measured? And how do leading organisations in the built environment embed it into different stages of their current and future developments?  

By Neal Mahtani

Social Value Portal, the UK’s leading social value measurement service and platform, uses its standard framework, the TOMs (Themes, Outcomes and Measures), to assess social value over the lifecycle of built assets. This framework is applied at all stages, including Feasibility, Planning, Development, Design, Construction and Use.  

But what does social value really mean for buildings? How is it measured? And how do leading organisations in the built environment embed it into different stages of their current and future developments?  

Adapting the TOMs for the built environment

Depending on who you ask, there are varying definitions for what “social value” means. In the case of the TOMs, social value describes what organisations do to deliver wider social, economic and environmental benefits from their core activities.  

A key question for any organisation is how can it shape its activities to deliver more, to add value. For instance, a builder can (and often does) require its construction supply chain to maximise spend with local SMEs, or put in place a structured apprenticeship programme, or support local community activities, and so on.  

Since 2013, the ‘Public Services Act’, has directed public authorities to take social value into account in England. The administrations in Scotland and Wales also have comparable legislation. So social value has long been part of doing business in the construction sector, because of the sector’s dependence on public sector contracts. 

Social Value Portal developed the National TOMs Framework initially for procurement in response to the Public Services Act but quickly found that there was a wider demand beyond the reach of the legislation 

Developers and asset owners in the built environment are not bound by the Social Value Act (unless they have a relevant contract with the public sector) but are increasingly finding not only that planning authorities are asking for social value commitments, but that their investors are becoming increasingly focused on social value as well. The terminology in the corporate and investor world may be slightly different (the private sector might talk about “CSR” Corporate Social Responsibility or ESG Environmental, Social and Governance), but the direction of travel is the same; stakeholders want to know about the wider footprint of an asset and the benefits it creates throughout its life 

The great thing about the TOMs is its ability to be a universal connection for social value through its design flexibility, making social value easy to measure and compare across places, assets and time, and making it ideally suited to follow through to the operational phase of the asset a well as form the basis of an effective planning and development strategy. Once a TOMs measurement framework is established with a client, it can be hooked up to corporate strategies or any other reporting framework. One of the major projects recently completed by Social Value Portal has been to link the TOMs up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which is providing major new insights to its Real Estate clients.    

How the TOMs supports your a building’s contributions to the local community 

From choosing which employees to employ on a construction site, to which materials to source, where to get them from, how much communal space to create, to measuring how tenants deliver social value through their space, the TOMs helps organisations in the Built Environment have opportunities to unlock Social Value at all stages of a building’s lifecycle.  

The menu-style approach of the TOMs allows organisations to hand-pick the measures that are most applicable to them. Working with Social Value Portal, the framework can be tailored specifically to their local needs and situation. Setting Social Value targets for your projects underlines your commitments to creating impact and demonstrably can subsequently lead you to create more opportunities and winning more work. 

Social Value Portal is continually developing the TOMs framework, working on areas such as diversity and wellbeing, environmental impacts and resource efficiency of employees are some of the examples where the framework is adapting to meet the challenges faced in the sector. 

Delivering social value in the built environment with the Portal

Social Value Portal works with a wide range of organisations in the Built Environment, including Developers and asset managers such as Legal & General, BNP Paribas, LandSec, English Cities Fund and UBS; consultants and facilities managers such as WSP, AECOM, Mott MacDonald, Turner & Townsend and Savills; and construction companies such as Wates, Balfour Beatty, Bouygues, BAM and Buckingham Group.

 For further information, get in touch.