In 2012 the UK government passed the Social Value Act, which was never meant to apply to the design of places and buildings, but its creation is influencing the conversation surrounding the societal benefits associated with new developments. The impact on peoples lives and the lasting outcomes of design decisions need to be quantified and measured. As Architects we have a fundamental role and responsibility to evaluate the social value created through our designs.

The Royal Institute of Architects (RIBA) has recently published a Social Value Toolkit for designers to use throughout the design process. A project’s economic viability has dominated the planning process and project ambitions; often limiting a wider conversation around long term societal impacts and benefits to take place.

‘Based on an extensive review of wellbeing literature we argue that the social value of architecture is in fostering positive emotions, whether through connections with nature or offering opportunities for an active lifestyle, connecting people and the environment in appropriate ways and in providing freedom and flexibility to pursue different lifestyles (autonomy). There is also social value in participation, supporting communities to help design and build their homes and neighbourhoods. This version of the Social Value Toolkit focuses on the social value benefits of housing design, but these qualities are also applicable to other building typologies.’

Social Value Toolkit, RIBA p6

‘The toolkit presents a library of questions for practitioners to use in the duration of projects and to revisit them once built. The questions are based on assessing existing research on key indicators of wellbeing. It argues that the social value of architecture is revealed in the extent to which it fosters positive emotions.’

Ben Derbyshire RIBA President 2017-19

Bright Green Futures is an organisation started by Dr Steffie Broer in Bristol

Design Ideas

Water Lilies Eco Self-Build Community

This film shows how the Water Lilies Project in Bristol was started by Bright Green Futures, brainchild of Dr Steffie Broer. There is another film about her vision on the Social Value Architect Page.

Walter's Way, Lewisham.

This video is an iconic example of self build principles working in the UK from a project initiated in 1979 by the architect Walter Segal.

Built InCommon

Irena Bauman is an activist architect with her own practise, Bauman Lyon in Leeds. She is the author of 'How to be a Happy Architect' and initiated the Built InCommon concept in collaboration with MassBespoke.

This is an article from the World Economic Forum commenting on a variety co-housing projects mainly drawn from the UK.

Co-operative Housing Article