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