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WSP launch pioneering tool to allow firms to measure a project’s social value

A first of its kind scoring system-based database to assess the social value of a project in the built environment at the design phase has been created by engineering consultancy WSP.

The firm has launched the platform in a bid to help companies meet the challenge of measuring social value for projects – something that has been characteristically overlooked by the industry. WSP say considering social value in project designs “makes spaces more attractive, increasing their use and boosting the revenues of the organisations operating within them”.

The assembled practical guide has established the factors affecting social value and the methodology is said to require minimal data sets and therefore making it easy to incorporate at the early stages of development.

WSP believe that firms willing to include social value within project designs will “encourage productivity and minimise waste”.

Snigdha Jain, principal consultant at WSP, said: “Since the implementation of the Social Value Act (2012), the construction industry is required to factor social value in for all public service contracts in the UK. Currently, measuring social value for projects is a challenge for the industry and in establishing this brand-new tool, which is the first of its kind, we are allowing for a new methodology and more widespread approach for social value assessment which can be rolled out across a number of different developments.”

The research carried out by teams has shown that consistent factors influencing social value are security, accessibility, physical and mental health with added varying factors dependent on the type of project.

For example, the five factors influencing social value in high-rise projects are local identity, security, accessibility, physical and mental health, whereas for masterplanning projects, social interaction is in place of local identity, according to consultants. The tool created by WSP takes each factor independently and applies a set of five action points that the project must meet. This could potentially give an overall social value score of 25.

Further information gathered from the research on key stakeholder groups has also shown that security is perceived to be the most important factor in creating social value in the built environment. 

“Our research, gathered from the public, the client and the consultant, has shown that creating a secure environment is vital to introducing other social value factors,” Jain added. “People must feel safe before they can begin to use a space for social and physical purposes.”