Why do we build? Why develop society? Who reaps the benefit? This podcast looks at the new interest the construction industry is taking in quantifying and appreciating social value.

One of the biggest challenges for industry practitioners in creating social value on their projects is being able to understand what social value means for that project and what best practice delivery looks like. 

Guests Penny Anderson, Associate Director Social Value, Atkins, Peter Masonbrook, Head of Social Value, Faithful + Gould, and Simon Toplass, CEO, Pagabo, try to define what it is, talk about new legislation, and we hear from a framework provider that is putting social value at the core of its projects.

Social Profit Calculator are very proud to be named as one of the 31 strategic partners collaborating in support of the Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy Living Lab project, “TIES Living Lab”. This programme was announced by Minister of State, Andrew Stephenson last year and is designed to drive innovation across major infrastructure projects in the UK. Other collaborators include Department for Transport, Network Rail, Construction Innovation Hub, construction innovators Kier, MMC specialists Akerlof, along with academic experts from the University of Dundee and Leeds.

Maximising Opportunities

TIES Living Lab is an alliance that aims to fuse the very best data and digitalisation techniques that UK infrastructure initiatives generate. This intelligence is critical in transforming the UK construction agenda and improving productivity. 

Advanced logistic approaches aim to identify and tackle systematic issues that hinder innovation in construction. TIES Living Lab plans to provide the tools and systems the construction industry needs to improve cost efficiency of projects and help identify Modern Methods of Construction to reduce time delays, cost overruns, reduce projects’ carbon footprints and improve safety skills for construction workers.

A Transformative Collaboration

Over the next two years, the partnership will invest more than £16 million in new approaches, tools, data systems, operations and processes. It will bring together industry experts and business leaders with academic institutions to develop and establish best practice in the way we utilise innovation within transport infrastructure. Furthermore, creating potential applications beyond transport infrastructure, and into other projects.

Andrew Stephenson commented:

“As we begin our green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the need to level-up our country and boost economic prosperity has only increased, and we are determined that we don’t just rebuild, we rebuild smarter. The Living Lab is a great opportunity for industry and academics to work together to embrace new more productive, more efficient and more sustainable ways of delivering transport infrastructure.”

Our Chief Operating Officer, Sarah Coughlan thinks this is a move towards a greater understanding of the whole life value and is another welcome advancement for the industry.

She says:

“SPC has been working with the TIES Living Lab and the DfT since last year. We are working with a host of industry and academic partners to push forward the social value agenda in infrastructure.”

This strategic, scalable and sector wide approach intends to be a catalyst for real cultural change, shifting focus within infrastructure delivery decision-making from the costs of construction to a greater understanding of its whole life value.

This week, Social Profit Calculator, along with our partners Pagabo, Kier Construction, RLB and Akerlof, were delighted to take home the 2020 Offsite Award for Product Innovation for our Smart Construction Calculator, and although owing to “these unprecedented circumstances” we weren’t able to attend in person, we managed to celebrate nonetheless.

With our fresh success in mind, it seems like an ideal opportunity to introduce our Smart Construction Calculator in a bit more detail and explain why for SPC as a social value company, we are excited about the smart construction revolution.

Modern Methods of Construction (MMC, or ‘smart construction’) is a wide term, embracing a range of offsite manufacturing and onsite techniques that provide alternatives to traditional house building. MMC includes whole homes being constructed from factory-built volumetric modules, through to the use of innovative techniques for laying concrete blockwork onsite. It has been promoted as a way of working more effectively to achieve more without using more.

The Industrial Strategy Council recently repeated the long-known fact that differences in productivity growth and wellbeing across the UK are still shamefully large and regional imbalances continue to grow. It is a crucial time for the building industry and the dynamics are complex, but the government aims to “level up” the UK economy as it shifts from crisis management to recovery with the prime minister promising to “build back better”.

There are a number of problems within the construction sector that underpin the political drive to modernise the sector. Poor levels of productivity and delivery timescales, rising costs, declining workforce and greater carbon emissions and other environmental impacts.

In an attempt to accelerate momentum within the construction industry, we have developed a social value calculator tailored  to constructors and clients exploring smart construction approaches. It enables quantitative assessment and visualisation of social value, capturing the social impact beyond the site domain, including manufacturing within the supply chain. Our data is based on an extensive benchmarking exercise using historic data from previously completed projects in order to produce accurate estimates of the social value returns from a smart construction project. We have adopted a holistic approach that advocates design should be focussed upon wider considerations beyond manufacture and assembly to extend to broader outcomes, such as sustainability, social-economic impact, quality of life, operational performance and whole-life value.

Users of our tool will have access to functionality to, from a client’s point of view, assess the quality of submissions against the forthcoming procuring for value agenda, and from a constructor’s point of view, align with client needs and target areas in line with their expectations. It is our ambition for our Smart Construction Calculator to be a one-stop-shop for everyone in the sector looking to target their smart construction project’s social value offerings, as well as an understanding of cost, timeframes and whole life value.

The opportunity for social value then is about how a move away from traditional building methods opens the door to deliver social value in a broader way. Traditional building methods tend to create value that is limited to the project’s surrounding area. Smart construction has the potential to generate value in deprived areas in greater need with the strategic placement of project delivery sites by creating new employment opportunities and sustaining existing employment in the area. Offsite construction will result in longer comprehensive training for apprenticeships, creating stronger education and skills programmes, and in turn more social value. MMC has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of projects by reducing waste, reducing carbon emissions and allowing the delivery of low-impact buildings. Using smart construction techniques, we can come to expect that projects will begin to generate more social return on investment, and more economic impact while simultaneously lowering the level of environmental impact.

This is the smart construction revolution. We are delighted to be a part of it.