Social value of the built environment

The transformative power of urban design and development

By Kelly Watson | January 18, 2024

In a rapidly evolving world where the built environment shapes our daily experiences, there lies an underestimated yet powerful lever: social value.

The term social value has become a buzzword that resonates across boardrooms, policy documents, and academic circles. But the term encapsulates more than a considered approach to procurement; it captures the essence of our collective experiences and the quality of life we gain from our surroundings. Social value connects intangible outcomes such as a sense of belonging, community cohesion, and individual and communal wellbeing, and transcends brick-and-mortar structures and urban landscapes. These intangible elements, while difficult to quantify, form the backbone of vibrant, thriving places and societies.


Throughout the last five years, there has been a noticeable surge of interest in social value in the UK and Europe, which is now spreading to other regions. Kelly Watson's co-authored guest editorial, “Social Value of the Built Environment” in a special issue of Buildings & Cities delves into housing and the built environment, and shares compelling studies from the UK, Northern Ireland, Scandinavia, the US, and Australia.

The article pinpoints research gaps and potential avenues for exploration. It draws attention to areas such as commercial real estate, asset management, and investment while also evaluating the "S" in ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). The articles discusses approaches to spatializing and digitizing social value planning, and the implications of social value in less economically developed nations.


From the development of corporate social value frameworks to the implementation of place-based social impact strategies tailored for institutional investors and asset managers, Hatch is actively engaged in the detailed research, analysis, and strategies used for mixed-use masterplans and high-profile development projects.

Learn more as the special issue unravels the opportunities held within social value: a practice rife with cutting edge research that promises to redefine our understanding of the built environment's role in fostering inclusive, sustainable, and thriving communities.

Read the full article on this special issue of Buildings & Cities

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