How do you embed social value as an infrastructure consultant?

The design stage offers strong potential to enhance social value, such as planning for more greenery to reduce noise impacts and enhance biodiversity. 

One of the privileges of the engineering and built environment sector is that our work can transform the lives of local communities as well as the end customers, from young people in early careers to people who want a fresh start. As we expand our offering to early-stage concept and design consultancy, new opportunities to improve lives by generating social value are being created.

Dan Rennison, head of design management, has been contributing to the recently-published Supply Chain Sustainability School’s ‘Social Value and Design of the Built Environment’ project. “We have a strong reputation for helping people during the delivery stage. The next step is to share more of how we can get even better results by making changes in infrastructure’s early design stage.‘Social value’ means, broadly, making positive impacts on people and communities that goes beyond delivering a ‘fit for purpose’ product.” 

Since mid-2016, Dan has been a contributor to the social value and design guide, working with peers from partners such as HS2, Network Rail and Arup. “In my contributions in meetings and conferences, I focused on creating social value and improving lives with design changes, using real examples from recent Costain projects. I used design changes introduced in the A556 Knutsford to Bowdon scheme as examples. Costain practice has influenced key parts of the guide, from guidance on community engagement and local decision-making to use of off-site manufactured and modular components. These drive big improvements to local standards of living in a project’s later delivery stages.”

The social value guide is available for anyone to read, and is already distributed to the design management community, the design and engineering teams in Manchester and Aberdeen, and work winning teams for reference in bids and tenders. “We are increasingly providing concept development and design services in our offering”, explained Andy Clarke, work winning director. “It’s natural that we use this opportunity to improve on the social value we create for local and regional communities, using experience we’ve developed in schemes such as Crossrail and the A556. We’re going to use the guide to structure responses to invitations to tender going forward.”