Erik Bichard

Social Value & the Built Environment

Professor Erik BichardProfessor of Regeneration and Sustainable Development, University of Salford

Erik Bichard is Professor of Regeneration and Sustainable Development at the University of Salford’s School of the Built Environment. During his career, he has worked in the field of sustainable change, holding positions in the public, private, third and now the academic sector.

Until June 2007, and for ten years, he was Executive Director of the UK National Centre for Business & Sustainability set up and initially funded by the Co-operative Bank.

Since becoming an academic his research has investigated the means to enhance sustainable decision-making in the built environment. This has included extensive work on human behaviour change for the UK Environment Agency, specifically on resident’s motivations to invest in flood protection and energy conservation.

 

Why are organisations not taking enough account of social value?

Traditionally the construction industry and its clients have only valued social and environmental aspects of the built environment in terms of the cost of labour and materials, and the sale or rent of floorspace. For some these aspects have simply been off the radar of consciousness. But in the main the commerce of construction has not been able to trade in these aspects beyond the aesthetics of design. The contribution of buildings to social function has largely been left to the politicians and social moderators like the police.

What’s the solution?

Two things have changed that suggest social and environmental value may be beginning to reshape the built environment. First, there are more public and third sector players in the market. These developers are more interested in the value of the built environment to the public purse and the occupants of the building, particularly in terms of occupation costs and the impact on the lives of the vulnerable. Second, there is still very little money in the marketplace resulting in the possibility of innovation such as using the concept of social impact bonds to lever future savings into current projects.

What’s your organisation doing?

Salford University is pioneering a sustainable value approach that combines SROI with Ecosystems services analysis and various forms of life cycle assessment to build a more comprehensive picture and social, environmental and economic value of regeneration projects in deprived areas.

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