Well-designed built environments have the power to support environmental, economic and social wellbeing, explains Project Leader at Hayball Eilish Barry.

“Decades of research have shown that well-designed places increase people’s quality of life. Historically we have seen many places built without people in mind. There needs to be a new way of thinking,” she says.

While social value may seem somewhat intangible Eilish says it can be demonstrated in qualitative, quantitative and monetised terms and measured using project data and post-occupancy surveys.

“A really great social value element is ‘is the project within 400 metres from a sustainable transport node?’ That’s a really great benchmark we can use. Then we can then go deeper by talking to the people who actually use the building. How do they feel? What's their sense of safety?... and then from all that survey data we can then use it in a calculation”.

Two of the most common ways to do this are through a cost-benefit analysis and social return on investment calculation. These monetised calculations measure the average amount of uplift in wellbeing created by an outcome and then calculate the average amount of income that it would take to create the same amount of improvement to someone’s wellbeing.

“It’s quite complicated but there are wonderful economists and data banks that are experts at doing this…There are mixed opinions on monitising social value but that’s often due to a lack of understanding. These widely accepted methodologies have been used by governments all over the world to monetise these non-market goods”.

“If we don’t monetise social value it's often left out of the decision-making process. How often have we included a park or place to gather and its value-engineered out? How wonderful would it be if we knew the social value that was created by that park and could put a figure against it to use in discussions,” she says.

These concepts were put into practice when Eilish headed up a study looking at the social value produced in Nightingale Village Brunswick. The village is Australia’s first medium-density carbon-neutral precinct made up of six buildings designed by six architects. Hayball was the executive architect across all the projects and the designer of the CRT+YRD building.

“I was asked to do a piece of research where we measured the social value that had been produced in CRT+YRD,” she says.

The 39-apartment resident block is focused on a residential courtyard. Financially they made the bold move to lose the core of the building to a courtyard space to foster a sense of belonging, enable cross ventilation for 100% of the apartments and allow for open circulation spaces. Community spaces were integrated around each of the six floors including a rooftop garden and a shared laundry.

A survey of the residents revealed that 83% of residents felt safer at the CRT+YRD than where they lived before and 93% of the residents spoke to their neighbours more.

The Australian Social Value Bank (ASVB) created a financial value for the wellbeing produced at CRT+YRD which was 2.24 million over four years.

“We’ve been able to link the design strategy we used to the actual outcome that was produced,” she says.

Listen to the full podcast here.