Smarter communities

The ability to continually adapt to changing circumstances, often outside their control, has become the norm for Local Authorities and Councils in the UK. The need to maintain the provision of services for everyone within their community, against a backdrop of increasing requirements and declining budgets;  local authorities have lost 27% of their spending power between 2010/11 & 2015/16*, spending smart is now required more than ever to continue to meet the growing needs of the community.
But this does not mean that investment and development is stopped to save money, in fact, the very opposite. The driving force now is a paradigm shift in thinking to focus on how to make any investment and assets work as hard as possible to realise the biggest gain from the investment, and plan more around the lifetime impact value on the communities being served, rather than just focusing on the cost of delivery.

Smart spending on the future is developing to not only work towards providing good quality housing for people as the central plank of personal wellbeing and a positive community,  but also to consider the wider aspects on the longer term ability to use investment to improve the economic, social and environmental benefits that can be achieved. This approach is increasingly looking at the issues from the perspective of social infrastructure, designed to meet peoples’ needs at all stages of their lives and core requirements in terms of access to good health, education and opportunities.

The creation of positive environments that can lead to a sense of community, rather than just a building or construction is the future for optimising budgets and social value. Local Authorities are increasingly throwing the challenge out to contractors and advisors and giving them much more freedom to come up with ideas and methods of construction that will make most of the land and potentially underutilised buildings they have at their disposal. As well as making the most out of the buildings when completed, with community services or multiple purpose buildings, which can extend lifetime value warranting the initial spend for long-term savings.

The focus for spending is no longer purely about the building and the building process; it has widened to encapsulate the building environment and the social community. The development of this wider environment needs thorough planning and the understanding of how community needs can be turned into smart solutions. This starts through early engagement, giving all parties the opportunity to understand the objective for the community and the outcome environment before physical changes are made.

*Report by JRF and University of Glasgow and Heriot-Watt

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