20 Mar 2018
To quote my colleague Dominic Smith in his recent blog about the Language of Public Consultation:
Consultation and engagement with local communities plays an ever increasing role in the planning system and the preparation of planning applications
As part of Lichfields’ graphic design team, I produce quality consultation materials for face to face and digital events every day.
The use of high quality technical drawings and 3D renders of a proposed scheme helps to bring a scheme to life. However, they can be difficult to interpret for those who aren’t used to reading them. It’s therefore important that we explore other ways of engaging with stakeholders and communities to ‘put them at the heart’ of the scheme they are reviewing. Here are some ways in which this can be done:
Historically, whilst extremely helpful, cost and time have been barriers to supplying hand-made scale models for consultation use. In recent years, the growth in 3D printing (which has been compared to the second industrial revolution) has seen a rise in businesses using 3D printing as a tool to produce models easier, faster and cheaper. See my blog 3D Printing in construction, health and manufacturing for further detail. Scale models give you the freedom to walk around a project, pick up individual elements and to view it from any angle. By using 3D printing, models are now far easier to produce accurately and economically to engage more widely in the planning process.
Considering the size and materials
The variation of materials that can be used to create objects in 3D printers are as wide and varied as the objects they can produce. As such it is very difficult to state set costs as there are a number of variables. Plastics are by far the most commonly used material for smaller objects but more robust materials such as metals are used when the object is larger. I have created the below animation which summarises the considerations for sizes and materials. While this blog has focused on creating more solid, architectural models, 3D printers can also be used to print organic materials such as food or even replacement organs or bodyparts.
VR & AR – The virtual is now an affordable reality.
There are two ways to access the virtual world.
There is the ‘Ready Player One’ method (or Virtual Reality – VR) which was at first developed for the gaming industry and involves putting on a pair of goggles to give you an immersive 360 degree experience inhabiting that world. VR production company ReWind was an early adopter of VR as a public consultation tool back in 2015 by using it to create a virtual tour of Furze Croft in Weybridge, a property that boasted former residents Tom Jones, John Terry and Elton John. Attendees of the Masterpiece Fair in London experienced a 360 degree VR tour of the building.
The second format is Augmented Reality (AR),which, rather than inhabiting a virtual world, allows the virtual image to be overlaid on top of the normal world by looking through a virtual window. The most famous version of this tech to date is Pokemon Go (ask your children!).
Lichfields is at the forefront of creating high quality materials for use at public consultation and engagement events. However, a developments’ benefits lie beyond statistics. These new technologies have the potential to impact hugely on the property industry and in the case of AR to also make the consultation process more accessible by reaching those unable to attend an event in person. In addition to exploring new technologies, we provide a full event design and digital service to our clients. I, for one, am excited to see where these technologies take us.
Header image: © Generation 3D | A 3D printed model of Birmingham City Centre
By providing the essential investment to support and drive economic growth, we all know that the development industry makes a hugely important contribution to the UK economy. But relatively few organisations can point to specific evidence or tangible examples of the wider benefits delivered by their day-to-day activities and operations.
The concept of measuring the social and economic impacts of corporate activities has, however, started to attract greater focus and attention within the development sector. Leading organisations increasingly want to take a strategic perspective of the contribution they make to the national and local economy through their development portfolios and investments. Within a competitive and often crowded marketplace, they are coming to realise that to effectively influence stakeholders requires a clear and compelling narrative, justified by a robust and objective evidence base.
At Lichfields, we work with some of the largest and most successful companies in the sector including commercial developers, housebuilders, retailers and industry bodies, to help them assess their economic contribution.
Friday we were delighted to launch our most recent collaboration with Landsec, the UK’s largest listed commercial property company, having supported them to measure their sizeable contribution to the UK economy for the first time. The findings show Landsec’s annual contribution to the UK economy through buying, selling, building and managing commercial property.
But with so much to potentially cover and include, where’s the best place to start? I’ve set out some key questions for any organisation thinking about how to measure their contribution:
1) What’s the best way of analysing the value created by an organisation?
For large companies, there is often a case to break down activity by specific divisions or geographical trading areas. Some examples include:
Company-wide activity (e.g. Landsec’s UK operations);
Divisional (or regional) operations (e.g. Barratt David Wilson Southern Region);
A portfolio of sites, assets or developments (e.g. Manor Royal Business District);
Individual development schemes (e.g. Long Marston Airfield); and
Industry-wide activities (e.g. UK house building).
2) Who is the target audience and what are the key messages to convey?
This will determine the types of impacts and metrics to explore, as well as the outputs required. Once the added value generated by a business has been quantified, this can be applied in a number of contexts including corporate social responsibility reporting, communicating wider value to stakeholders (such as investors, local councils, government) and providing differentiation from competitors (for example within competitive bidding situations). This could focus on ‘real time’ impacts such as revenue generated for UK plc as well as longer term impacts such as investing in the workforce and local communities (e.g. supporting people to (re)enter the labour market).
3) What input data is available?
Think about what kind of data and information is already held in-house (for example on a company ledger or payroll) and what might need to be captured through primary data collection or surveys. For many of our clients when undertaking this exercise for the first time, this can help to shine a light on the type, scale and quality of a wide range of company data and often helps to improve and streamline internal systems going forward. In reality we find that it’s an evolving process, with the range of metrics reported expanding and diversifying over time. Our analytical framework is flexible and scalable, and draws on the latest data and national best practice to consider socio-economic contribution across a range of direct, indirect and wider impacts including creating jobs and expenditure, supporting public resources and services and building sustainable communities (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Socio-economic impact framework
This provides an opportunity to look beyond the obvious metrics (such as number of people directly employed by an organisation) to quantify the value supported across the wider supply chain and economy. For instance, the ‘catalytic’ and place-making role played by major developments, such as kick starting the regeneration of a town centre or unlocking a new piece of transport infrastructure to enhance connectivity and consequently enable an area to secure additional investment.
4) What is the most effective and impactful way of presenting the results?
This will partly depend on the intended audience, and it may be that a suite of different outputs are required. We have used our experience and polished suite of graphics tools to communicate key messages in a visually appealing way, through clear and user-friendly outputs such as infographic summaries, interactive tools and creative, engaging reports (some examples below).
What’s clear is that more of the development sector’s key players are realising the value that comes from measuring and communicating their total economic impact, and we expect to see a growing appetite over the coming months as government looks to secure new sector deals. At Lichfields we are well placed to help and simplify the process, drawing on our market-leading expertise and unparalleled track record of economic impact assessment, as well as our ‘tried and tested’ tools that have been independently reviewed and verified.
Please get in touch to find out more and to discuss how we can help.
Image credit: Loop Imaged Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo