New awards to recognise positive impact of built environment

Susan Mason, head of NI RICS
Susan Mason, head of NI RICS
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At RICS, we are keenly aware of the impact our industry has on the built environment and those who inhabit it. As built environment professionals, we directly influence the lives of those in the communities surrounding the area we are manipulating, and our efforts (if not carefully considered) could add to the impact of the current climate crisis, writes Susan Mason, head of NI RICS.

There is an inherent link between the built environment and the social patterns and social outcomes for those living in a region. It makes interactions possible, it affects how we spend our time and it manipulates our relationship with the environment surrounding us.

From considerate planning of housing developments that focuses on enabling human interaction, to innovative urban design that provides enhanced accessibility for those with a range of impairments – human wellbeing can be dramatically improved through the built environment.

Additionally, it can affect that environment in a negative way by contributing to generation of waste and excessive use of non-replenishable resources. Climate change is one of many wider environmental challenges for the construction sector to continue to address in the coming years.

Those involved with architecture and the built environment have both the opportunity and a responsibility to provide solutions for the population and effect positive change. Social impact assessments are part and parcel of the planning and approval process of infrastructure projects and other developments, and professionals and their clients are becoming increasingly tuned in to the calls from the public to be environmentally conscious where possible when completing such works.

We strongly value these sustainable and socially and environmentally conscious projects; those which help to transform communities and constructively impact the lives of residents and visitors. We are considerate of the day-to-day imprint that our industry has on those interacting with the buildings and structures we introduce to their lives, and our responsibility to be eco-aware.

It has been our honour over the years, through our RICS Awards, to highlight some outstanding projects that embody those principles – not least, only in 2018, the conservation efforts by the GEDA Construction and NI Water team at the magnificent Mourne Wall. However, as an organisation we have decided to ensure that, as we enter a new decade, our awards programme is truly reflective of our values.

Therefore, we have made a change and rebranded our prestigious annual awards. The new RICS Social Impact Awards are set to recognise and specifically celebrate the positive impact our built environment has on people’s lives.

With entries for 2020 already open, they will uncover and grant recognition to outstanding projects that are not only making a difference and enhancing lives, but have done so through sustainable means. They will shine a light on the vital role the built environment and our construction professionals play in effecting positive change, and the value our industry brings to society across all sectors.

We look forward to reflecting upon the great projects completed in this last year, and witnessing the contribution our industry has in 2020 and beyond.