Exploring new means of community engagement to meet built environment challenges

On 29 August, in collaboration with the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), Buro Happold co-sponsored and helped to facilitate an all-day event to explore a key built environment sector challenge – community engagement.

Attendees at this central London brainstorm formed into five teams tasked with devising unique solutions to three challenges. How can the sector better engage in the development process? How can we disrupt existing delivery models to give more power to communities? How can places better engage with people?

“We have a tried and tested innovation sprint format that we use,” says Alastair Mant, Head of Business Transformation for UKGBC. “So we’ve brought together a diverse group of people. We’ve got developers, we’ve got contractors, we’ve got architects, engineers, property consultants. We’ve also got some academics in there, community groups and some innovative start-ups. That’s really important, because what we’re trying to do is come up with new ideas and so you need that diversity of thinking.”

Filtering eleven hours’ worth of inspiration and discussion into a brief presentation of their strongest ideas, the teams climactically entered into a good-natured competition involving some surprisingly polished amateur dramatics. The participants and a select panel of judges – including Lendlease’s Head of Community Engagement, Giorgia Stewart – cast their votes to decide which proposal best delivered social value. Tricky to call, there were some strong contenders on the themes of shared space for city communities, public ownership of developments, and reinvigoration of the high street. Ultimately, a prototype entitled Sim Community – which allows people to see how their built environment would be affected by design decisions via accessible technology such as virtual reality and online gaming – was deemed a worthy winner.

It’s been a great opportunity to bring together built environment stakeholders.
Duncan Price, Director of sustainability, Buro Happold 

“It’s been a great opportunity to bring together built environment stakeholders,” says Duncan Price, Buro Happold’s Director of Sustainability. “Quite often, you have a linear approach to design and solving challenges. The purpose of this format is to throw all of that up into the air, to keep pursuing an idea through multiple stages of development, insight generation and solutions, and enjoy ourselves as we do it.”

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