Quality Streetscapes Conference notes

My slides

This first part of this presentation introduces a new approach to valuing urban design – one which allows design decisions to be embedded in real estate valuation calculations. The approach connects design to the rateable value of retail, commercial and residential property offerings. It allows investment decisions to be related directly to design proposals, showing how Proposal A will generate more long term value than Proposal B. The tool is already being used in practice.

Part Two describes Space Syntax Limited’s plans to disseminate its science-based, human-focused approach to urban planning and design. Key to this is the creation of an Academy to provide training to professional and non-professional stakeholders.

Plan for transaction, not just movement
Design for value, not just good looks
Think multi-scale, multi-modal.

Disseminate what you know.
Make it open source & open access.
Create an Academy & construct an Online Training Platform.

My subject today is value. Urban value. How we value place. I have some new work to show you – work we have carried out especially for this conference – that demonstrates a direct connection between streetscape design and commercial value.

The link between design and value has implications for all of us today. I hope to be able to give the conference something both to think about and also to act on in everyday practice, whether that is in the planning, design, delivery or operation of places.

I will set these new findings in the context of recent developments at Space Syntax: both scientific developments as well as operational business developments.

But first let me set the general context for a discussion about value.

I am of course not alone in having this interest. Recently, the Young Foundation published Design for Social Sustainability, which is a call to put social value at the heart of urban decision-taking. The Project for Public Spaces Place Capital. Transport for London. Walkonomics.

CABE’s Paved with Gold is another important publication that I recommend you consult. It takes an evidence-based approach to the subject of urban value creation – bringing data on land value together with quantitative analysis of urban design characteristics. I believe this kind of quantitative, analytic approach is essential to offer alongside the qualitative approach of the Young Foundation and PPS. Some people are persuaded by emotive arguments. Some by the numbers. You need to have both.

Our interest at Space Syntax is in the role of spatial connections in creating value. For over twenty five years, property development clients have asked Space Syntax to provide advice about the relationship between spatial connectivity and value. They think spatial layout is important. Here are the kinds of questions that we have been asked:

Is it worth putting a bridge across this river?

What can we do to animate these shops?

How can we bring people into this empty public space?

What is the best way of connecting this new development to its wider setting?

Will this proposed development be a benefit or a blight to my existing business or to my community?

Now these questions are more than altruistic. They are largely driven by commercial objectives:

– to raise land value

– to achieve a higher sale price

– to shorten the uncertain and expensive planning process

– to reduce the cost of crime

– to increase business rates receipts

– to retain staff and avoid the cost of recruitment.

And duty to listen…English education…Future Cities

Let me take you through a couple of recent case studies, which show how we have done this: modelling and measuring spatial connectivity, then providing urban planning and design advice to optimise the physical and spatial form of a development.

Case studies
2012 Elephant & Castle – combining spatial layout attraction with land use attraction and transport attraction.
Masdar – combining spatial layout, land use and transport attraction with sun path analysis.

What lessons have we learned?

Perhaps the main finding is that the science-based, human-focused approach of Space Syntax resonates with many different kinds of stakeholders: planners, designers and developers certainly, but also with local residents and business people.

More specifically, three design principles have emerged:

1. Plan for transaction, not just movement
2. Design for functional performance, not just good looks
3. Think multi-scale, multi-modal.

Despite the success of the Space Syntax approach, we grew to feel two important frustrations.

The first of these is that we were missing the final link in the equation. The link to value itself. To the £ or $ or € or ¥.

We were able to show that the pattern of space influences the pattern of human behaviour: moving in streets, on bridges, along corridors and shopping concourses; stopping and sitting in public spaces. We had a link between spatial layout and functional performance and our clients were buying into this approach on the basis of a perceived connection to value. The kind of connection that Project for Public Space and the Young Foundation describe: that the best, most valuable places are generally the ones that people use most.

We knew this instinctively and, what’s more, our clients knew it too, both public and private sector. Community groups too.

What we didn’t have was a tangible, evidence-based connection between spatial form and value.

Our second frustration was that the Space Syntax approach was, if I’m frank, a closed shop of our own making. Sure, we trained and licensed thousands of academic, non-commercial users of the software, people doing a vast range of academic research worldwide. But our impact into practice – the very reason that Space Syntax had been created – was constrained by our ability to grow our consulting business. Harder done than said: involving as it does a highly trained staff using specialist software and associated analytic processes; much of this training done in-house since there simply aren’t academic courses producing graduates that are skilled enough for our purposes.

But at least we had a problem definition: we needed to make the link with value and we needed to disseminate our approach.

And so this is what we have done. We have innovated our technology and our business model.

Urban Buzz – linking spatial layout analysis with crime incidence.

But there’s more to urbanism than avoiding crime.

Could we find a link to land value?

In conclusion, my main focus in this presentation has been on the connections between spatial layout and real estate value. In doing so, the point I hope I have made made is that social value, economic value and environmental value are all part of the same thing: Urban Value.

Thank you.

17th Annual Quality Streetscapes Conference website

2 Comments on “Quality Streetscapes Conference notes”

  1. Reblogged this on Urban Choreography and commented:
    The value of combining value in monetary terms and in spatial evidence is demonstrated in tradrional enviroments – it would be interesting to see similar research carried out in informal environments such as found in South Africa

  2. Pingback: How HS2 should learn from HS1′s urban errors | The power of the network

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