Community engagement within the built environment typically takes place during the consultation phase in an effort to secure planning consent. When planning has been granted and it comes time for construction to start, local people typically find themselves with little or no say in what happens.
But are developers and construction firms missing out on a range of important benefits by failing to engage with communities during the construction phase and beyond? In this post, we share five benefits of engaging with communities before, during and after construction, and how this approach is a way to harness local energy and help communities shape their environment in a more meaningful way.
1. Avoid complaints
Complaints not only throw a proverbial spanner in the works, but they can also in the most extreme cases, literally bring a site to a standstill. Complaints can be costly, time consuming and, when not handled appropriately, they can lead to more serious consequences, including legal action. By consulting communities – and listening to them – both before construction starts and throughout the course of a project, developers and construction companies can set the stage for open and transparent communication and minimise the chances of complaints.
2. Build a platform for support
Unexpected challenges are inevitable during construction, so it can be risky to ‘front-load’ your community engagement during planning and not have a strategy for keeping people informed for the duration of a project. That’s where a dedicated community engagement app can come in handy, since it allows you to share digital updates – including photos, videos and text – instantly with local people. This level of communication and transparency goes a long way to build local buy-in and support, and dare we say it, can even make the community engagement process fun.
3. Enhance your reputation
When submitting tenders for new work, nothing says “we’re professionals who do the job properly” like strong community engagement metrics and testimonials from local people you’ve worked alongside previously. Councils and clients increasingly want to see that community engagement is not only happening, but that it’s being taken seriously. A well-considered engagement programme that spans your entire project will therefore not only boost your reputation, it’s also more likely to win you new business in future – after all, a satisfied community is a prerequisite for a satisfied client.
4. Develop a positive working environment for staff
Your site team represents the ‘front line’ when it comes to community engagement: they’re the ones facing local people on a daily basis and so they’re most likely to be on the receiving end of questions and complaints. When local people are kept well informed during construction projects, they will be less likely to disrupt your team while they’re trying to work – which improves efficiency, creates a more pleasant working environment for your staff, and has greater potential for positive interactions and conversations rather than negative ones.
5. Add social and environmental value
We all know that construction projects can be disruptive. Yet when handled well, this disruption can actually bring communities together in new ways and may even improve the local environment. We’ve seen community groups established during construction projects that remain long after site teams pack up their tools and go home. We’ve also seen community gardening initiatives pop up in unused space, and neighbours who were previously strangers coming together to work on things like composting and recycling. Like everything else in life, the challenges of construction can be turned into positive opportunities if the right intention and will is there.
Want to learn more about community engagement apps and how they can make life of a site manager a whole lot simpler and easier? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org