Defining the value of the built environment

Developing a nomenclature and system mapping of the services and values of the built environment in communities.

Project overview

The built environment is highly connected and provides significant value to our communities. Yet the traditional mechanisms to value the worth of built assets typically consider those assets in isolation, neither considering the community they serve nor the connections and interrelationships that exist within the built environment itself. Heritage buildings can, for example, provide many services to community, including cultural value, tourism, and community meeting spaces. Yet, when we assess the value of a repair, we consider these values in an ad-hoc fashion, or not at all.

If we can better understand, map, and value the community services built infrastructure provides, then we can have more robust and objective conversations about the extent of community investment in built infrastructure, and trade-offs inherent to alternative development, investment, and policy options.

This research project aims to apply the idea of “ecosystem services” to the built environment to develop a framework that will enhance our ability to map, understand, and assess the built environment and its relationships to human well-being. Defining these values and their inter-relationships will enhance our ability to comprehensively assess the impact of natural hazard events and to improve disaster risk decision-making.

In this research project, we have developed a framework to guide decision-making for disaster risk management option assessment, accounting comprehensively for social, environmental and economic costs and benefits, future uncertainty, risk appetite, equity, and opportunity.

To underpin the development of the framework we initially completed a literature review of current New Zealand and international disaster risk decision-making processes. We also established a local, regional, and national government representative stakeholder group to guide the project. Based on the literature review and feedback from our end-user stakeholder group, we developed a prototype decision-making framework. The framework guides users through selection of appropriate option evaluation tools, and helps users to design their assessment specific to their context, considering factors such as distributional equity, risk preferences, and uncertainty. The framework helps users to ensure they consider the full range of impacts. It is primarily designed as a tool to improve risk literacy and comprehensive consideration of disaster risk decision-making. The framework has been applied to two case studies to illustrate the application of the framework and enhance its usability.

Project goals

The output of this project will be an online interactive tool that maps built environment assets to the services they deliver and their relationship to well-being.

The tool will enable users to explore the framework and understand the system-wide impacts of disruptions to the built environment. 

Key contacts

Charlotte Brown

Senior Research Consultant
Resilient Organisations Ltd
e : [email protected]

Robert Caldwell

Market Economics
e: [email protected]

Project team

Robert Cardwell

Senior Analyst
Market Economics

Nicky Smith

Associate Director
Market Economics

Charlotte Brown

Senior Research Consultant
Resilient Organisations


Suzanne Wilkinson
Professor in Construction Management
University of Auckland

Our funders

This project is being funded by QuakeCoRE.