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RICS Foundation Research Terms of Reference


The world is in an interesting state. Pressures on our natural resources have never been greater; population growth, poor distribution of resources, drought and flood, consumerism pressures, all contribute toward instability and upheaval. However, the word "sustainability" has gone from being one which conveyed very little meaning to one which is recognised as describing the critical challenge faced by society. The aim of the RICS Foundation is very simple. We wish to contribute to the sustainability of our built and natural environments, whether urban or rural. We wish to improve the quality of life of everyone who makes use of those built and natural environments. To balance the often conflicting needs and desires of all stake-holders clearly is an enormous task. It is possible, however, to identify some key issues that have a major bearing on the current and future ability of land and property to provide both the degree of utility that we all want from it and the equitable access to which everyone in society is entitled.


The RICS Foundation is a world wide not for profit body, seeking to enhance the quality of the built and natural environments, both urban and rural, for the benefit of all. In terms of its research, a key question that the RICS Foundation is trying to answer is:

How can we ensure that the processes that are used for the management, development and use of the built and natural environments make the optimum use of resource inputs while at the same time providing the most equitable degree of utility to all its stake-holders?

In developing our research agenda to seek to contribute to this, there are five matters that we need to address:

  • what are the key issues for the RICS Foundation?

    We are concerned with the 'big issues' that are going to have a major impact on the nature of the built and natural environments. These issues may be effecting us all now, may not have an effect this year or next, or the effects may be as yet small. We are sure, though, that these issues will, over time, make fundamental changes to many of our pre-conceived notions and current patterns of activity in the built and natural environments. We recognise that many such matters are global in effect and in impact and that the private sector has a pivotal role.

  • to whom or what does it relate?

    The way in which we will need to think about these issues will be diverse. Innovative thinking and solutions will be demanded where clearly current thinking and solutions have failed. Equally, we are aware that revisiting old solutions can have a surprising benefit. We do not expect to see wholly Anglo Saxon solutions. In some cases, we will be concerned with policy-related outcomes and in others we will be seeking to develop new techniques and ways of thinking that can be used by practitioners. We also need to be aware of the views of the built and natural environments that are held by the ultimate customer, the public at large.

  • what is the nature of the outcomes that we are wanting to achieve?

    We are seeking to achieve positive outcomes which will enhance the ways that society as a whole can enjoy and derive benefit from the built and natural environments. We expect to see that sustainability is a key strand and that there is cross-fertilisation between the private, public and not for profit sectors.

  • dissemination?

    We are aware that much good quality research remains inaccessible, especially to a policy, practitioner or public audience. We expect all the research we support to show how intrinsic a part will be played by dissemination.

  • implementation?

    Not all research need show how to change the world for the better. However, we would strive to ensure that the majority of what we supported was able to offer at least some route towards implementation. We expect to see professional summaries of all work and clear conclusions and, if appropriate, recommendations. We would wish that, where possible, our supported work offered, for example, tool boxes for taking the client group from where it is now to where we would wish it to be.

    Not all research will address all these issues, but it is important that it can be seen to be contributing in some way to a clearer understanding of the overall picture.

    The issues...

    There are obvious areas for research into the built and natural environments but the Foundation is seeking to be somewhat more adventurous. We will not merely be property or real estate focussed. We wish to explore those "places" where the built and natural environments meet with the major issues that are shaping our world. We will look at the key policy impacts for the built and natural environments of these key drivers of change and to seek to define the optimum outcomes for the benefit of society as whole.

    While these are described separately, it is clear that there are inter-relationships. Changes in demographics and lifestyle impact strongly on transport patterns, for instance. We do not believe that these can be addressed and developed in isolation. We intend to take an holistic approach across our programme, but accept that any one research project may not itself be genuinely holistic. We intend that, overall, we have no bias between urban and rural life.

    The drivers we have identified are:
  • Demographics
    What is going to be the impact of future demographic trends and patterns on the built and natural environments?
    What are the most appropriate and effective policy and practice responses to these trends?
  • Health
    What is the range of impacts that the built and natural environments can and do have on the health of individuals within society?
    How can we develop policies that protect our health while at the same time allowing the efficient use of the built and natural environments?
  • Culture and identity
    What is the relationship between cultural and lifestyle trends within society and the health and vitality of cities and regions?
    How can cities and regions develop and exhibit their own culture and identity, and how can this most effectively be developed and enhanced?
  • Finance
    What is the relationship between overall financial and economic structures and processes and the operation of the built and natural environments?
    How can we ensure that the financial and economic performance of the built and natural environments is optimised, in the widest sense of the word, to ensure benefit for all?
  • Governance and political issues
    What will be the impact of new forms of governance, in both the public and private sectors, on the way in which the built and natural environments operate?
    Is there a sufficient understanding of the impact of changes and developments in regulatory and organisational structures in the public and private sector on land and property markets and the way in which land and property can support the needs of those using it?
    How can emerging and transitional economies gain from wider experience? What political and governance infrastructure is needed?
    What structures, in both the public and private sectors, are needed to respond to global challenges such as water pollution and shortage?
  • Information and communications technology
    What are going to be the impacts on the built and natural environments of developments in information and communications technology (ICT)?
    What developments in ICTs are needed to effect genuine community and economic regeneration, across the globe?
    What are the most effective ways in which ICT can be used to enhance and improve the vitality and sustainability of cities and regions?
  • Transport and infrastructure
    What are the likely impacts of developments in transport polices and techniques on land use patterns, in both urban and rural areas?
    Are there optimum solutions that balance the desire for access to all forms of transport, both public and private, and the need to sustain urban and rural communities and patterns of activity?
    How can we ameliorate the worst excesses of international travel? How can effective intermodal transport be delivered?
    How can we balance the demands between access and environmental impact?
  • Crime and community safety
    In almost every lifestyle survey undertaken across the globe, crime and the fear of crime features high on the agenda of "something must be done". How do we design out crime in neighbourhoods?
    What societal actions can be taken to ease disaffection and disillusionment in young people?
    What can be done to ensure that access to public places does not create crime?
    How do we ensure that the push toward a 24 hour society does not create ghettos for those adversely affected?
    Our intention is increasingly to link each of these areas into the challenges faced by the built and natural environments. We will continue to support mainstream built and natural environment research but will be more sympathetic towards projects that take account of, or accurately reflect, the above themes.

    It is important that all of these themes be considered in the light of the overall mission statement of the RICS Foundation.

    To whom and to what does our research relate?

    Having defined the topics and main areas, what types of solutions are we seeking? What types of insights are we seeking to develop? We have not sought to group these topics under different categories. This is deliberate as we have taken the view that each of them can be interpreted and approached from a number of different viewpoints.

    We wish to reflect three key perspectives:
    • society: what does it mean for society at large?
    • policy: does the research explore the policy context of the operation of the management, development and use of the built and natural environments?
    • techniques and technology: what are the tools that need to be developed to bring about equitable and efficient solutions to the challenges identified?

    The outcomes...

    The Foundation will seek to ensure that all work we support has at least some of all the following elements within it. Obviously, the closer the 'fit', the higher the likelihood of funding.

  • Equity
    The research must help bring about a situation where everyone within society can enjoy and make use of the built and natural environments in an equitable fashion. Are there economic, policy, social or cultural barriers that prevent free and reasonable access for groupings within society to the built and natural environments? What steps can be taken to reduce or remove these barriers?
  • Clarity of understanding
    The complex nature of the inter-relationships that make up the built and natural environments need to be better understood. This understanding needs to be fostered at a variety of different levels. In some areas, there is a need simply to obtain better and more effective data. In other areas, there will be a need to draw upon and learn lessons from other research disciplines or other parts of the globe.
  • Optimisation of resources
    All of the topics relate to the use - or abuse - by disparate and diverse groupings within society of the built and natural environments, all of whom have an expectation of what they want from it. A key concern of the RICS Foundation is to balance these often conflicting requirements to achieve the optimum overall outcome.

    Where next?

    Having had the chance to look through our statements above, you will have a clearer idea of what we wish to achieve and how we wish to achieve it.

    The issue now is for you to decide is whether the work you espouse can contribute to this. If it does, we would like to hear from you. If you would to talk this through in advance, please contact Stephen Brown, Director of Research for the Foundation. This may well help avoid needless work and can help with appropriate guidance at an early stage.

    Director of Research
    RICS Foundation
    12 Great George Street
    London SW1P 3AD
    United Kingdom

    Tel: + 44 (0)20 7334 1568
    Fax: + 44 (0)20 7334 3894
    Email: research@rics-foundation.org


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