Plastic Surgeon looks at a framework that is providing valuable assistance to facilities managers. Soft Landings, an holistic approach to building. The Soft Landings Framework, produced in collaboration with BSRIA and the Usable Buildings Trust is a process whereby designers and constructors can improve the operational performance of buildings. It is designed to overcome problems beyond the handover of new buildings, and provide valuable feedback to project teams.
When utilizing the Soft Landings Process, building designers and constructors remain involved with the building for a further three year period after handover. The process covers five main areas according to BSRIA:
1. Inception and briefing
2. Design development and review
4. Initial aftercare in the 4-6 weeks after handover.
5. Extended aftercare, monitoring and feedback over the first three years of occupancy.
The Soft Landings framework document states: “Core Principles could be expressed in a Soft Landings Code of Conduct drawn up for a project, similar to the Considerate Contractors’ Scheme, to which all parties would be willing signatories. This would require statements – based on clear and relevant project objectives – to encourage people to aim high and improve product delivery. This would benefit from a simple monitoring and reporting process.”
The idea behind Soft Landings is that by requiring designers and constructors to remain involved with buildings beyond completion, they can help the client during the first three years of operation, ensuring that occupiers understand how to make the best use of their buildings. BSRIA recommends that the five core principles should be adopted in their entirety in order for a construction scheme to be deemed a true Soft Landings project, the five Stages being interdependent. In particular, Stage 2: Design Development is predicated on Stage 1: Inception and Briefing, while Stage 3: Pre-handover requires follow-through with Stage 4: Initial Aftercare.
Some clients may wish only to adopt the graduated handover element of Soft Landings, (typically Stage 4: Initial Aftercare, and Stage 5: Extended Aftercare), in which case expectations of the performance benefits will need to be modest. Although late adoption of Soft Landings could bring some benefits, clients and aftercare teams should be prepared to face problems with building performance that could have been anticipated and dealt with had the five precepts been adopted in their entirety.
For the facilities manager, though, there needs to be clear agreement within a Soft Landings project team on the purpose of participation, and an agreed definition that is not merely improved commissioning or facilities support after handover. This could be supported by a clear plan for carrying out the five stages, as defined by the framework.
Clients may find benefit in drawing up a voluntary Soft Landings Code of Conduct for their project, (similar to the Considerate Contractors’ Scheme), to which all parties would be signatories. This could be wholly or partly based on the BSRIA Soft Landings User Group mission statement: which reads “We are committed to ensuring that Soft Landings principles are applied on our new build and refurbishment projects, that operational outcomes will match the design intentions, and that the needs of the building’s end users are met.”
Interestingly, Soft Landings includes a three-year aftercare period. By the end of year one the building should have settled down; including implementation of the normal defects period. By year two, the building should have entered stable operation, during which time the energy data should be reviewed and adjustments recommended in a quest to improve performance. The second year will also involve fine-tuning, at the end of which a structured post-occupancy evaluation (POE) should be carried out. The third year will be a period where the aftercare team responds to findings from the POE, make any necessary interventions, and maintain their monitoring of the building’s performance and energy consumption.
BSRIA is furthermore responsible for coordinating Membership of the Soft Landings User Group which is open to all organisations working in design, construction and occupation. It will also be valuable to those who understand and apply the principles of whole-life costing and who incorporate sustainability in their corporate social responsibility plan.
Soft Landings only requires small extra funding. It is designed to run alongside any procurement process without creating duplication. The costs for the early stages – from project inception to pre-handover – should therefore remain well within the margin of competitive bids.
There is some extra work during the three-year aftercare period, but the costs are modest in relation to the value added to the client’s occupancy experience of the building, in relation to the cost of potential re-work, and the ever rising price of fuel bills from poorly finished-off and inadequately controlled building services.
Inevitably, the amount of time spent on aftercare will tail off as the results of the surveys help the building’s facilities team deliver a sustained high level of environmental and business performance.
Soft Landings and VisibilITy
The framework could be utilized to work alongside Plastic Surgeon’s bespoke VisibilITy software. Plastic Surgeon’s VisibilITy software was developed in-house to help housebuilders, contractors, facilities managers and estates managers keep track of the waste saved from landfill through using the repair specialist’s unique service.
Soft Landings is similar to VisibilITy, as it can – if used correctly – provide accurate information on the minimization of waste and costs involved; as well as enhance the sustainability issues that surround any building, whether it is a new-build or refurbishment situation.
Where Plastic Surgeon could intervene in the process, is in response to discrete demands of an on-going involvement with the maintenance regime, by repairing damaged parts of the building and its contents. The VisibilITy package, meanwhile, providing hard evidence of proactive problem resolution, where emerging issues are addressed and resolved.
Soft Landings is an open-source Framework, freely available to all who wish to adopt it. Hard copies of the Framework can be purchased from BSRIA via www.bsria.co.uk/bookshop, but versions in PDF can be freely downloaded from both the BSRIA website and other institutions and bodies representing construction industry professionals.
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