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19 October 2018
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Soft landings - the story so far

GT roundtable 6
Alan Brown, IID Architects: “Soft landings is a great aspiration, but there's an awful lot of detail to work through. 2016 seems one hell of a target.”

The concept of Soft Landings was first enshrined in a document composed by the Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA), since adapted by the government for its own Government Soft Landings (GSL) framework.

BSRIA defines Soft Landings as a form of ‘graduated handover’ for building projects in which the construction project team stays on for three years post-construction to support the building’s occupiers, fine-tuning systems and documenting any changes for use in future projects. It’s been developed to address the problem of construction customers not getting the assets and outcomes they asked for, with problems at various stages between initial design and construction resulting in the handover of a building that does not deliver what end-user occupiers require of it. 

From an FM perspective, this can be manifest in issues such as accessibility or the excessive work required to maintain cleanliness – the result of poorly considered window placement during the design phase, for example.

The aim is to avoid a busy multi-stakeholder project / construction phase followed by decades of FMs and occupiers suffering a project’s shortcomings in silence.

Last year, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) updated its plan of works (PoW) - the structured stages through which a construction project develops - to include an assessment of operational data after handover both at the end of the construction process and at the very beginning – turning a linear process into a circular one. RIBA PoW stage seven now stipulates post-occupancy evaluation and review of project performance. 

Stage 0, the stage of initial strategic assessment of a project, involves evaluation of data from relevant stage seven projects. The government’s own digital Plan of Works (dPoW) connects soft landings principles with the maintaining of building information models (BIMs).

Add in the government’s stipulation that its GSL framework must be used for all central government projects from 2016 and you can see why clients, architects, service providers, project managers and construction firms alike are keen to discuss how soft landings will work – with FM central to the discussion.

We wanted to find out from our expert panel the extent of the problems in how we build and hand over new facilities to FM operators and occupiers; whether soft landings is the solution; what the practical issues involved in following soft landings are – and how the design and construction process needs to change.