There is a broad consensus that buildings in operation do not perform as well as they could. There is often a significant gap between predicted and achieved performance that results in part from short-comings in briefing, design and construction and in part from poor operation. This problem is exacerbated by the almost complete separation of construction and operation.
The term ‘soft landings’ refers to a strategy adopted to ensure the transition from construction to occupation is ‘bump-free’ and that operational performance is optimised.
This transition needs to be considered throughout the development of a project, not just at the point of handover. Ideally the client should commit to adopting a soft landings strategy in the very early stages so that an appropriate budget can be allocated and appointment agreements and briefing documents can include relevant requirements. This should include agreement to provide the information required for commissioning, training, facilities management and so on, and increasingly will include requirements for Building Information Modelling (BIM).
To ensure that a soft landings strategy is implemented properly from the outset, it may be appropriate to appoint a soft landings champion to oversee the strategy. Facilities managers should also be involved from the early stages.
 The soft landings framework
The Soft Landings Framework is a joint initiative between BSRIA (Building Services Research and Information Association) and UBT (Usable Buildings Trust). It is an open-source framework available on the BSRIA website that is intended to ‘…smooth the transition into use and to address problems that post-occupancy evaluations (POEs) show to be widespread’ (ref Useable Buildings). It was first published in 2009 and was updated in 2014 to align with the RIBA 2013 work stages. It is now developed by the BSRIA Soft Landings Group.
The framework includes 5 key stages:
 Inception and briefing
- Ensuring that the client's needs and required outcomes are clearly defined.
 Design development and review
- Reviewing comparable projects and assessing proposals in relation to facilities management and building users.
- Ensuring operators properly understand systems before occupation.
- Stationing a soft landings team on site to receive feedback, fine tune systems and ensure proper operation. Typically this will last 4 to 6 weeks, but may be longer for complex buildings such as hospitals and may be shorter for simple buildings such as shops.
- Outstanding issues are resolved and post occupancy evaluations are fed-back for future projects. It is suggested that this period lasts for 3 years. In year 1, problems are identified, training provided and systems fine tuned, with regular reviews. In years 2 and 3, performance is reviewed, and post occupancy surveys carried out, but with reviews becoming less frequent.
 Government Soft Landings (GSL)
The Government Construction Strategy was published in May 2011 with the intention of reducing the cost of public sector construction. Six Task Groups were established for different areas of the strategy, one of which was the FM / Soft Landings task group.
The FM / Soft Landings task group was asked to produce a policy document on Government Soft Landings (GSL) supported by appropriate guidance and a process map.
In September 2012 the Cabinet Office announced that by 2016 all centrally-funded projects should be delivered in accordance with Government Soft Landings (GSL) as part of the public sector adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM). The creation of GSL was driven by the Government Construction Board, and it is now developed by the GSL Stewardship Group.
The Government Construction Strategy: One Year On describes soft landings as ‘...the process of aligning the interests of those who design and construct an asset with the interests of those who use and manage it. It aims to improve client and user experiences, with reduced re-visits, and to give a product that meets and performs to client expectations.’ It suggests that ‘...the reason for the creation of an asset and its intended business purpose, the ‘golden thread’, can often be lost in the construction process. GSL (Government Soft Landings) will be used to maintain this ‘golden thread’ and ensure its continuation into the building’s operative stage.’
GSL sits alongside Building Information Modelling (BIM), as BIM feeds facility management systems, and helps enable future alterations to completed buildings. As a result, ownership of GSL has moved to the BIM Task Group.
The BIM Task Group suggest that:
- GSL will be used to reduce cost and improve performance of asset delivery and operation.
- All departments will appoint a GSL Lead to manage the GSL Golden Thread on all projects.
- All departments will actively manage aftercare during early operations, supported by the design and construction team.
- Post Operational Evaluation will be used as a collaborative tool to measure and optimise asset performance and embed lessons learnt.
- BIM will be progressively used as a data management tool to assist the briefing process.
For more information about GSL, recommendations of the task group and ongoing developments see the BIM Task Group.
 Comparison between GSL and BSRIA soft landings framework.
In August 2015, BSRIA published Soft Landings & Government Soft Landings, A Convergence Guide For Construction Projects. The briefing note provides an overview of GSL and compares it with the BSRIA Soft Landings Framework.
Whilst the two frameworks are aligned, and there are many similarities, there are some crucial differences. In very broad terms, the BSRIA Soft Landings Framework encourages increased collaboration and awareness of outcomes through stakeholder workshops and design reviews, with programme and format defined by the Soft Landings Champion. GSL on the other hand, is more prescriptive in relation to the BIM process being checked against project targets.
See Soft Landings & Government Soft Landings, A Convergence Guide For Construction Projects for more information.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- BIM and facilities management.
- BS 8536-1:2015 Briefing for design and construction. Code of practice for facilities management (Buildings infrastructure).
- Building information modelling.
- Building log book.
- Building owner's manual.
- Building users guide.
- Building performance evaluation.
- Building performance evaluation in non-domestic buildings guide – an introduction to the tests and methods in non-domestic buildings
- Building performance metrics.
- Client commissioning.
- Defects liability period.
- Extended aftercare.
- Government construction strategy.
- Handover to client.
- Initial aftercare.
- Lessons learned report.
- Migration strategy.
- PAS 1192-2:2013
- Post occupancy evaluation.
- Post project review.
- Performance in use.
- Soft Landings & Government Soft Landings, A Convergence Guide For Construction Projects.
- Technical guide.
 External references
- Useable buildings trust and BSRIA: The soft landings framework for better briefing, design, handover and building performance in use. 2009
- Soft Landings organisation.
- BIM Task Group: Government soft landings.
- Building Services and Research Information Association.
- Soft Landings Framework.
- Useable Buildings Trust.
- Government Construction Strategy: One Year On Report and Action Plan Update
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