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 from BSRIA 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).
The Soft Landings Framework enables designers and contractors to improve the performance of buildings and generate feedback for project teams. This requires involvement in the project for the first three years of occupation and so will have budgetary implications and may affect appointments.
The framework includes 5 key stages:
- 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.
 Initial aftercare
- Stationing a soft landings team on site to receive feedback, fine tune systems and ensure proper operation.
 Extended after care and post occupancy evaluation.
- Outstanding issues are resolved and post occupancy evaluations are fed-back for future projects.
 Government Soft Landings (GSL)
The Government Construction Strategy was published in May 2011. The intention of the strategy is to reduce 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.
The proposed process map adopts the following plan of work:
- 0 Strategy
- 1 Brief
- 2 Concept
- 3 Definition
- 4 Design
- 5 Build and Commission
- 6 Handover and close-out
- 7 Operation and end-of-life
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 is aligned to the Soft Landings Framework.
It is considered that GSL sits alongside Building Information Modelling (BIM), as BIM feeds into Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) systems, and helps enable future alterations to completed buildings. As a result, ownership of GSL has moved to the BIM Task Group. It is thought that in parallel to the roll out of BIM, the government may mandate a GSL handover protocol for central government projects by 2016.
For more information about GSL, recommendations of the task group and ongoing developments see the BIM Task Group.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Building owner's manual.
- Building log book.
- Building users guide.
- CIC BIM protocol.
- Client commissioning.
- Defects liability period.
- Fit out.
- Handover to client.
- Lessons learned report.
- Migration strategy.
- Partial possession.
- PAS 1192-2:2013
- Post occupancy evaluation.
- Post project review.
- Performance in use.
- Practical completion.
- Sectional completion.
- Whole life costs.
 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.
- Soft Landings core principles March 2012.
- 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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