Last edited 30 Oct 2020

Occupation of completed construction site

Client preparations for occupying the development should enable them to move the project from the regime of a building site to an occupied working facility whilst incurring minimal disruption and cost to the business.

It is important that planning for occupation begins as early in the project as possible, so that any issues can be considered during the design and construction phases, and appropriate services set out in consultation documents. On some projects a specific protocol known as the soft landings framework might be adopted to ensure the transition to occupation is smooth one.

The client should appoint a senior director (or soft landings champion) responsible for moving who can stand their ground under pressure from various elements of management who may fight their corner during the stress and upheaval of moving. The job is one that requires skillful co-ordination of a multitude of time consuming tasks. On larger projects they are likely to require a team under them including an accommodation manager and perhaps a facilities manager.

The director responsible for moving should prepare an operational policies document setting out the detailed plan for how the building will be occupied and used. They should also prepare a migration strategy (see migration strategy article).

The operational policies document may be based on information from:

The operational policies document might include:

A strategic decision should be made in the development of operational policies as to which services might be outsourced and which will remain under in-house direct control. Items that could be outsourced might include:

It may be beneficial to the overall project programme for the client to have use of certain areas of the building prior to practical completion (for example so that ICT suites can be equipped). Ideally this requirement for phased completion should written into the building contract otherwise it will need to be negotiated with the contractor.

More often than not it will become apparent that since the original project brief was prepared there have organisational changes and technological advances that necessitate changes to the design and installation works. This, combined with furniture, ICT equipment, fixtures, fittings, art, shelving, vending machines, and so on, will result in a schedule of works necessary prior to occupation that can cost as much as 3% of the construction budget. It is not unusual to package this work into an occupational services contract separate from the main building contract to take place after practical completion but prior to occupation.

This additional work needs to be defined, costed, tendered and the contract let with a reasonable period for mobilisation and pre-ordering so it can commence as soon as the building is handed over and is often carried out under the supervision of the facilities manager.

NB: The client should have appointed an in-house or outsourced engineering team to witness testing and commissioning and to takeover the running of the services as soon as practical completion is certified. The client also needs to ensure they have the funds to release 50% of the retention upon practical completion.

Utility and fuel supplies also need to be tendered or negotiated prior to occupation.

Training of staff and familiarisation with new systems and space usage prior to occupation is an essential part of pre-planning. See the article on migration strategy for more information.

The client should also check compliance with planning conditions that have to be satisfied prior to occupation, that the building control inspector has inspected and approved the works and that appropriate insurance is in place.

If the soft landings framework is adopted, there may be specific requirements to ensure that suppliers provide aftercare and post occupancy evaluation services. See Soft landings for more information.

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