Last edited 05 Feb 2021

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BSRIA Institute / association Website

Soft Landings for refurbishment projects

Soft landings BSRIA 456.jpg
Climate change and the government’s carbon reduction targets have created a sense of urgency around sustainability which is now considered a “must be” for most new-build projects. For existing buildings, however, much remains to be done.The Soft Landings approach suits new construction and refurbishment projects.


[edit] Introduction

Non-domestic buildings are responsible for 20% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions. Of all the 1.6 million non-domestic buildings in England and Wales, more than half were built pre-1964 and, if judged by today's standards, most of them are very unsustainable. These buildings have already produced carbon during their construction process, providing a strong argument for ensuring that they last for as long as possible. However, in view of the climate emergency, we cannot keep them running in their current unsustainable condition. From this arises a great opportunity for sustainable refurbishment.

It is important to remember that sustainability is wider than just energy and, therefore, energy efficiency should not constitute the sole focus during the refurbishment process.

How can we deliver sustainable refurbishment projects? The knowledge and skills needed to embrace all aspects of the sustainability of buildings are there already. Knowledgeable and skilled project teams from different sectors in the construction industry are set up with a purpose to deliver sustainable refurbishment projects. What is missing is the right process to ensure that the sustainability targets aimed for are achieved at a building’s level and not only within its areas of operation. In such a process, sustainability targets are set at the very beginning of the project and regularly reviewed throughout the project execution. The process is also there to support the effective collaboration within the project team to deliver a project with its successful outcomes. BSRIA’s good news is that such a process already exists.

Soft Landings is a building delivery process which runs through the project, from inception to completion and beyond, to ensure all decisions made during the project are based on improving the operational performance of the building and meeting the project’s targets (i.e. success criteria). There is a perception in the industry that Soft Landings is only suitable for the new build projects. In fact, it can be argued that it is easier to implement Soft Landings core principles in a refurbishment project.

[edit] Set success criteria/performance targets

It is hard to measure or evaluate a target that has not been set. Targets are easier to set in refurbishment projects as there are normally clear reasons that drive the process, for example, increased energy efficiency, shift towards renewable energy use or improvement of end userswellbeing that might include different levels of intervention. Those drivers can be plugged into the Soft Landings process where they will be considered as success criteria.

[edit] Use feedback to inform the design

End usersfeedback can be very valuable at both pre-refurbishment and post-refurbishment stages. At the pre-refurbishment stage, the feedback can highlight the elements of the building that are working well and those that are not. Its value also lies in its capability to highlight all the factors that are important to the end-users and those that are less relevant. This is valuable information that can be used to inform the design and to set benchmarks.

At the post-refurbishment stage, end usersfeedback can help to evaluate the success of the refurbishment and to identify areas of finetuning and improvement.

BSRIA has recently developed a BSRIA Occupant Wellbeing survey (BOW survey) that offers good ability to capture pre- and post-refurbishment end usersfeedback.

Focus on the operational outcome - involve the end-users and operators

Once the success criteria and performance targets are set, it is very important to keep them visible and protected throughout the project. Soft Landings reality-checking workshops serve the purpose to iron-out problems during the delivery stage. In refurbishment projects, both end-users and operators are normally known, hence it is much easier to capture some vital feedback that will help deliver buildings that are refurbished effectively from the technical and operational side. The project team can get very useful first-hand learning from building operators or facility managers of the building. They should be part of the group of people attending the reality-checking workshops.

[edit] Ensure continuity

Continuity is very important, especially if the refurbishment is being done in stages. When the project moves from one stage to another, there might be changes in the project team (different subcontractors, for example) and in roles and responsibilities. In order to ensure continuity, a common platform, ideally digital, should be available to capture all the workshop notes and other Soft Landings-related activities. New joiners can then use that platform to see what happened in previous stages and what decisions have been made.

BSRIA Guide BG 54/2018 Soft Landings Framework 2018 offers the most useful checklist and the template to use for the purpose.

For any questions about Soft Landings or the BOW survey, please contact Dr Michelle Agha-Hossein at [email protected]

Read more about Soft Landings HERE.

[edit] About this article

This article was written by Dr Michelle Agha-Hossein, BSRIA Sustainable Buildings Consultant. It was previously published in Nov 2019 on the BSRIA website and can be accessed HERE.

BSRIA is a non-profit distributing, member-based association, providing specialist services in construction and building services. More information at

Other articles by the BSRIA on Designing Buildings Wiki can be accessed HERE.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

[edit] External references


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