It is no exaggeration to say that in many cases, a significant gap exists between the design expectations and actual operational performance of a building. Soft Landings is a delivery approach that aims to create buildings that meet clients’ needs.
Traditionally design teams and contractor’s involvement stops at the handover stage, which effectively both limits the transfer of knowledge to the building’s management team and deprives the design team of the opportunity to learn what has worked well and what hasn’t so that future designs are more in keeping with expected performance.
There are many reasons for this gap to exist, and usually, it is down to a combination of factors:
Soft Landings is a delivery approach that aims to correct these and minimise or eliminate the performance gap by enabling closer collaboration between all of the stakeholder groups, with the ultimate aim of creating better buildings.
Defining and understanding the project’s success criteria and how these should be promoted and protected throughout the project.
Reviewing previous, similar projects and using the lessons learned to inform the design and ensure the success criteria and targets set are realistic.
Ensuring that the construction team is fully aware of the project’s success criteria and that all construction activities and value engineering exercises support these criteria.
Confirming that the building is ready for occupancy and the facilities team understands how to manage and control the building.
Ensuring information and support are provided to the end-users and initial teething issues are addressed quickly.
Assessing the building’s performance against the defined success criteria, finding solutions to issues (if any) related to operational performance, and capturing and disseminating lessons learned.
The Soft Landings approach enables the property owner to provide spaces that are in line with the original design intent, which occupants can make use of accordingly.
The facilities management team will likewise be able to understand the building, how it operates, and how to optimise its performance according to user needs. Thus, for a new customer taking space in a building, the efficient setup and optimisation of that space is a clear business benefit.
The Soft Landings approach can also help the project team ensure that any fit-outs are compatible with the building design and services, further helping the customer to deliver on their performance requirements.
With clear project success criteria set out at the Inception and Briefing Phase, as well as a continuous focus on outcomes throughout the process, project partners can ensure that the client is handed a building that delivers on its design intent. The Soft Landings pre-handover activities also ensure that the building is managed effectively and consistently. This can result in improved operational performance and a reduction in the performance gap, providing a more comfortable, more efficient building, in addition to cost savings.
The Pre-Handover, Initial Aftercare and Extended Aftercare activities included in the Soft Landings approach can ensure a smooth handover from the contractor to the building owners and managers. This minimises snagging and defects, and can also ensure that building managers understand how to operate the building well, enabling fine-tuning and using post-occupancy evaluation (POE) to inform the ongoing operation and management of the building.
The collaborative working approach of Soft Landings enables a ‘no-blame’ culture with an improved understanding of responsibilities for the whole project team. Overseen by a Soft Landings Champion who is nominated by the client, every member of the team has a role to play in achieving the success criteria: design and construction teams take greater long-term responsibility for the building design, and the facilities management team feel more valued and take greater accountability for building performance. The increased dialogue between teams also identifies issues upfront in a way that would not be possible if working in silos. The structured approach both ensures that knowledge is not lost when key personnel change and also provides a clear framework to identify lessons learned that can be passed on to future projects.
Soft Landings is an approach that enables the team to establish key success criteria that support not only internal specifications but also voluntary ratings such as BREEAM, WELL Building Standard, Design for Performance, ISO Certification, SKA, FitWel and WiredScore.