Soft Landings Framework

The Soft Landings Framework provides a unified vehicle for engaging with outcomes throughout the process of briefing, design and delivery. It dovetails with energy performance certification, building logbooks, green leases, and corporate social responsibility.

The Soft Landings Framework can run alongside any procurement process. It helps design and building teams to appreciate how buildings are used, managed and maintained. It provides the best opportunity for producing low-carbon buildings that meet their design targets. It includes fine-tuning in the early days of occupation and provides a natural route for post-occupancy evaluation. It costs very little, well within the margin of competitive bids. During design and construction, Soft Landings helps performance-related activities to be carried out more systematically. There is some extra work during the three-year aftercare period, but the costs are modest in relation to the value added to the client’s building.

Most of all, Soft Landings creates virtuous circles for all and offers the best hope for truly integrated, robust and sustainable design.

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Wednesday, 26th June 2013

Ashley Bateson, Hoare Lea

1) Most of the Soft Landings case studies seem to be for non-residential developments, e.g. office projects or educational buildings, but in principle there is no reason why Soft landings couldn't be applied to the residential sector at every stage. Indeed, there is a lot of evidence that the reasons for performance gaps occurring in commercial buildings are similar to those in modern residential developments. Examples of poorly design controls, insufficient planning for commissioning, and poor guidance provided to end-users occur across both residential and non-residential sectors. This has been shown by the research coordinated by the Zero Carbon Hub and others. It would be nice to see more examples of residential developers adopting the Soft Landings framework, so that examples of best practice could be highlighted.

2) With reference to whether Soft Landings can help reduce performance gaps, I am increasingly convinced that adopting the principles would help mitigate gaps, in both energy performance and other broader project expectations. Having done several post occupancy evaluations recently I can see that broader stakeholder engagement, better anticipation of operational issues, and better hand-over planning would reduce performance gaps. Better engagement, planning and pre-handover reviews are part of the Soft Landings framework.

3) There is potentially a lot of synergy between adopting the Soft Landings framework and adopting Passivhaus, BREEAM targets or a certain EPC targets on projects. Soft Landings provides a framework for agreeing environmental objectives, and other objectives, and sets out a methodology that aims to meet agreed outcomes. Project teams that adopt the Soft Landings approach might therefore more easily meet environmental objectives such as Passivhaus standards, BREEAM ratings or EPC targets.

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Wednesday, 26th June 2013

Julia Plaskett, Crest Nicholson

I agree with your comments on the performance gap - that it is due to a combination of factors: design performance predictive assessment tools (SAP), product substitution, construction workmanship, commissioning, quality of the testing regime etc.

It is important to note the current body of work being done around DvAB only considers the point up until handover to the customer. It does not include post-occupancy, a significant part of which is dependent on customer behaviour, much like the mpg you get out of your car is dependent on how you drive it.

Bridging the gap between the customer (occupier) and the design team is becoming ever more important. We are using what I might call a light version of SL in our projects but its not embedded into the design and procurement process. Does anyone have experience of using it in residential development? Tamsin, I am assuming your projects are commercial?

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Wednesday, 26th June 2013

Sofie Pelsmakers, UCL Energy Institute

Rod, thanks for that - encouraging read.

FM is mentioned quite a bit - and also last week by Bill Bordass and Adrian Leaman at their UCL Masterclass, stating that "good building management can be more forgiving to a bad building". This raises the question: what about smaller buildings or housing which usually do not have a Facilities Manager? Does therefore the commissioning stage and 'keeping things simple!' become even more crucial?

Would love to hear views on how to manage a building or home without FM. In a time of recession, FM is often also cut back on - I notice this at universities etc.

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Wednesday, 26th June 2013

Roderic Bunn, Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA)

Regarding this point by Sofie "4. Buildings, their use and users (and hence their expectations) change over time, presumably impacting on performance too, possibly increasing the gap again over time?"

Well, buildings might do, but generally not imperceptibly. The causes are usually obvious when one goes looking. Rarely does a fan belt fall off an AHU fan without someone noticing the consequences. There are can hidden and mysterious problems, but they are rare.

Occupant’s response to their building can be dampened by a forgiveness factor: They can tolerate any new or emerging transgressions as long as other things are still satisfied, like density, noise levels, FM support, control over environment, storage and so on. In the BUS survey’s I’ve repeated, occupant response to their building (presuming no major changes of use) seems to be stable and not capricious. This works both ways – a perceived good building remains a good building despite falls in quality (whatever they are), and similarly a perceived ‘bad’ building is actually quite hard to improve from an occupant perspective unless major changes are made. In other words, once the rot has set in, the image and perception is difficult to shift. Slight improvements - even if technically significant and possibly expensive - can go unnoticed and unappreciated if they are masked by other things: occupant density being one, unresponsive FM being another.

The role of occupants in a widening performance gap is unknown. I think people are generally forgiving and tolerant, but they will act decisively (possibly inappropriately) when their discomfort breaches a certain threshold. If that starts to happen a lot, and there is no FM support, they will take matters into their own hands, and while they might feel better, optimum performance of the building’s services might be compromised.

Rises in energy use need to be understood – more kit, change of use, more intense use, or a fall in efficiency due to control settings etc. All these things are possible and will compound, but we need to understand the breakdown before pointing an accusative finger.

A re-appraisal of the Elizabeth Fry building for example, showed no degradation of air-tightness over 14 years since the first test (a slight improvement actually, as a redundant kitchen vent had been closed off), but the occupant satisfaction had declined as the use of a space had been changed creating comfort problems in that area. This proved to me that that BUS occupant survey was a very sensitive and accurate method of analysis.

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Wednesday, 26th June 2013

Sofie Pelsmakers, UCL Energy Institute

With regards to the Performance gap and Soft landings tool, I am not sure I agree whether it would 'solve' the performance gap, though I'd expect it to reduce the gap between predicted and actual performance:

1. The performance gap as I understand it is an issue at many levels: construction faults, maintenance and management issues including building handover and commissioning, as well as technology specification & performance, energy use, comfort, health and satisfaction, usability (& control), other resource use etc . On top of that there are interactions between all of these; a 'wicked problem' if you like.

2. It is my understanding that the Soft Landings framework mostly manages stakeholder expectations and it provides a framework for stakeholder input throughout the different design and (post-) construction stages so that there is a greater likelihood that the building will be as usable as expected, reflecting stakeholder input in how the building will be used, managed and maintained. This goes some way to reducing a performance gap, however individual users still have a behavioural impact on overall energy and resource use, and it does not deal with construction faults or 'lost in translation' specifications; nor does it deal with changing context or changes in building management and implications of this on the building performance.

3. On larger projects, managing of expectations for ALL stakeholders is probably unrealistic and unheard of. We only tend to work with representatives (both client and users) rather than ALL users. A building is based on compromises between sometimes conflicting demands, and won't this ultimately affect stakeholder behaviour and building performance?

4. Buildings, their use and users (and hence their expectations) change over time, presumably impacting on performance too, possibly increasing the gap again over time?

I may be entirely wrong on this though so would like to know what others think?

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Wednesday, 26th June 2013

Sofie Pelsmakers, UCL Energy Institute

Going through the Soft Landings framework document, it is clear that early involvement is beneficial. I particularly like diagram on page 15 against (old RIBA PoW), which obviously needs adapting to the 2013 RIBA PoW.

Personally, I would also also like to see the SL Framework document to be synthesised on a few pages only --> I think it can be done but is currently too wordy. The framework text should support the design team if more info needed, but the key tasks and processes should be reduced to something much shorter and more usable in every day practice.

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Wednesday, 26th June 2013

Sofie Pelsmakers, UCL Energy Institute

I agree with Tamsin and I think this is a very good point.

On the RIBA 2013 Plan of Work:

While a step forward that the RIBA have included an 'In-Use' Workstage some 40 years after removing it, there is no mention of early involvement in the 'In-Use stage'.
(http://www.ribaplanofwork.com/PlanOfWork.aspx)

At Stage 0, Strategic Definition, there is however mention of 'Review Feedback from previous projects' in 'Suggested Key Support tasks' and at the next stage (Preparation and Brief) it says " prepare handover Strategy'; while at Concept Design it says " Maintenance and Operational Strategy and review Handover Strategy ". While in principle this is all well-intended, I fear that this is too implicit and abstract to many designers and clients unfamiliar with the idea of Soft Landings to begin with. We need something more explicit.

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Wednesday, 26th June 2013

Roderic Bunn, Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA)

It’s necessary to point out that Soft Landings is not a rating tool. It’s a process, a series of steps and activities that aim to help clients and the project teams focus on operational outcomes all the way through from project inception to use of the built asset. In a single sentence it is:

“A process for the graduated handover of a new or refurbished building, where a period of professional aftercare by the project team is a client requirement – planned for and carried out from project inception onwards – and lasting for up to three years post-completion”

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Wednesday, 26th June 2013

Tamsin Tweddell, Max Fordham

We currently have 7 projects which are associated with Soft Landings to a greater or lesser extent. The degree to which the Soft Landings Framework is applied to these projects varies widely, the main factors being the level of commitment of the client and the stage of the project that Soft Landings has been initiated.

I believe that the current perception of the industry, including clients, is that Soft Landings is about enhanced handover and aftercare, but most people are not aware that the Soft Landings Framework includes the briefing and design stages and that if Soft Landings is only initiated at handover, the benefits can be limited. One of the things we need to do as a group is to dispel this myth and to emphasise the benefits of starting Soft Landings from the very start of the project. If you start at handover, you can still fine-tune the building and support the occupants as they settle in, but you cannot ensure the design really meets their needs or manage expectations. It is also too late to get buy-in from the contractor at this stage. The "myth" is currently reinforced by the brief description BSRIA uses:
"Soft Landings means designers and constructors staying involved with buildings beyond practical completion. This will assist the client during the first months of operation and beyond, to help fine-tune and de-bug the systems, and ensure the occupiers understand how to control and best use their buildings."

For me, the key aspects of the earlier stages of Soft Landings are:
- The need to learn lessons from previous projects, in relation to design, procurement and operation.
- The need to involve the occupants and building managers in briefing and design review, as their views and experience are essential to deliver a building that operates successfully.
- The need for effective communication with all who will occupy the finished building so they know what they are getting and why: "Expectation management"
- The need to embed Soft Landings requirements into contract documents prior to tender.

I'm not quite sure whether we are supposed to be reviewing the Soft Landings Framework document specifically or the concept of Soft Landings. I think the latter is fantastic but the former has some limitations. If you have no experience of Soft Landings, then you will find it hard to implement just based on the Framework document. I would say this is similar to trying to design a building using the RIBA Plan of Works. It is just the starting point. The "Soft Landings Core Principles" were developed by the members of the BSRIA Soft Landings User Group and published by BSRIA last year. I think this is a great starting point for people new to SL - it is much more digestible than the Framework document and helps you to see the point of it and the big picture. Personally I would aim to make a SL project comply with these core principles but would not necessarily apply every element of the Framework.

Another thought: perhaps we should be promoting Soft Landings as the tool to solve the performance gap. If done well, it should tick all the boxes.

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Monday, 24th June 2013

Jon Ackroyd, Architype

At Architype we are now using 'Soft Landings' on a wide range of projects as part of our drive to bridge the performance gap between predicted and actual performance of buildings.

FYI - BSRIA are launching a procurement guide later this year to assist practices looking to include 'Soft Landings' requirements in tenders. We recommend looking out for this as we have seen a draft and it looks extremely useful for those interested in making 'Soft Landings' work in practice.

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Wednesday, 19th June 2013

Alan Jefcoat, Arup

Here are some opinions on closing the loop from the people perspective:

http://www.theengineer.co.uk/home/blog/guest-blog/building-for-people/1016173.article

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