This article explains Government Soft Landings from the point of view of change management, move management and office relocation, particularly in the public sector.
Why do you need to land softly?
Have you worked on a multi-million pound building project for your employers only to find within the first few months of occupation that the building does not have the functionality to meet the organisation’s business requirements? I am certain there will be many of you that have witnessed this over the years.
I have myself experienced this first hand as I have had the pleasure of delivering some of the UK’s most prestigious relocation projects over the past 17 years, where I have seen millions of pounds spent on getting the look and the feel of the new building correct but sadly at the detriment of the what the business needs to support them in their evolution.
“So why didn’t you speak up”, I hear you say? Well I did. My views were often listened to but sadly overruled, with
Responses such as:
“Why would we give up the (palatial) 20 person meeting rooms for smaller more flexible rooms?” After all where will hold the regional quarterly meeting?
“Why should we provide casual meeting space on each floor, when they can use the restaurant?”
“Storage cupboards on the floor plate will just clutter the design of the space, we are a media company we don’t do paper!”
“Every member of staff needs a dedicated desk position, agile working will not and cannot work for us!”
“The necessity for abseiling window cleaners for the atrium, ceiling and windows is an essential cost to create the right first impression for our visiting clients!”
These are just a few of the responses I have heard over the years, but fortunately this way of thinking was more common in the 90’s and our profession has come a long way since then. Real Estate professionals today understand that the overall aesthetic needs come secondary to the functionality of the building, but if you can achieve both with clever design then you’re onto a winner!
So what is Government Soft Landings?
So what has all this got to do with Government Soft Landings (GSL), and “what is GSL anyway” I hear you say?
You’ll be pleased to hear that the term ‘soft landings’ refers to a new government strategy that will become mandatory in the public sector in 2016 to ensure the transition from construction to occupation is ‘bump-free’ and that operational performance is optimised. As I see it the initiative has come about to eradicate the building of “trophy” buildings that in operation do not perform as well as they should. In my experience there is often a significant gap between the predicted and the achieved performance that come about in part due to shortcomings in briefing, design and construction. This problem is intensified by the almost complete separation of construction and operation.
The Soft Landings Framework
The Soft Landings framework includes 5 key stages:
- Inception and briefing – 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.
- Pre-handover – 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 (POE) – Outstanding issues are resolved and Post Occupancy Evaluations are fed-back for changes to the working environment and for future projects.
The Soft Landings Framework has been set up to enable designers and contractors to improve the performance of the buildings they construct and create a forum for the staff to feedback as to what works and what doesn’t in the new space.. This is done by using undertaking measurement of a series of metrics after the building has been occupied (and on an ongoing periodic basis) to understand the performance of the building related to the organisations needs and the original brief.
So what is Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE)?
As our industry is awash with acronym’s and as POE is a relatively new industry term so I thought it would be helpful if I shared with you the definition quoted in the CIOB Building Dictionary:
Post occupancy evaluation (POE) is the process of evaluating a development to determine:
- How successful its delivery was.
- How successful the completed development is.
- Where there is potential for further improvement
- What lessons can be learned for future projects.
Post Occupancy Evaluation tools (POE) such as cost in use reviews, staff perception questionnaires and space utilisation studies are undertaken and collated shortly after completion and then periodically during the first three years of occupation to ensure the project has been successful and has delivered the desired outcomes; i.e. the building is fit for purpose for the staff, the business as a whole, and importantly the environment we live in.
What has BIM got to do with Government Soft Landings?
BIM or Building Information Modelling is the process of collecting together and collaborating on the fully integrated intelligent data set associated with a building. If a building or refurbishment is designed using BIM, construction professionals work together to help create, curate and use data during the process, and this data can be used by FM professionals during the operation of the building. BIM offers huge opportunities therefore, not only to make building construction more efficient, but to assist in ensuring exemplary levels of information are handed over to assist the correct operation of buildings.
When does it start and who needs to start implementing Government Soft Landings?
The initiative isn’t mandatory in the public sector until 2016; nevertheless it makes very good sense and there is no time like the present. There are several organisations that are early adopters of the initiative such as:
- Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
- Environment Agency
- National Measurement Office
- Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO)
Those adopting GSL have so far been organisations that are funded by public money, however many private sector clients are looking to adopt this same GSL processes – this has led RIBA to add a seventh stage to their revised “Plan of work 2013” www.ribaplanofwork.com which now includes POE. All of these organisations are at the forefront of new and improved building design and we will all learn valuable lessons from them.
Government Soft Landings (GSL) and Building Information Modelling (BIM) and RIBA “Plan of Work” all sit hand in hand with one another, these initiatives are leading the way to designing, building and operating revolutionary buildings of the future which will transform the UK construction industry by 2025.
I believe this to be an incredibly exciting time for any real estate professional, how we work, and where we work will shape the future of business and industry in the UK. Together with my colleagues at BakerStuart, I am looking forward to being a part of this significant change in how workplace projects are delivered in the future.
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