Karen Alford, BIM Project Executive at the Environment Agency outlines how the Government Soft Landings approach will deliver good asset management
Along with BIM, the Government Construction Strategy 2011 mandated Government Soft Landings (GSL) to be considered within projects from 2016. Many new or refurbished assets fail to realise the full range of expected benefits when in full operation. The cost of building a new asset is a small proportion of the total investment into ownership over its lifetime. By not sufficiently incorporating end user requirements at an early stage can impact on the ability of project case to deliver the intended benefits of any investment being made.
From next year, the demonstration of adherence to the principles of GSL will be required in centrally procured projects. This includes the Environment Agency, Ministry of Defence and Department of Energy & Climate Change among others. It is really about good asset management and aligning those who plan, design and construct assets with those who subsequently use and manage them.
At project initiation a new temporary organisation with its own processes and working practices is formed with experts in asset construction. A good project team is renowned for their delivery focus and working within tight deadlines. The demands placed on the project team to deliver mean it can be all too easy to overlook the impact on asset management and operational requirements when construction related decisions are being made. Creation or refurbishment of an existing asset is fundamental to the success and efficiency of the delivery of the asset management lifecycle. Appropriate consideration needs to be given to the operational and maintenance requirements both during the business case development and at decision points at construction. It is not a big leap but simply good asset management.
Where to start
ISO 55000 calls for alignment of operational delivery to an organisation’s strategic aims and objectives. GSL supports this by bringing end-users into the asset creation process from early stages of development planning. On an early adopter project within the Environment Agency we set about using the GSL approach to better capture both the asset requirements and the range of stakeholder requirements up front.
We started off by using the questions that can be found on the BIM Task Group website. These, by no means are a prescriptive list, but help to structure and explore the host of potential requirements from the range of stakeholders a project has to deal with. We needed a couple of round table sessions to tailor them into something appropriate for our type of assets. This was hard going at times but the project manager quickly realised how he would benefit from being able to use the final output to shape questions and gather intelligence from asset owners.
To kick start the process on the early adopter project, the project manager initiated a half day stakeholder workshop which brought together a range of stakeholders and staff who were integral to the projects successes. This included staff who would undertake the maintenance and operation of the completed asset, environmental and archaeological specialists, lawyers who would handle any legal negotiations and funding experts. The 20 attendees were divided into three groups with a set of questions to discuss and determine the outcomes they would like from the project. The three hour workshop produced comprehensive yet consolidated outputs to help shape the business case requirements. The project manager noticed a swell of enthusiasm among the participants to take on responsibility for emerging actions and initiate ideas to overcome problems. The session also led to a small contingent visiting a site to learn how an innovative passive flood asset design was working in practice. Traditionally, the project manager would have engaged with these primarily on an individual basis and this approach alone saved about two months lag in planning and engagement.
Gathering intelligence about an asset’s performance in the early years after construction is essential. Post occupancy evaluations (POE) have existed in the building world for some time but an equivalent being applied to infrastructure assets is rare. We have taken the principles of the POE to produce an asset performance evaluation (APE) for the purpose of capturing intelligence about the success of the asset in operation. The APE uses performance requirements captured within the business case as its starting point, and where possible, we aim to use performance data which is already collected to minimise any additional work.
The thrust of the Digital Build Britain strategy is to be able capture the value of built asset by using technology and data analytics to enable better planning of new infrastructure, lower the costs to operate and maintain and overall make them more efficient.
Although distinct from BIM, with its own set of deliverables, the commercial changes introduced on BIM contracts, such as the Employers Information Requirements and the introduction of structured data and information exchanges, provide a home for the GSL requirements and give them the power to be an integral part of the project decision making process. Producing this wealth of asset intelligence is one of the critical success factors in creating a Digital Built Britain.
Karen Alford FCCA
BIM Project Executive