A new tool launched by the Construction Innovation Hub aims to help local authorities transform how they design, build and use their buildings digitally
Unveiled on 13 May, the Local Authority Government Soft Landings (GSL) Interactive Navigator has been developed by the Construction Innovation Hub in collaboration with the National Association of Construction Frameworks (NACF) and the Local Government Association (LGA) to help councils get the most out of their buildings and estates.
The original Soft Landings framework was developed by BSRIA and the Usable Buildings Trust to ensure a smooth transition between design and construction teams and a building’s end users, and to help address the widespread “performance gap” – the difference between the intended design and the actual operational outcomes.
The performance gap can emerge at any stage of a project, for example at design, where specific performance targets are set and regulatory compliance met but are not revisited or checked during detailed design, or during construction where budget issues or variations in technical systems change how a building is used. It can also emerge during handover, when training for end users is rushed or dropped altogether.
Soft Landings sets out a six-phase process to avoid these pitfalls:
- Inception and briefing: Establishes client requirements and defines successful outcomes. It also commits those joining the design and construction team to follow through after handover.
- Design: Review comparable projects and detail how the building will work from the point of view of the manager and individual user. Agreeing an energy strategy and approach to commissioning, ensuring they are discussed regularly and are covered in relevant tenders. Review proposed systems for usability and maintainability, and reality-check the actual installed products.
- Construction: Being fully aware of the project’s success criteria. Facilities manager and end users’ representatives are much more closely involved in the project, especially in decisions that will affect the operation and management of the finished building.
- Pre-handover: Graduated handover enables operators to spend more time on understanding interfaces and systems before occupation. Revisit the outputs from earlier reality-checking decisions and ensure the suggested actions are in place. Ensure the building management system is set up the way the client intended – energy data reconciliation and data storage, and the energy monitoring software. Also ensure the metering is working properly and will deliver real insights into energy use.
- Initial aftercare: The project team are resident on site for a period of time to spot emerging problems and issues. Go walkabout regularly and chat to people, find out how systems are operating and whether they meet occupants’ expectations and actual requirements. Adjust where necessary and report back. Help the asset managers understand what they’ve inherited. Measure and monitor – but don’t rush to judgement.
- Years 1-3 extended aftercare and post-occupancy evaluation (POE): Aftercare reviews take place – monthly to begin with, but could quickly become quarterly. Energy monitoring is set up. A systematic post-occupancy evaluation should take place no sooner than 12 months post-handover, repeated at 12-month intervals and culminating in a final project review at month 36.
Government Soft Landings
The Cabinet Office, working with the Government Property Unit, developed Government Soft Landings (GSL) to integrate design and construction with whole-life operation, maintaining the “golden thread” of information, on central government department projects.
Since 2016, all centrally funded projects have been required to comply with Government Soft Landings as part of the public sector’s adoption of BIM. Local authorities can also require GSL on their projects if they wish.
The Local Authority Government Soft Landings Interactive Navigator has been developed to provide a “process map” to help local authorities practically apply GSL to their projects.
The tool was previewed during a webinar introducing the Construction Innovation Hub’s support for local authorities during UK Construction Week on 23 March.
Launching the new tool, David Philip, the Construction Innovation Hub’s digital impact director, said: “Government Soft Landings is all about a focus on the long-term use and performance of an asset, which is especially important for local councils, who manage a complex portfolio of buildings and assets, and have to consider value for money for the taxpayer, as well as delivering on their commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
“GSL is fundamental to maintaining the ‘golden thread’ of a facility’s purpose by aligning the interests of those who commission, design and construct an asset with those who use and maintain it. The approach supports greater collaborative work, best practice and shared learnings throughout the supply chain, so all partners embrace a whole-life mindset and are working to a shared goal of putting people’s needs at the heart of construction.
“Whole-life value is at the heart of these projects and at the very core of the Government Soft Landings approach as its guidance puts the end user at the heart of the planning, design and construction process.”
Keith Heard, chair of NACF, said: “The need to improve the value offered by our construction activities is a key objective of the Local Government Soft Landings strategy. GSL can help to transform the briefing design, construction and handover process to maintain a ‘golden thread’ of a public building or facility’s purpose and also enables structured monitoring of performance standards during delivery and facility operation. This interactive process map will help you to practically apply GSL on your project.”
The GSL navigator is supported by a suite of tools developed by the Local Authorities Working Group to enable digital transformation in local authorities. Find out more about the BIM Early Steps Roadmap and other tools for local authorities at www.cdbb.cam.ac.uk/localauthorities.
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