The recent ‘Contemporary and Soft Landings for Hard Service Providers’ conference at the Institute of Directors highlighted that the industry must deliver buildings in a better and more sustainable way than it has previously.
Over 60 delegates from the facilities industry came together to discuss Soft Landings and the new BMS (Building Management Systems) technologies at the Institute of Directors in London on 30 October. The event, organised by Cavara Training, was supported by the Association of Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) and chaired by Ashley Bateson who is also the chair of ACE’s sustainability group.
Cavara Training’s Lizzie Phillips gives an overview of this highly topical conference.
The UK government wants all centrally funded projects to be BIM (Building Information Modelling) Level 2 by 2016. Soft Landings, it says, should also be part of this implementation.
There is a broad consensus that buildings in operation do not perform as well as they could. The term ‘Soft Landings’ refers to a strategy to ensure the transition from design and construction through to occupation is ‘bump-free’ and that the building’s operational performance is optimised. Soft Landings ensures designers and constructors stay involved with buildings beyond practical completion to help fine-tune and de-bug the systems, and ensure the occupiers understand how to control and best use their buildings.
The government has created its own form of soft landings called Government Soft landings, which takes the soft landings process further in terms of delivering the optimum cost, value and carbon performance of the asset and seeks to involve designers, constructors and operators at the very earliest stage of the design process.
At the conference, it was agreed that whilst Soft Landings has been well documented – for example, BSRIA’s Framework clearly sets out a good approach and there is the more recent TM54 from CIBSE – it hasn’t yet been fully supported by the industry.
So why bother with Soft Landings? Steve Allen from Cavendish Engineers, the first speaker at the conference, believes the ultimate aim of Soft Landings is to ‘provide better client value’. By providing an operationally-optimised building, we reduce the likelihood of things going wrong. This is ultimately better for the tenants too as they won’t be coming into a building with existing problems which needs money spent on it.
Unfortunately, there is often conflict between contractors and clients. Low and zero carbon technologies seem to be an afterthought. Though they may be mentioned in building regulations, they are often forgotten in Soft Landings.
There was also agreement that there is currently a danger that many buildings may be over-engineered. This sparked some debate as to whether it was the designer who should be held most responsible for selecting the right equipment and achieving optimal operating costs.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a collaborative way of working, underpinned by the digital technologies which unlock more efficient methods of designing, creating and maintaining our assets. BIM embeds key product and asset data and a three-dimensional computer model that can be used for effective management of information throughout a project lifecycle – from earliest concept through to operation.
Whilst BIM is a great tool, the conference highlighted that smaller businesses and some smaller councils and government departments are restricted in their use of BIM due to its high implementation costs. It is estimated that, once you have taken into account training and software expenses, BIM costs £10,000 per user.
There were several questions around the expenditure and education required, especially in a recession, against the longer-term savings achieved. Ashley Bateson commented that ‘sustainability gets sacrificed in a recession. People who make capital cost decisions don’t have to live with the buildings that they are procuring and they may not be incentivised to think about end users.’
The biggest problem highlighted during the conference seemed to be the knowledge gap existing between designers and client contractors and technicians and BMS operators. There needs to be a better understanding amongst all parties. Clients also need to be encouraged to use Soft Landings.
Only four per cent of designers are using BIM, let alone Soft Landings, so it was refreshing to see that there were members of the audience already adopting a Soft Landings approach. These included UBS who shared their experience of using it: they have set up their own Soft Landings group – which has been running for nine months now – for their new Broadgate Development, due for completion in 2016.
With the UK’s St Jude storm playing havoc in the same week as the conference, the speeches from Nick Clark of BMS company, Point, and Steve Harris from Schneider on BMS technology and the Cloud seemed especially relevant. Technology is now available which allows both operators and clients to monitor and manage their BMS at a touch of button through dedicated apps.
This technological advance enables better planning and more forward thinking for the facilities manager. Clark gave an example of where the FM could monitor heating before arriving at the building on a Monday morning and thereby reduce the amount of reactive maintenance needed.
The conference came to a close at 12:15pm with a question and answer session. The message from the day was clear: proactive thinking – which ultimately helps all parties and creates better value for the client – rather than reactive thinking is required in the industry.