Soft Landings for a building is a bit like the expectations you have when buying a new car.
Performance is likely to be top of your list along with efficient fuel consumption and it needs to be ready to go when you drive it off the forecourt.
The same principles are behind the process of Soft Landings for a building. It is to create a delivery of a building that performs better and more efficiently and is ready to go when the occupant moves in.
The whole process needs to start at the beginning of the project and continues for 36 months after the building handover. It involves both designers and building contractors working in collaboration, to look at what the client will need from the building right at the beginning of the process. At the early design stage, performance targets will need to be set for the building’s design, for example with the use of energy, and methods devised for checking them.
Both you and your building contractor's aim throughout the progress of the project is to give more emphasis on the end user so that the building functions in accordance with their needs. The handover needs to take place when all functions are operationally ready and meet the needs of the client or user’s requirements.
A substantial benefit of using the principles of Soft Landings is that it helps to reduce the frustrations and difficulties that often are apparent during the first few weeks of the client moving into the new or refurbished home.
It also enables the client to get the best out of their new home by fully understanding all the functions within the building. In an age of advancing technology, systems and functions are becoming more sophisticated. So, an opportunity to gain a better knowledge of the working of all technologies enables the functions to be used at their optimum. However, this does mean that you need to spend more time in monitoring and evaluating the performance of the building post occupancy.
Once the project is completed and to help the client move into the building, it requires someone to be at the house during the first phase of moving in. This is where your choice of selecting a building contractor will help you to achieve a smooth handover.
For a domestic property, this may only require someone from your building contractor's team to show them how equipment works and then to check back after a few days and deal with any queries that arose. On a project with a larger number of houses or flats or a commercial building, it may require a small team to be available on the site for a few days so that everyone is informed of the functions and any issues can be resolved. This could involve both you and your building contractor.
An advantage for you as the designer of the building is that you are involved for up to three years after occupation, on a reducing basis. This gives you the opportunity to see how your design is working in reality. You can monitor the performance and fine-tune the elements which gives you valuable data for future designs.
Soft Landings was originally devised for new buildings by an architect, Mark Way in the 1990’s, and is now known as the Soft Landings Framework which is a joint initiative between BSRIA (Building Services Research and Information Association) and UBT (Usable Buildings Trust).
Following feedback from industry the original five stages have been extended to include a construction phase to strengthen the construction content:
- Initial Aftercare
- Extended Aftercare
You can improve your construction phase by selecting the right building contractor to support you throughout the project. There is a excellent guide that you can download to help you with this selection process.
There is a time commitment at each phase of the process, but the value that you gain is trust from the client that you are committed to deliver a functional building that meets their needs. As you don’t just walk away from the project at handover and you continue demonstrating good client care, it is an excellent way to get referrals from your client for future projects.