BIM Soft Landings

In the space industry a “soft landing” is defined as a controlled landing of a spacecraft during which no serious damage is incurred.

In the AEC industry a soft landing is a gradual and planned handover to make sure the building performs as expected as soon as possible

Space and construction are both conservative industries. Soft landings are about to revolutionize at least one of them...

A tale of two industries

Space - By totally reinventing how space rockets are designed, built and operated SpaceX have already reduced the cost of space launches to a quarter of what competitors are offering.

They do not stop there however. The successful soft landing on a barge in april 2016 marks the start of a new era. By being able to reuse a large part of their rockets another 30% cost cuts are expected. Replacing disposable rockets with reusable ones is a big deal.

AEC - In the AEC industry digital processes like BIM have paved the way for productivity improvements. It has given us a platform with the potential to reinvent how we work together. Big cuts in capital and operational costs are promised. I feel however that our “barge landing moment” still lies ahead.

Soft landings is a methodology that can go hand in hand with BIM to dramatically improve the performance of current and future assets. Soft landings aims to fix the issues and waste we have come to accept in AEC. Instead of traditional fire-and-forget project deliveries this methodology aims to “soften the blow” of handover to maximise value and minimize waste.

As with space this is hard work and it requires a dogged pursuit by visionary owners. If not, BIM will only mean we crash harder and burn faster.

What are soft landings in AEC

The term “soft landing” in AEC is mainly a British term. However we see similar initiatives across the globe (we will cover some of those later).

The original Soft Landings Framework is an open-source procedure co-authored by BSRIA and the Usable Buildings Trust. The framework offers guidance for both new build and refurbishment projects. As mentioned at its core it represents a gradual handover. What do we mean by gradual?

Firstly we mean a period of professional aftercare post completion by the project team. It also mean that the handover process do not start when the project is nearing its end. The process rather start at the initialization of the project. Optimal operation and use are made possible by detailed planning and user and operator involvement from the project inception onwards.

In other words - Users and operators help designers design the buildings they need. The project team help end users operate and use buildings according to design intent.

The UK BIM task group have expanded on the idea and included a version called Government Soft Landings (GSL) that integrate with the rest of the UK BIM level 2 initiative. Government soft landings is only mandatory for projects procured by central government in the UK. However - as with the rest of the level 2 documentation - the methodology is available for the world to download to inform their contracts and practises.

Key items from the soft landings methodology has also been included into the 2013 version of the RIBA plan of work. Stage 0 - Strategic Definition - includes the task “Review Feedback from previous projects”. Stage 7 - In Use - includes the tasks : “Post-occupancy Evaluation” & “Review of Project Outcomes”. The traditionally linear construction process are now circular, allowing for continuous improvement.

Why use the Soft Landings methodology

Soft Landings have been developed to address the problem of construction customers not getting the assets and outcomes they asked for. Soft Landings is a cradle-to-operation project process which enables designers and constructors to focus more on operational performance outcomes.

Correctly used it should reduce tensions and frustrations that often occur during initial occupancy. Operational readiness will happen earlier and the ongoing performance of the asset should be better and in line with the design.

Improvements are not just connected to achieving technical compliance, but also quality of work environment, resource efficiency and general well being

Improvements are not limited to single projects or single assets either. The methodology enables a feedback loop with a virtuous circle where you take learnings from one project/ asset and improve the next

Soft landings in five key phases of the project lifecycle

A key factor of the Soft Landings process is maintaining a “Golden Thread” of design intent and purpose from the start through to the operation of the asset. To achieve this the soft landings methodology have some key tasks and goals connected to five key phases of the project lifecycle. It is important to start from the inception and not look on Soft Landings as a “handover framework” only. The interdependence between the stages are also key to understand. Below are a summary of tasks and focus areas for each of the key phases according to the framework.

  • Inception and briefing
  • Identify key personnel and roles
  • Start with the end in mind - focus on outcomes and then how to get there
  • Design development and review
  • Help end users understand what they are getting and be open for feedback
  • Involve users, managers and operators into the BIM loop
  • Let facility managers and operations people test run the building as soon as possible
  • Map and plan every commissioning process - who, when and why
  • Pre-handover
  • Involve the operations team in the commissioning process
  • Digitize the process - use mobile devices with commissioning software
  • Focus on delivering a fully operational building
  • Gradually deliver a fully populated asset database with maintenance and inspection regimes
  • Create and test user guides - both to operations team and end users
  • Provide extensive training - assure that the managers and operators of the building know how systems work and that they can track performance
  • Initial aftercare
  • Project team should be located in the building to see its use first hand and be available for users and operators
  • Provide knowledge transfer and day to day assistance - users and operators should be informed about design intent
  • Help tune systems and let the building “settle in”
  • Extended aftercare & POE years 1 to 3
  • Regular user meetings to review building performance and comfort
  • Observe building in use - take feedback into other projects
  • Quarterly visits first year
  • Bi annual remaining two years
  • Energy monitoring
  • Post occupancy evaluation including occupants satisfaction surveys

Soft landings and BIM

Soft Landings provide a theoretical platform for integrating the many current initiatives that aim to produce more efficient and functional buildings, such as energy performance certification, environmental labelling, building performance evaluation and occupant satisfaction surveys. It aims to improve both quantitative and qualitative (health and wellbeing) building performance metrics.

BIM is both a collaborative process and a technical platform for information exchange for bridging gaps between phases and disciplines in the AEC and FM industries. As such Soft Landings and BIM are complementary initiatives. The soft landing (operational building) is the outcome. BIM is the engine to help you get there.

A common BIM structure that captures requirements and history across the whole lifecycle should be established at the project inception. openBIM processes using the buildingSMART data model ensures free flow of information and interoperability.

The virtual model can be used by users and operators to simulate and test use and operations in a 3D fully immersive environment. The same way designers check for design clashes they should check for operational clashes.

During product install the model should be used to capture commissioning data. Handing over models early will let the operators test run operations, plan for maintenance and validate the required information.

Export IFC and COBie data during pre-handover. Do test runs and approve handover data along the way

During commissioning and pre-handover the project team and the operational team can use use model together to support familiarisation, training and simulation

During extended aftercare the designers can be invited into the owner/ operators BIM based FM system and work alongside the operational team. The familiar shared environment will be used to fix initial issues, achieve design capacity and capture lessons learned for next projects.

During use all occupant complaints and operational issues should be logged to the asset information model and used to resolve issues, track history and debrief in occupant meetings.

Keep the list of occupants complaints, operational issues and POE data stored in the asset information model in a common BIM structure. Use it for for project benchmarking and lessons learned for the next projects.

Ensure key performance metrics for building operations and user well being are exposed and aggregated across the building portfolio for top management.

Looking ahead

As promised we will continue to share our thoughts and plans for integrating Soft Landings into openBIM workflows, and also evaluate alternative frameworks and initiatives. We will also share how we plan to build capabilities into to the Areo platform to support those initiatives.

In the meantime - what do you think? Do BIM and Soft Landings go hand in hand. Do you have experience implementing any of the frameworks? Please share your thoughts and experiences below.

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