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BIM, Soft Landings and GSLMay 2016

Book now on BSRIA's Soft Landings Conference 2016 - 23 June, London

Written by John Sands, Principal Consultant, BSRIA Sustainable Construction Group

Figure 1: The components of BIM Level 2

The Soft Landings process has a vital part to play in delivering effective buildings which meet the client’s needs and expectations, and simultaneously reduce the performance gap. Soft Landings introduces a series of activities spread throughout the delivery phases of a project, all aimed at maintaining the quality and intent of the project, and preparing it for handover to the client on completion. However, it also continues into the operational phase of the asset and provides a framework against which the performance of the asset can be measured to see how it compares to the original brief.

The UK Government is so convinced of the importance of Soft Landings in delivering better buildings that it has included it in its BIM Level 2 criteria (see Figure 1), in the form of GSL (Government Soft Landings).

GSL takes the principles of Soft Landings and adds metrics to enable the project outcome to be measured in a number of key areas of importance to the Government client as follows:

Figure 2: Information exchange points
  1. Functionality and Effectiveness - Buildings designed to meet the needs of the occupiers; effective, productive working environments
  2. Environmental - Meet Government performance targets in energy efficiency, water usage and waste production
  3. Facilities Management - A clear, cost efficient strategy for managing the operations of the building
  4. Commissioning, Training and Handover – Projects delivered, handed over and supported to meet the needs of the end user

The information to support many of these metrics is provided via the BIM information model, delivered through the information exchanges at the prescribed points identified in the Employer’s Information Requirements (EIR). The standard requirement is for five exchange points, identified in Figure 2.

There will be further asset-related information exchanges with the asset owner/operator, dependent on the nature and number of event triggers and asset management contracts or works.

There are other areas where BIM and Soft Landings fit hand-in-hand. The modelling techniques used for BIM provide an ideal environment for regular reality checking throughout the design process. Potential design solutions to high risk elements can be tested within the 3D modelling environment before any physical work is undertaken.

In the run up to handover, the model can also be invaluable in training facilities management personnel and maintenance staff. As well as familiarising them with the internal arrangement of the building via walk-throughs, maintenance tasks can be planned in advance and any potential issues addressed before the tasks are actually carried out for real. This can provide the time to develop safer ways of working without putting any
operatives at risk.

The information set produced when an asset is delivered is much wider than the graphical model, and should include supporting documentation which led to the final built solution, such as design reports, surveys and correspondence with the local authority about planning and operating licence conditions. Not all of this documentation is required to be available for day-to-day operation. However, it should still be accessible if more strategic or fundamental activities are to be carried out.

For daily asset operations a focused information set should be made available which also acts as the single source of information for the wider operation of the asset – any other information need should be supplied from this verified and validated data set, ensuring that decisions are made using the latest and most accurate information.

One of the aims of Soft Landings is to help close the performance gap through a managed approach to the design and construction of the building, focussed on the client’s objectives. The effectiveness of the measures adopted is assessed through the Soft Landings process by comparing the performance in use with the design values and other metrics through a series of post occupancy assessments. The data maintained within the BIM information set will act as an important source in making that judgement, with figures for metrics such as energy consumption and floor area readily available.

Figure 3: Information exchange points in GSL only

Figure 3 shows the metrics associated with Government Soft Landings, expressed at each of the project stages. The chart demonstrates the basis GSL through the definition of client needs at the outset of the project, testing the ongoing development throughout the works and then evaluating the performance of the asset during occupancy. The lessons learnt should be captured and fed into the start of the procurement process, ensuring that future assets perform as designed and closing the performance gap.

There is a natural synergy between BIM and Soft Landings. Think of it as BIM providing the data required throughout the Soft Landings process.

The performance gap and Soft Landings

Much is spoken about the performance gap in buildings – the difference between what is predicted and what is experienced in operation. Although this generally relates to energy consumption with evidence from Innovate UK BPE research suggesting many buildings use more than three times the amount of energy predicted but the term is used wherever the delivered building fails to meet the client’s expectations and includes issues such as internal air quality, comfort and staff satisfaction.

Soft Landings is the process aimed at ensuring that the client’s objectives are met and this gap in performance is closed. This is achieved through a framework which encourages greater involvement of designers and constructors with the building users and operators before, during and after handover, with an emphasis on improving operational readiness and ensuring the design intentions have been realised.

Understanding Level 2 BIM
This one day course will provide an overview of BIM and a good understanding of the Government's BIM strategy and 8 components of BIM Level 2.