Buying and moving into a new building that has been specially designed for the client's use should be a fantastic experience. But that is not always the case; often there is a gap between the client’s expectations and the performance of the asset that is delivered. In order to address this issue, the Government of the United Kingdom developed the Government Soft Landings (GSL).
GSL is distinctly different from the more traditional form of soft landings, although it is based on some of its key principles. It is an approach that aligns the interests of design and construction with those of operational asset management and the built asset’s ultimate purpose.
The building process is just a small part of a much bigger picture, but it has a huge influence on how we are able to live our lives. This is the reason why it’s so important to get it right and to consider the long term goal we are trying to achieve with a particular project right from the outset.
The GSL process starts “before the beginning”, when an organisation identifies a need that could be addressed by a construction or civil engineering project. It requires the desired outcomes, measures of success and the user or operator’s needs to be clearly defined from the outset. The design and construction of the asset, a number of key measures and the asset’s operations are then considered at every stage of the project's lifecycle.
After completion, the process of monitoring and evaluation is formalised in the first of the three Post Occupancy Evaluations (POEs), which takes place one year after the project’s completion. This is followed by a second POE after one year; the final POE takes place three years into the asset’s operation. The process ensures that actual performance data is collated and compared against the planned targets. The outcomes of all the POEs can then be used as feedback to benefit future projects.
To emphasise the importance of key steps, the UK Government identifies a ‘Golden Thread’ that must run through the process. That requires:
- Early engagement of end users with a strong focus on commissioning, handover and training.
- The appointment of a Government Soft Landings Champion.
- The setting of clear environmental, social and economic targets and measures.
- Annual POEs for three years after occupation.
The alignment of different objectives under the GSL approach means that the needs of the end user are considered and addressed throughout the design process. Designers and contractors become involved with the building beyond its completion, ensuring that handover is smooth and operators are well trained. Optimum performance becomes the focus of the whole team.
A Government Soft Landing means that clients get an asset that truly supports their desired business outcomes, because that is everyone’s focus right from day one.
Implementing the GSL approach certainly requires better planning and integrity in the project process but that doesn’t mean more work or increased costs. In fact using GSL effectively will save clients money as their assets perform at their optimum level more quickly.