GN11.1: Building User Guide

Guidance Note purpose 

The purpose of this Guidance Note is to provide asset managers, property managers and facilities managers with information relating to the preparation of a Building User Guide. 

Context 

A Building User Guide is a pack of information which provides occupants and visitors to a building with a quick and simple way to locate general information regarding the operation of the building. 

A Building User Guide should provide a level of detail appropriate for the individuals that occupy or otherwise use a property.  Technical details that may be more relevant to individuals running or managing a property should be included in the building manual.  

Importance 

Building User Guides provide an opportunity for an asset or property manager to set out their intentions for how the building should be used and to communicate the processes that are in place to achieve that aim. 

A Building User Guide is particularly important in the context of sustainability.  As occupiers interact with the building on a day-to-day basis, their awareness of a property’s design intentions, policies and process is necessary to improve the operational efficiency and quality of the internal environment. 

As a Building User Guide may be the first form of interaction between occupiers and a property, including information on its sustainability features and design considerations can set the sustainability tone and expectations for a property’s occupation.  This can help to: 

  • Demonstrate as asset manager’s commitment to sustainability. 
  • Contextualise how a property manager integrates sustainability into the operation of a property.   
  • Inform occupiers how they can engage with the wider building team on sustainability.  
  • Generate collaborative working between asset, property and facilities managers and occupiers to effectively reduce the environmental impact of the built environment. 

Responsibilities & Interests

The table below summarises the key activities associated with A Building User Guide, and highlights where asset managers, property managers and facilities managers are likely to have a responsibility or specific interest. 

  • AM - Asset Manager
  • PM - Property Manager
  • FM - Facilities Manager

Step 1: Hold a kick-off meeting  

Stakeholder:

Step 2: Scope the sections of the Building User Guide 

Stakeholder:

Step 3: Draft, agree and design the content  

Stakeholder:

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How to

Intro

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Usually, the preparation of a Building User Guide is coordinated by the property manager with input from the asset manager and facilities manager.  The development of a Building User Guide should be informed by the following steps: 

Step 1: Hold a kick-off meeting

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It is important that an asset manager and property manager hold an initial meeting to discuss how a Building user Guide should look and to set the parameters for what it should contain.  This will help to ensure that the Building User Guide meets the asset manager’s requirements, for example: 

  • Highlighting key property attributes. 
  • Agreeing high level content. 
  • Setting the document format style. 
  • Scoping final design preferences. 

Step 2: Scope the sections of the Building User Guide

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Based on the high-level content preferences agreed with an asset manager, a property manager and facilities manager should work together to scope the detailed sections. These may include: 

Introduction/Welcome 

An introductory statement to welcome occupiers to the building, the asset manager, property manager and facilities managers, and including appropriate contact details. 

Philosophy/Mission Statement: 

A description of the sustainability ambition for the property or portfolio. This may not be relevant for every property, however certain properties or asset managers may have a particular vision that it would be useful to communicate to occupiers.  

Overview of the Building and its Environmental Strategy: 

This should highlight points including, for example: 

  • The measures in place to reduce the environmental impact of the property. 
  • The processes used to monitor and report the performance of the building. 
  • Particular design features aimed at improving the performance of the building. 
  • Any environmental certifications that the building has achieved. 
  • Whether there are any performance targets that are required to be met. 

For new or recently refurbished properties, it may also be useful to provide an overview of the design criteria and specification. 

Overview of the Building Services 

This should include a list of the building services and facilities that are provided and maintained as part of the service charge.  The areas covered by the service charge and basis of calculation, along with a definition of occupier demised areas, should also be described. 

It would also be beneficial to also include contact for occupiers to use should they need to report any issues with the facilities or services.  

Occupier Engagement 

This should include information about how the property and facilities managers would like to engage with occupiers on a regular and reactive basis. This could include, for example, information about: 

  • Regular occupier meetings. 
  • Digital occupier portals. 
  • Apps. 
  • How to arrange one-to-one meetings. 

If there is an occupier sustainability forum for the building, these should be included within this section, including how occupiers can get involved.  

If relevant, this section could also include an outline of occupier responsibilities and expectations, such as, for example: 

  • Tenant contacts for facilities management. 
  • Accounts and building contacts. 

Fit-Out, re-fit and refurbishment arrangements 

This section should include reference to the relevant fit-out guide in relation to any tenant alterations or fit out works. 

The information: 

  • Should not be too technical and should refer readers to the fit-out guide, and the operation and maintenance manuals. 
  • Should provide an overview of the maintenance programme for the building, as well as considerations for re-fitting/refurbishment, such as location of services, load bearing walls and access arrangement. 

Location and Access 

This section should identify the main access points, transport connections and car/cycle parking arrangements.  Facilities to promote low carbon transport, such as electric vehicle chargers, car share schemes, local walking, running and cycling routes, and cycle amenities, for example, should also be described.  

Health and Safety 

This section should include information on the health, safety and environment procedures for the building.  This should highlight key documents, such as fire strategy, fire risk assessment, asbestos management plan, and water managements.  Tenant contractor arrangements, access regulations, and restrictions should also be referenced. 

The statutory documentation which property managers require to updated regularly by occupiers, such as their own fire risk assessments and air conditioning certificates should also be highlighted. 

Step 3: Draft, agree and design the content

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A property manager should co-ordinate the process of preparing content for each section of the Building User Guide. Considerations should include: 

  • Keep the document simple, easy to read and navigate. 
  • Avoid including technical information that is better suited to a building manual. 
  • Ensure that the content is relevant, easy to read, and succinct. 
  • Don’t include too much block text as it can deter people from engaging with the content. 
  • Signpost information throughout the document using section headings. 
  • Keep the document brief but ensure all required topics are covered. 
  • Make the document available both physically and digitally, and make sure it is stored somewhere that is easily locatable, for example, building reception, tenant portal. 

It is important that a property manager provides an asset manager with the opportunity to review the draft content of a Building User Guide. The final draft of the document should be designed in line with the preferred style in advance of distribution to occupiers and other building users. 

Related Guidance Notes 

The following Guidance Notes contain related information: 

Additional Resources