Workspace Collaborates on Soft Landings at Brickfields

02/06/2020

As part of its dedication to giving customers perfect working environments, Workspace trialled a bespoke Soft Landings approach at one of its newest developments, Brickfields in Hoxton. This smoothed the transition from design and construction, through to operational performance for customers. A three-year aftercare process is now set to close the gap between predicted and actual building performance, maximising efficiency, reducing energy costs and cutting carbon.

Increasing collaboration between teams

Actioning improvements before handover

Delivering better buildings for customers

Sharing best practice for future centres

Situation

As a leading commercial property company in London, Workspace provides office, studio and industrial space for thousands of businesses in the capital. Brickfields is a new-build business centre that houses 5,000m2 of high specification office space over five floors. The project team included architects Witherford Watson Mann, mechanical and electrical (M&E) contractor Max Fordham and main contractor HG Construction.

Soft Landings is a BSRIA-led building delivery process that runs from inception to completion and beyond, to ensure all decisions are based on improving the building’s operational performance. By using this process to increase collaboration between the design, construction and facilities management teams, Workspace aimed to:

  • Minimise operational issues before handover.
  • Close potential gaps between predicted and actual building performance (the performance gap).
  • Share best practice to improve the design, construction and commissioning of other centres.

Actions

Engaging closely with Workspace, Max Fordham took the Soft Landings Framework BG 54 and tailored it. This bespoke framework separates the process into five phases: pre-handover, first six months post-handover, first year, first two years and first three years. It then details actions for each phase, outlining the scope of assessments and identifying an initiator and participants for every action.

Workspace’s Development Manager advocated the Soft Landings process to the whole project team, showing senior support. Requirements were then written into the project specification and contracts. This meant the main contractor and subcontractors allowed time for their teams to attend Soft Landings meetings and site visits.

The process involved:

  • Initial meetings and briefings, bringing together the architect, M&E contractor, main contractor, Project Manager and Portfolio Manager to nurture a collaborative approach. Additional meetings were also scheduled in at key stages of construction, involving subcontractors as needed.
  • Site visits and ‘walk arounds’ during construction and commissioning. These allowed Workspace’s facilities management (FM) team to give much earlier input to the project team than would be usual, highlighting potential issues before handover and advising what works best in practice.
  • Before handover, the FM team received building management system (BMS) training and the design, engineering and construction teams revisited the site to identify and respond to any emerging issues. The M&E contractor also received remote access to the BMS to monitor performance in operation.
  • During occupancy, a three-year aftercare procedure gives the FM team the chance to provide updates on building performance to the design and construction teams. This is designed to identify opportunities to close the performance gap, so the building operates as efficiently as intended. It also provides a mechanism for the FM team to provide further feedback to Workspace’s design partners for future centres.
  • In addition, Workspace and Max Fordham sought customer feedback on how things were working for them in the building and what could be improved. This identified a range of improvement opportunities that were actioned where possible and shared for new centres. Examples include:
    • Adjusting how long lighting remains on after being triggered by motion sensors.
    • Changing sound system settings, so different music can be played in corridors, reception and other areas.
    • Giving customers greater control over air conditioning in some areas.
    • Incorporating phone booths in new centres, for private calls and quiet working.

Workspace and its design and construction partners are already putting the lessons learnt at Brickfields into practice in other new centres, from tighter noise specifications for air conditioning units to zoned lighting systems. Workspace is also looking at rolling out its tailored Soft Landings framework to other projects.

Financial

Soft Landings represented around 4% of project costs and delivered an improved working environment for customers. The building will also be easier and more efficient to operate, generating ongoing savings for energy in particular. In addition, there were time savings during commissioning and handover, as the FM team was already familiar with building systems.

Benefits

Increased collaboration between the design, construction and FM teams led to a building that performs better:

  • Design and construction teams understand operational issues, so they can address them before they arise and take these insights to future projects. They also provided useful input to the FM team on how things should run.
  • The FM team understands the building from day one, so they can operate it efficiently and effectively for customers.
  • Customers have a better experience from the start, as they are moving into a working environment where there are likely to be fewer operational issues.

The aftercare process over the first three years should also close any gap between predicted and actual building performance, maximising efficiency, reducing energy costs and cutting carbon emissions.

Peter Creaney of Max Fordham: “The more contact you have with people who interact with the things you design, the better. At Brickfields, we spoke to a number of occupiers about how they interact with the building, which was very useful. As designers, we think a lot about all the possible permutations and then, of course, the first person you speak to has a new one! With a repeat client like Workspace, you can use that feedback straightaway to improve the next centre, which is invaluable, giving the client a better building for their customers. We would advocate Soft Landings or a similar collaborative approach on every project.

Challenges & Achievements

BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE

How to move people from a contractual mindset to a collaborative approach?

For team members who have not been involved in Soft Landings before, it can take time to understand that the process is totally different to the usual ‘defects’ approach at handover. Whereas defects meetings only look at what is not delivered to the specification, Soft Landings is a collaborative approach to make a building work better for customers and FM teams. It is important that it’s not seen as a mechanism for clients to change their mind and load extra expenses onto contractors. This is not the case, as any changes beyond the specification can be treated as costed variations. For instance, at Brickfields, the FM team highlighted that the roof access hatch was difficult to open from the top of a ladder and that adjustments to the structure would make this much easier. The contractor was then able to action this costed variation while still working on the project. This would not have been picked up through the usual defects approach and, after handover, it would have been a much more expensive job. The design partner also noted it for future projects. Max Fordham led the Soft Landings meetings for Workspace, with their specification knowledge proving useful in classifying actions as either related to the current contract or variations.

“The whole project team worked collaboratively to trial our bespoke Soft Landings framework at Brickfields in Hoxton. The result is a great working environment for customers and an operationally efficient building. We are already incorporating lessons learnt at Brickfields into the design of other centres.”

Alia Hashem of Workspace