Why Soft Landings matter: closing the gap between predicted and actual building performance

Soft Landings is the framework which guides decisions throughout a construction project with the aim of ensuring that the final building closely meets the requirements of the end-user. It’s the process of determining the operational outcome of the project is as close as possible to the original design, as well as the aspirations of the client. Soft Landings also serve as an important function in enabling the end user to be fully operational in a familiar surrounding from day one. Read more about soft landings here.

It’s possible to quickly see that a diligent and targeted approach to Soft Landings is the key to a project’s success and its ability to meet expectations. However, from here we can also see that Soft Landings are hugely variable from Project Manager to Project Manager. They aren’t created equally.

To understand this and how it applies to your construction projects, it’s important to have a good understanding of why Soft Landings is crucial.

We are familiar with the concept of a construction project moving from early-stage design all the way to occupation, whereby a building goes through numerous stages. At each stage, small issues can snowball, be compounded, or overlooked. Unchecked, this is inevitable due to project size and complexity. As the project moves from stage to stage it also moves from hand to hand. Without the oversight of a Project Manager focused on transition and a “soft landing”, problems can grow. Read more about the 6 stages of soft landings here.

There are some main areas within the different stages where, from our experience, problems often arise:

  • Inception: Before a project even reaches Stage 1 there can be differences between expectations and reality based on past knowledge and experience.
  • Design: Throughout Stages 2-4 performance parameters are determined in line with regulatory compliance. However, the design stage itself is comprised of multiple phases and revisions where elements can be lost, overlooked or altered, pushing the final design away from the original intent or functionality for the end user.
  • Construction: Again, Stage 5 can be seen as multiple phases, each vulnerable to alteration. Budget constraints and technical ability are just two areas which can lead to a marked difference between intentions and reality.
  • Handover: At completion, projects are under huge pressure due to time and commercial targets, and again, without oversight, this is an area for the gap to widen between expectation and reality.
  • Occupation: Without clear handovers, the final stage widening the gap between intention and outcome occurs at occupation.

Soft Landings can be viewed on a scale of achievement. This is where it is vital to choose your project management team carefully, based on their techniques to ensure a ‘softer’ Soft Landings process.

Central to achieving a softer landing is effective and comprehensive communication throughout the project from beginning to end. This is why at HUSH we have radically transformed the way project management is done. We nominate a Project Manager for the entire duration of a project, from start to finish, so that there is individual accountability and oversight from stage to stage and phase to phase.

This can only occur when Project Managers are themselves skilled and experienced in working with construction projects from conception to occupation. When choosing your consultancy, look out for whether this occurs. With the single lead, the project transitions smoothly from stage to stage. Each and every decision is considered in light of the original intentions and measured against the outcomes.

Viewing Soft Landings in this way, it is possible to see why you need the right people on board from as early in the process as possible.

There is no avoiding the reality that the more complex a construction project, the more parties become involved and with them, ever more complexity. At each stage, you will see different teams of specialists and experts involved. With each introduction of new personnel comes the potential widening of the gap between expectation and reality. Each introduction increases the risk of divergences from the original intention.

If the Project Manager is appointed too late in the process or is working within a role based on a model of shared ownership, then these micro movements away from the original objectives can go unseen and unchecked, therefore growing and becoming more troublesome. Conversely, when the Project Manager has a single point of responsibility it is possible to ensure the final outcome matches intentions because no single divergence was allowed to grow.

The aim of a Soft Landing is that each and every decision made during the lifespan of a project is taken within the wider context of improving operational performance. This approach will ensure that the client’s expectations are met.

For this reason it is vital to draft and include a Soft Landings strategy at the earliest stage in the project’s inception. This can then be reviewed and assessed as the project progresses.

A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t suitable for achieving a soft landing. Instead, the strategy should be created with the unique and individual goals, problems and expectations of each project, client and occupier. The specific activities required to achieve a soft landing will therefore also vary from project to project, team to team and client to client.

Incorporation of a Soft Landings strategy is essential to key project decision making from budget to actions on the ground.

Ultimately, whether a soft landing has been achieved will be determined by measuring the outcome of a project against its original intentions. Therefore, the process of Soft Landings shouldn’t be considered until this measurement, and necessary adjustments have taken place. The result should be one where the value to the client is optimised and the building is operationally in line with expectations.

HUSH Project Managers are uniquely trained and experienced throughout the entire lifecycle of project management. Therefore, clients benefit from specialist knowledge and technical management without losing the effective communication and dependability which comes when a project changes hands.

Whilst each project benefits from a unique Soft Landings strategy, this is created not only from the Project Manager’s past experience but also using the Soft Landings Framework, an open-source framework created by BSRIA and UBT. This covers the dedication to a soft landing through the different stages of a project. Individual project Soft Landings strategy is also established in line with Government Soft Landings (GSL)

Choose a “softer” Soft Landing process by getting HUSH on board at the earliest possible stage. By working with us you’ll narrow the gap between intentions and final outcomes.

Send us a message