Soft Landings Champions - what you need to know
Soft Landings Champions are both the fuel and the glue on a Soft Landings project. There should be at least two Champions – one on the client side and one on the project team side – whose job it is to ensure Soft Landings activities are carried out and that nothing happens to compromise the building’s performance ambitions.
Read more about the help and advice BSRIA can give Soft Landings Champions, BSRIA's Soft Landings Network to learn from the experience of others and Soft Landings Level 1 training course for the basics of Soft Landings and its benefits to building projects.
Soft Landings Champions are the fuel in that they provide motive force to make sure Soft Landings is actually applied, not just paid lip service. Ideally they should be people who will be closely involved on the project all the way through: the client’s project manager for example, and the project architect or lead design engineer.
Soft Landings Champions also act as the glue for procurement processes that tend to be inherently fragmented, particularly on 2-stage design and build projects characterised by major sub-contract packages and design novation. Increasingly, critical design details are being delegated to specialist sub-contractors, which might also occur late in the project. The Soft Landings Champions need to keep an eye on such critical details, particularly when those details are crucial to the building’s subsequent in-use performance.
Soft Landings championing is not a job in itself – it’s a hat that people wear. A person’s suitability to wear that hat depends on ability and aptitude, communication skills, and enthusiasm for the role, rather than their seniority or level of authority. That said, they do need to be in positions of influence, and closely involved in project decision making. It would be no use choosing people on the periphery.
Even with the best will in the world people come and go, particularly on large projects that might take two or three years to run. There should be some idea of succession planning for the Champions on both sides of the contractual fence – some form of shadowing might be appropriate.
Furthermore, enthusiasm is not inexhaustible, particularly on construction projects. It will naturally wane, and clients might be minded to leave everything up to the main contractor once appointed. Turning their back on Soft Landings would be a grave client error, but it can happen. One way to manage the risk is for the Soft Landings Champions to agree a series of Soft Landings re-engagement events, possibly at key project gateways (defined by the stages of the RIBA Plan of Work), and/or at conclusion of significant project phases where achievement can be celebrated and the next phase kicked-off with appropriate fanfare.
Soft Landings beings applied at The University of East Anglia
In many ways working on a construction projects is an exercise in plate-spinning. There will be times when the Champions will be overwhelmed with work. It may be appropriate for the project team to appoint a Soft Landings administrator who can handle the paperwork and communications generated by Soft Landings activities. On a Building Information Management (BIM) project this might also involve ensuring the right documents and data generated by Soft Landings activities – such as the outputs of reality checking – find their way into the correct area of the BIM model for future reference.
There is no right way or wrong way to be a Soft Landings Champion. What matters is a strong level of belief in the process and a commitment to carry it out. The Champions aren’t a post-box or pack-horse for other peoples’ problems and responsibilities. The Champions are there to observe progress, remind people of their roles, and together to bring the project back on track when it begins to wander or lose momentum.
BSRIA’s Soft Landings Network has a wealth of experience available to help project teams and their Champions know what to do and how to do it. Membership involves a modest subscription and gives members access to Soft Landings practitioners and tools and methods that are being tested on real projects. Publications like BG45/2014 How To Procure Soft Landings (see Soft Landings free guidance page) also contain more detailed advice on Soft Landings championing.