Use of Soft Landings to support Passivhaus design and construction
Soft Landings was developed in the UK by BSRIA (the Building Services Research and Information Association) and is a detailed handover procedure that tends the responsibilities of the designers and contractors beyond the practical completion of the building. The handover of the building is considered and planned for from the very outset of the project, with continued consultation with building users throughout the construction phase. The intention is that the design team will better understand the requirements of the users and the users will better understand how the building is intended to work, so as to get the most from it (i.e. operate the building in the most energy- and cost-efficient way). The project team will remain engaged with the new building users for 3 years after occupation to help ensure the building is operating as intended. (See www.bsria.co.uk/services/design/soft-landings.)
A Soft Landings programme was developed for two recent Passivhaus school projects in the UK – Bushbury Hills and Oakmeadow Primary Schools. Both buildings were designed by Architype and built by Thomas Vale Construction within standard school budgets. The process included a series of client engagement meetings, which were held on a regular basis starting from the initial consultation and briefing meetings and continuing throughout the construction period and after the building was handed over. These meetings were used as opportunities for the client to raise issues they had with the design and their new building. This process also allowed the design team to learn from these experiences, thus amending subsequent projects. With the help of an engaged contractor the issues were then attended to as quickly as possible. Running alongside the engagement meetings, presentations to staff were organised to describe the principles behind Passivhaus and how the building was designed and most importantly how they should use the building. Simple diagrams indicating how to use the building were also left with the staff for reference. Pupil consultation was also seen as a fundamental process and as such presentations and practical engagements were completed, thus allowing the pupils to understand their new surroundings and making them aware of energy use and consumption. This process is still on going with positive reports from the clients. Interestingly most of the design changes that have been informed by the soft landings process should result in simplifications and cost reductions for future next projects. It is clear that the soft landings process is invaluable and needs to be factored into budgets. However it does rely on a having an engaged main contractor being proactive throughout the entire process.
Having followed this process, both schools are now performing largely as designed after being in operation for their first year, particularly in terms of comfort, air quality and heating demand. (For more information see www.architype.co.uk.)