Apr 16 2014

Key themes from Government Soft Landings (GSL) Conference

I recently attended the Government Soft Landings (GSL) Conference, held in the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Conference Centre in Westminster on a lovely spring day.

Government Soft Landings is essentially about ensuring the ‘golden thread’ of the use of an asset is central to the entire process of its planning and building, as well as its utilisation. By increasing project predictability, the major issue of the cost of an asset throughout its lifecycle becomes more manageable. This is important because as a proportion of the total cost of a built asset: 80% of costs reside in the duration of an asset’s built life, versus 20% in its design and construction.

soft landings imageSitting amongst a couple of hundred mostly public sector facilities managers, it was useful to hear the debates about roles and responsibilities for GSL implementation, and about the interplay of BIM with GSL.

As an industry newcomer, I listened with interest to enthusiastic and knowledgeable speakers including Debbie Rowland, the Government’s Head of Facilities Management Policy and Strategy, Geoff Purchase from BIM4FM group and Kath Montana, MD of BAM UK, among others.

A summary of my notes follow, I hope you learn something useful:

What is the relationship between BIM & GSL?

• BIM is a vehicle to enable GSL; BIM is not an end in itself.
• GSL and BIM are frameworks that work together to formalise a culture of inclusion in the construction and management of any built asset. It is achieved through a set of systems that ensure joined-up (systems) thinking.
• BIM and GSL processes are integrated using technology as the enabler and facilitator to deliver optimal use from built assets.

Goals of GSL (and BIM)?

• The UK government plan is that the transformation of the construction industry by 2025 will be a key driver of economic growth. Incremental change will not deliver the aggressive targets set: 50% faster delivery; 50% lower emissions; 33% lower costs; 50% improvement in costs.
• The aim of the combination of BIM and GSL is to embed leaner processes and new procurement models across central government departments by 2016 as a stepping stone towards the 2025 transformation goals.
• Systems thinking is a key theme – the importance of integrating facilities managers & the owner/operators throughout the PBO lifecycle – not just at the operate phase, results in better outcomes.
• BIM and GSL are processes by which the construction industry can make information based decisions, therefore realising the efficiency savings which industries such as automotive and aerospace have made since adopting such methodologies.
• Don’t panic – plenty of what is included in GSL are things that should already be done; it’s not just a whole load of new requirements being anded down from on high.

Obstacles to implementation of BIM and GSL?

• You can’t mandate for organisational culture:

Organisations must change from within to open-up and be willing to reform ingrained ways of working to result in true collaboration and a user-focus.
• How do you achieve open collaboration via existing contracts?

The current benchmark collaborative contracts including NEC3 and JCT will need considerable revision to deliver the needs of BIM. A recent Pinsent Masons survey suggests the alliancing model as a possible avenue to explore.
• A challenge of GSL is integrating non-construction job functions into construction processes from the outset:

Involving facilities managers and other users upfront may feel like ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’, whereas the benefits of early collaboration for issue avoidance is what BIM & GSL is all about.
• Software limitations:

This is an area in which CONJECT is investing heavily, to ensure that we provide our clients with integrated systems to support all phases of an asset’s lifecycle.

The upshot

It all makes perfect sense in theory, but considering the ‘we’ve been here before’ naysayers who were vocal at the GSL Conference, two questions remains in my mind. First, given there are currently no mandated dates for GSL implementation, and the simple tendency in human nature to put-off what is not urgent – what will compel the government sector to adopt the good practices involved with GSL? And secondly, as it was confidently suggested at the conference that major contractors are either using BIM processes or will soon move to it, will BIM (and therefore GSL) result in a two-tier construction market – split between those using big data, and those not?

About the author

Michelle Mason

Michelle Mason leads the UK and MEAP Marketing team, with far too many years in B2B marketing to mention. A CONJECT newbie, Michelle is eagerly climbing a steep learning curve.

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