Construction quality could be catching up with other industries

This blog was written by Lynne Ceeney, Technical Director at BSRIA

If you order steak and chips at a restaurant, but the waiter delivers hake in strips, you would be rightly annoyed. Instinctively you blame the waiter, but it could have been a problem with the ordering software, a misreading in the kitchen or just the wrong dish being picked up.  Whatever, you would send it back – it is not what you ordered.   In new buildings, this happens all the time.  Poor communication during the briefing, design and construction process, and poor handover and operation leads to a building that doesn’t deliver the performance the client thought they had ordered in the first place.  Unlike a dinner, it’s not practical to send a building back and wait for the one you asked for to be delivered.  Instead extensive snagging lists, expensive defect resolution and defensive “best we can do” fixes by the facilities team are often used to try and get the building closer to its intended performance – and “closer” is usually the best that can be achieved. The owner and occupier end up with a disappointing building, and the designers and construction company are left with a disappointed client.  The blame chain spreads, and it’s hard to pin down the fault.

The impacts run way beyond disappointment.  Occupier discomfort impacts staff retention, and the increased societal focus on wellbeing indicates that employees will expect higher standards from their place of work.  Poor commissioning or confusing controls mean building systems that don’t work properly and need constant attention or premature replacement, as the uncomfortable working conditions impact on worker productivity.  Inefficient buildings use more energy requiring more cash and causing more carbon emissions.  In fact buildings contribute 37% of UK green house gas emissions from gas heating, and consume 67% of the electricity used in the country.  It’s no wonder that larger investors are taking much more of an interest in the sustainability and performance of buildings rather than just the upfront capital cost.  Good buildings are an asset, poor buildings become an expensive liability in terms of operating costs and void periods. Competitive property markets compound this situation.

With a typical building having a life expectancy of at least 60 years, we are building in problems for this generation and the next.  We’re not great at mass retrofitting, (and the high demand for additional building stock means a capital, skills and material shortage) so we need to get it right first time.  Effective management tools with this aim abound in other sectors, for example DRIFT, (Doing it Right First Time), Six Sigma, LEAN and Zero Defects.  We see the approach being used in food manufacture, car making, pilot training, and patient healthcare, to name but a few sectors.  So what about construction?

Soft Landings is the equivalent tool for the construction sector.  This tried and tested process was developed to help to produce better performing buildings – not necessarily exceptional in performance, but buildings that deliver in operation what they were designed to do in the first place.  Getting a building right requires a shared focus on operational performance of the building right from the start, and throughout the design, construction and commissioning process.  The use of Soft Landings delivers this shared focus, improving communication and collaboration between all parties in the building delivery chain.  It helps everyone to avoid the pitfalls that diminish operational building performance. It fits with RIBA stages, integrates into existing construction processes, and does not require a specific building procurement model.  You can download Soft Landings guidance from the BSRIA website .

However it is always helpful to find out about real world experiences, and to talk to others who are using Soft Landings to help them to produce better buildings.  With this in mind, BSRIA have organised the 2017 Soft Landings Conference (June 16th 2017 at RIBA, Portland Place, London W1B 1AD). You will hear from a range of speakers from different parts of the construction process – including clients – who will explain how they have used Soft Landings in their projects, and the value that it has delivered for their buildings.  You will also hear their hints and tips, and there will be plenty of time to ask questions and take part in discussion both in conference and over lunch.

It’s time for the construction industry to catch up with other industries in terms of quality, to produce buildings that perform as expected, through a delivery process that gets it right first time.  Soft Landings is a process that helps the delivery chain to do this.  For more information on the conference please contact our Events Manager, Tracey Tilbry.

 

Alarmingly, less is more

This blog is by Mark Glitherow, Key Account Manager for UK Trend

Trend’s Key Account Manager, Mark Glitherow, explains why the generation of too many individual alarms is deterring end users from configuring a BEMS to undertake the monitoring of their key compliance needs.

When given the choice, most end users with a fully optimised BEMS opt for as many alarms to be configured as possible. On one level this is understandable, as it usually doesn’t cost them anymore and they might think that it’s better to be alerted to a potential issue than not be notified at all.

The reality leads to what can only be described as the ‘boy who cried wolf’ scenario, where so many alarms are generated that they are soon ignored and considered a nuisance. This was recently highlighted to me at a seminar of healthcare professionals, who all felt that in order to mitigate the risk of legionella they would rather manually check temperatures of tank held water than receiving alarm based notifications from a BEMS. The reason for this was purely down to the high levels of alarms that they already receive.

This situation is both worrying and frustrating, given that a BEMS should be a focal point in ensuring delivery of a compliant, resilient and sustainable built environment. A BEMS should support decision making but do so in a way that provides genuine value, rather than allowing generic, worthless alarms to complicate a user experience.

One answer to this conundrum is to reduce the volume of alarms and rationalise the amount that are set, so that the end user can gauge the importance of a notification. Alternatively, a graphical user interface (GUI) such as the Trend 963 Supervisor could be used to improve the presentation of valuable information so that users quickly recognise situations requiring their attention. The 963 Supervisor could create clear, relevant and succinct metrics – the premise being to create indicators that are just as effective as the actions they are intended to instigate.

These visual indicators can be configured to suit the exacting needs of the end user and be based upon an understanding of specific objectives, how they are to be achieved and who is going to action them. They could take the form of dashboards, ‘traffic light’ style devices or graphs.

A BEMS that issues alarms in a more structured, meaningful and discerning way is far more useful that one that simply bombards the end user with notifications that are ignored. Integrators and end users, therefore, need to work together to decide upon levels of importance for different events and configure the BEMS appropriately. It is simply a case of less being more.

For further information please call Trend Marketing on 01403 211888 or email marketing@trendcontrols.com

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