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3 lessons learned at BSRIA Soft Landings Conference 2017

Rupert Perkins, Contracts Director of John Perkins Construction, reveals his key takeaways from this year's Soft Landings Conference at the RIBA Headquarters in London.

'Soft Landings' is often dismissed as a nice-to-have rather than a must-have in construction, but the 2017 BSRIA Soft Landings Conference made it clear that embedding these principles within a project can reap serious rewards.

Building Services Research & Information AssociationI attended the conference with John Perkins' Design Manager, Cerianne Thorneycroft, and we each experienced several 'lightbulb moments' about how Soft Landings can improve the business.

The lessons arising from the conference built on the in-house Soft Landings training undertaken by the John Perkins management team earlier in the year. We're very aware that Soft Landings represents the future of construction.

What is Soft Landings?

Soft Landings is a process and a culture that seeks to ensure that, following a construction project, the finished building matches the vision of the client and design team. The results of Soft Landings might be measured in terms of occupant wellbeing, financial efficiency, or environmental performance. (Find out more about Soft Landings)

Here are the key messages I got from the 2017 Soft Landings conference:

1. A collaborative approach to insurance = no-blame culture

Integrated Project Insurance (IPI) looks to be the way forward for creating true collaborative working. Instead of the client, contractor, consultant and subcontractors all having their own insurance, IPI establishes a shared project insurance policy.

Everyone's familiar with the quarrels about who's to blame when something goes wrong on a project, and communication and teamwork can easily break down as a result.

IPI creates a 'no-blame' culture. Whoever's at fault, the insurance covers it. This removes the usual hassle and ill-will, and frees up everyone involved to simply get on with finding the best resolution to the problem.

2. Upfront expenditure can be outweighed by efficiencies

Naturally, the barrier to Soft Landings approaches like Integrated Project Insurance is upfront cost. Why would the client pay for something that is normally 'free' to them?

Of course, something that's 'free' in the short term can actually involve significant long-term costs. It is therefore crucial to communicate to sceptical clients that some upfront additional expenditure is more than compensated by efficiencies in the operations of the finished project and lower life-cycle costings.

3. A strong team is essential for client satisfaction

The importance of keeping the same team on different projects was a recurring theme at the conference. Sharing learning and best practice within a team over a number of projects helps to build a deeper understanding of what is required to deliver Soft Landings.

A strong, experienced team ensures enduring satisfaction from the client. This naturally leads to repeat business, because the client wants to replicate the success of a previous project by using the same team.

All in all, the conference was hugely informative. I took away a number of solid pointers that can help us to further improve and foster the type of collaborative working that's at the heart of the Perkins ethos.

"Sharing learning and best practice within a team over a number of projects helps to build a deeper understanding of what is required to deliver Soft Landings."

Rupert Perkins
Contracts Director
John Perkins Construction