8 December 2016 | Jamie Harris
Architects who follow up and conduct post-occupancy evaluations are better perceived by clients than those who do not, according to a survey by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
RIBA's Working With Architects survey set out to highlight how construction clients and other partners perceive architects.
Responses were received from nearly 1,000 clients, who were generally pleased with their projects, rating architects' design skills. But they were less impressed with architects' process management skills.
Architects who followed up at the end of the project, particularly when not contracted to do so, were more highly rated than architects who did not complete this process.
Ben Derbyshire, RIBA's president-elect and chair at HTA Design LLP, said the design industry needs to move to a model in which post-occupancy evaluations are built into the fee.
He added: "Since this report tells us that after-service care adds to clients' satisfaction ratings, surely it can be translated into value that deserves commensurate remuneration? We should discuss POE early, include a minimal service as part of the basic offer, and present the potential advantages of more thorough-going POE as bolt-on options. Done comprehensively and in collaboration with other professionals, word-of-mouth endorsement is sure to follow."
Nigel Ostime, project delivery director at Hawkins Brown Architects and chair of the RIBA client liaison group that contributed to the report, told FM World that a stronger feedback loop is important to help drive down costs and improve the quality of projects.
"When it gets discussed, the issue is that there isn't any money, and the client doesn't want to pay for it. But there's a call to build it into the overall business plan of the project, that we allow for this in the same way that manufacturers do, consistently, so that we get customer and client feedback and build that into the next build."
The RIBA Digital Plan of Works was relaunched in 2013 as a heavily revised version of the institute's long-established framework for the structuring of construction projects. It included requirements for building information modelling and was designed so that projects factored in operational performance and client feedback, specifically included in a new stage, entitled 'In Use'.
But there has been some criticism of the lack of FM activity.
Kath Fontana of ISS, told FM World earlier this year that the PoW should spell out more explicitly the activities FMs should be involved in.
She said: "Stages zero and seven of the digital plan of works are so sparsely populated of any real meaningful FM activity - we are still bracketed as 'other' so far as the design and construction communities are concerned."
But Ostime has observed that there has been an increase in the number of projects that have FM involvement at the design and construction phase - particularly within larger consultancies and contractors that are "looking to get into the FM sphere".
"Clients want to spend less on managing buildings," said Ostime. "The construction cost is a fraction of the running cost. but it's different for different clients. For end-user clients, they will be looking at bridging the performance gap, which we are very aware of these days, and understanding how to do that for things like energy use, carbon."
Asking the wrong questions
But former architect Paul Fletcher, who contributed to the 2013 Plan of Works refresh, thinks more needs to be done to bring feedback into the strategic definition of a project.
At a recent conference entitled 'Designing Environments as if People Matter', he said the industry is asking the wrong set of questions when setting out a project's end goal.
Fletcher believes that the industry uses project briefs to describe a desired solution, rather than speaking to the consumer.
"There's a classic example of NASA asking for a pen to be developed which works in space they spent millions on this development, but if the question was rephrased to 'we need something to mark paper in space', it would have been clear that a pencil is the solution."
The report makes recommendations to build on the 'sensible provisions' of Stage 7 of the RIBA Plan of Work.
Undertake in-use services in accordance with schedule of services
Conclude activities listed in handover strategy, including POE, review of project performance, project outcomes and R&D aspects
Update project information as required in response to ongoing client feedback until the end of the building's life
Update 'as-constructed' information in response to ongoing client feedback and maintenance or operational developments