Influence of BREEAM, BIM, and Soft Landings on lifecycle performance of two non-domestic buildings

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The buildings industry is the largest energy and resource consuming, and waste and global greenhouse gas (GHG) generating sector of the industry and has long been criticised as slow-moving, unsystematic, and inefficient. The inflated ecological footprint of the building sector has made its sustainable development an elusive challenge. To promptly commission a substantial change in building design and delivery performance, there is a significant drive worldwide for digitalisation, green buildings, and integrated stakeholder management. This PhD research investigated the capability of three such tools, namely BREEAM, BIM, and Soft Landings, to improve the building, as well as the associated design and delivery processes. Two case-study projects, which were designed and built on Heriot-Watt University campus using these tools, were closely examined throughout their design, construction, and two-years of occupancy using an investigative multimethod approach. Soft Landings is a framework that aims to enhance briefing, handover, and in-use performance through systematic participation of all stakeholders. The extent to which the tools were used during the projects, and the experience of project stakeholders, were investigated over semi-structured interviews. The financial, temporal, and staff resources; binding drivers such as tangible project brief and regulatory requirement; as well as early appointments and engagement of the stakeholders, particularly the end-user client were discovered to be the most influential factors in effective adoption of the tools. The interviews assisted with understanding the extent of influence of the tools and the challenges in their full and effective adoption. Furthermore, to assess the success in delivery of satisfactory, fit-for-purpose buildings, building users were surveyed using the Building Use Studies (BUS) method. The survey results were supplemented with seasonal commissioning, Soft Landings, and other relevant project documents, which confirmed the importance of planned handover, detailed commissioning, and rigorous aftercare. Finally, the life cycle environmental footprints of the buildings were quantified following two LCA approaches, as per the CEN/TC 350 standards and PEF method. The significant share of the end-of-life (EoL) stage signified the importance of mandatory reporting of these impacts for more accurate LCA assessment and more widespread adoption of circular economy concepts in the building industry. Nevertheless, design for circularity or waste recovery at building EoL is not adequately covered by BREEAM, BIM, or Soft Landings. The results reconfirmed the large influence of operational energy use upon many environmental impacts over the building lifetime, even in a BREEAM Excellent building. Climate Change and Resource use, energy carriers / fossils were the most relevant environmental impact by contributing to half of the total normalised and weighted emissions. Overall, the scope of BREEAM, BIM and Soft Landings were not found comprehensive and empowering enough to improve all the life cycle stages, reducing life cycle impacts and operational energy use, and deliver a fit-for-purpose building. Yet, each tool offered several benefits in these two case-studies. BREEAM, BIM and Soft Landings enriched the design development by way of advanced consultation with final-users and enhanced coordination between the design team, client, and project contractors. The first case-study, the Oriam sports complex, was a successful example of Soft Landings implementation that offered a great level of transparency, improved handover and finetuning experience to the facility management, and return on investment through continuous reduction of operational energy. The users of the case-study that implemented Soft Landings reported high satisfaction with the space. Ultimately, no direct correlation was identified between BREEAM, BIM, or Soft Landings and reduced life cycle environmental impact of the buildings.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society
  • Menzies, Gillian Frances, Supervisor
  • Owens, Edward Hugh, Supervisor
Award date1 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2022


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