Designers do not focus on the needs of occupiers: For or Against? Eimear Moloney, Hoare Lea at #CIBSEsymposium 2019 Debate

In our next CIBSE Technical Symposium 2019 follow-up blog, hear from Eimear Moloney, Associate Director at Hoare Lea sharing her input from the Technical Symposium Debate that closed Day One of the Symposium.

The CIBSE Technical Symposium Debate is a much anticipated annual event and one that all seasoned Symposium attendees especially look forward to. This year, we focused it around the designer / occupier needs aspect of transforming the engineering of built environments. 

The 2019 Debate, entitled "Designers do not not focus on the needs of occupiers", was chaired by CIBSE's Head of Sustainability Development, Sara Kassam.

IERC, Rooley Associates, Cundall and Hoare Lea navigated between outlining the nuances of understanding the design kit, educating yourself on design cycle, contracts that are not fit for purpose and occupier and stakeholder needs, in a series of passionate speeches.

Today, we bring to you the first of the four Debate contributions. 

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Eimear Moloney, Associate Director at Hoare Lea to our virtual Technical Symposium Debate stage. Enjoy her passionate speech and share your views via the comment box at the end of the page. 

Eimear Moloney, Associate Director, Hoare Lea outlining her #CIBSEsymposium Debate stand 

"Several years ago, I bumped into an old client of mine in a coffee shop. And I asked him how the building that I had designed for him the previous year was working. It was a small, very architectural lecture theatre. He said that everything was fine, but that fan in the lobby is more than noisy, to put it politely. 

Now, this fan he mentioned was designed to be used during the big events, when there were maybe a hundred or so people milling about during the intermission. So, I commented that he must have been busy with all the events they were hosting but he looked at me blankly and asked what I meant as it’s been quiet… Long story short, it turns out that fan was put in hand. A misunderstanding of how the system was designed to run. 

Despite numerous discussions and lots of training at handover, he had not understood what was supposed to happen. It was a simple thing to fix but if I had not bumped into him that day, he would have been wandering around thinking to himself that I was a rubbish designer. Unfortunately, similar designer-occupant situations are extremely common. 

So, what are we to do? 

Are we to rely on Serendipity? Hoping to bump into clients? Of course not. 

But who's fault is this? Is it mine for making the system too complicated? (obviously not). Is it his for not fully understanding me? 

Well, I'd like to propose that it was neither parties fault but it is the system that is broken. A colleague from UCL quoted to me recently: 
"Traditionally, a design team are all involved in the building development process, but leave once the building is physically complete, leaving the end-users with a building they are unlikely to fully understand." 

I would go one step further, they're not UNLIKELY to fully understand it, there is not a snowman’s chance in hell of them understanding it. So why are we allowing this to happen? Why are we not standing up for our designs and our industry and shouting that this is wrong? This is unfair to both the design team and the building users. 

The clear majority of us are good designers, we design a building in a certain way for a very good reason. Yet we are allowing ourselves to be blamed because the system is not set up so that we can help our clients get settled in.

Why isn’t there a method to force this serendipitous situation? 

The more savvy of you in the room will be thinking, but Soft Landings! Well, I’m going to be controversial and say that Soft Landings doesn’t work. Soft landings on paper is brilliant but it’s not working. It’s time we woke up and admitted this. Only then, can we start figuring out why. We work in an echo chamber, we think we know the answer, but our clients are screaming back at us: this is not working.

We need to take a step back, truly understand why Soft Landings has not worked and fix it. I believe the bare bones of the solution is in there, but there is something wrong about the messaging of it. I have my suspicions of what that might be but it needs a roper investigation and until we figure that out, we will be banging our head against a brick wall.

If we spend time analysing the flaws within soft landings and changing the framework so that it better suits our clients, then all the promises that were made in 2003 when it was first published will come to fruition.

So, I say to all in this room:

Yes, we do focus on the needs of the occupier, of course we do. What else would we be doing? We need to be unashamed and loud in our response that the system is broken, not the designer. Allow us to show our occupiers how we designed our buildings and why we designed them that way. and we will reach our utopia. 

The answer is in this room. It is staring us in the face. 

We are the answer, we must not accept sole blame but confidently tell our story of contracts which are not fit for purpose."



Follow this year's Symposium Debate by visiting back our CIBSE blog to learn about the stand that Tony Day, Executive Director at the International Energy Research Centre, Tyndall National Institute took in his contribution.

Revisit live debate coverage by viewing #CIBSEsymposium

Reread the opening keynote thought piece from Stuart Shell, AIA at BranchPattern discussing a case for an enhanced end-user involvement (and understanding) as a key input in the process of transforming the engineering of built environments. 

Where do you stand?

About CIBSE Technical Symposium

The CIBSE Technical Symposium is an annual event featuring speakers and poster presentations from a range of disciplines. All papers and posters are peer reviewed. Anybody can submit a topic for consideration, which will then be assessed by a panel of reviewers to determine its suitability.

Have you had a chance to exchange your views with Eimear Moloney whilst in Sheffield? Join into the post-Symposium conversation @CIBSE I CIBSE Linkedin using #CIBSESymposium

Thank you to all CIBSE Technical Symposium 2019 Debate presenters and audience contributors. The Debate returns next year. 


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