BS 8536:How we’ve revised our guide to improving built asset operability

A newly revised British Standard on how to improve built asset operability has just been published. So what does it do, and how has it changed? This blog post provides some answers.

We’ve just revised the British Standard that gives guidance and recommendations on how to improve the operability of built assets. The standard is BS 8536:2022 Design and construction for operability. By built assets we mean buildings and other infrastructure for energy, telecommunication, transport and water. And it covers new, upgraded, repurposed or refurbished assets and facilities. However, the concept of operability is perhaps less well understood.

Indeed the principle of “constructability”- how easy or difficult will it be to construct an asset - has always been widely applied. However consideration of how easy or difficult an asset will be to operate over its lifetime has received far less attention. This asks for design decisions to be based on accurate and relevant information and data, and their impact on operations to be understood before they’re committed to construction. To that end this standard gives recommendations on design, manufacture and construction for operability in relation to built assets, taking account of the expected performance of the asset or facility in use over its planned operational life.

Promoting early involvement and portfolio thinking

To be clear, the standard doesn’t provide recommendations for design or construction, but is concerned with the information and data needed to determine operability and performance requirements.

Moreover the standard aims to work by strengthening industry practices and procedures in a number of ways. For one thing, it promotes the early involvement of the operator, operations team or asset/facility manager, as appropriate. For another it can improve the focus of the project team on the performance of the asset/facility in use.

The standard also aims to promote programme and portfolio thinking by asset/facility owners and, where applicable, the project sponsor to ensure that the asset/facility meets the wider requirements of the owner’s operations. Likewise it provides for feedback on the expected functional and operational performance of the asset/facility at each stage in the delivery process. Importantly it pushes to extend the commitment of each delivery team to defined periods of aftercare post-handover of the asset/facility and its safe, secure, efficient and cost-effective operation in line with environmental, social and economic performance outcomes and targets. It asks for information and data to support these ends in a way that maximizes the value that the asset/facility owner can subsequently derive over the planned life of the asset/facility.

The standard also incorporates the requirements of inclusive design; managing design in construction; and managing assets/facilities and their environments inclusively when operational (see BS 8300-2). The standard also adopts a defined project managed approach to the delivery of the asset/facility throughout (see BS 6079).

Updating the standard

This standard began life in two parts: BS 8536-1:2015 on facilities management and BS 8536-2:2016 on asset management. These have now been consolidated into one document to help achieve two ends: to better reflect developments in the UK BIM Framework and, it is hoped, to play a part in helping accelerate the adoption of sustainable building and infrastructure practices.

At the same time, the revision has given the standard’s authors - who include RIBA and RICS as well as BIFM (the British Institute of Facilities Managers), CIBSE (the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers) and IAM (The Institute of Asset Management) - an opportunity to enrich the content further.

To that end it now more closely aligns with the requirements of the BS EN ISO 19650 series of standards on information management using building information modelling, and with PAS 1192-6 on health and safety using building information modelling. It also applies the principles for sponsoring, directing, managing and transitioning projects (see BS 6079) individually or as part of a programme or portfolio (see BS ISO 21500 family) and gives greater consideration to risk management across the project lifecycle in line with BS EN ISO 31000.

Another important consideration was how the standard could help users with the Soft Landings Framework and the Government Soft Landings approach. So a final change to the revised standard is that we’ve applied more of the principles and practices of GSL to the project context.

It is hoped that the end result will play a significant role in promoting the smooth delivery and operation of built assets throughout their lifecycle, leading to increased efficiency, better value delivery and greater sustainability.