The Whole Life Cost Forum is to start pilot projects in January as the first step towards a system of estimating the operational costs of buildings.

The forum, which will be formally launched at the end of next month, has been set up by the Building Research Establishment with a steering group including clients BAA and BT, cost consultant Gleeds and services firm Amey.

The BRE will compile data on the performance of firms in the pilot study, and this will then be used as a yardstick so that other firms in the group can evaluate their own achievements in whole-life-cost terms.

Ten pilot projects will be rolled out to other members of the forum after March next year. The BRE will evaluate the data to build up a more accurate indicator of whole-life costing.

Firms will be invited to join the forum from the end of next month, but BRE project manager Anna Kingsmill-Vellacott warned that the places in the forum were limited as the BRE could process only a limited amount of data.

Eighty members will join the group, which will contain an even spread of clients, contractors, consultants, facilities managers and manufacturers.

Members will be charged a subscription of £3000 a year with a commitment to remain in the forum for three years. The forum will also offer training materials, case studies and a web site.

Kingsmill-Vellacott said: “Clients will be able to go away with some idea of what the whole-life costs of an office will be per square metre.”

The decision to form a whole-life cost forum grew from a seminar held by the BRE in June.