The Golden Thread


When it was published in May 2018, Dame Judith Hackitt’s Building a Safer Future report highlighted the urgent need to change attitudes and behaviours towards building safety within the construction industry. It was clear that the sector needed to adopt new ways of working if it was to ensure that the tragedy of Grenfell Tower was never repeated and that residents in higher risk buildings were safe, and could feel safe, in their homes.

One of the key recommendations of the report was that a ‘golden thread’ of digital information should be introduced to industry to address problems with key information not being effectively stored, managed, and available throughout the life cycle of a building. This golden thread would better enable the right people to make the best possible decisions at the right times to design, construct and operate their buildings more safely and effectively.

The government have committed to implementing these golden thread recommendations, which will apply to all buildings within scope of the new building safety regime through clauses 32 (section 1D), 88, 89 and 90 of the new Building Safety Bill. These clauses put a legal duty on Dutyholders and Accountable Persons to create, obtain, store and share information about their building in a prescribed format. This ensures that information is maintained, even through changes in delivery teams or building ownership.

New measures in the Building Safety Bill will:

  • Ensure there are clearly identified people responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of a high-rise residential building (18m/7 storeys and above)
  • Establish a Building Safety Regulator to hold to account those who break the rules and are not properly managing building safety risks, including taking enforcement action where needed.
  • Give residents of in-scope buildings more routes to raise concerns about safety, and mechanisms to ensure their concerns will be heard and taken seriously.
  • Extend the rights to compensation for substandard workmanship and unacceptable defects.
  • Drive the culture change needed across the industry to enable the design and construction of high-quality, safe homes in the years to come.

How to prepare / What do you need to do?

Significant and immediate industry ownership and culture change is essential for the successful implementation of the golden thread. A culture of building safety must be positioned at the forefront of information management both throughout the life cycle of a building, and embedded within organisations.

To prepare for this change individuals and organisations must absorb and understand the definition and principles of the golden thread and consider ways in which this can then be implemented across their projects and throughout their work.

Some key items for consideration when assessing preparedness would be:

  • Do we have the digital competence needed to implement the golden thread?
  • Am I, and my organisation, capable of clearly specifying information requirements relating to fire and structural safety to a potential supply chain?
  • During procurement, are there processes in place to properly assess tenderers competence for delivering the necessary fire and structural safety information on time, and in a specified format?
  • Throughout a buildings lifecycle are the skills and appropriate technology in place to check that information provided by a supply chain meets all the golden thread requirements?
  • Is information stored in a secure yet searchable format, and accessible to the right people at the right times?

If the answer is yes to the questions above, the next step would be to ensure each item can be evidenced, ready for engagement with the building safety regulator.

Whilst it is acknowledged that it will take many years to embed the full catalogue of necessary changes across the built environment industry, it is essential that those who will need to put in place a golden thread for their building understand what is required and begin now to prepare for the legal duty to provide it.

The golden thread not only facilitates a clear understanding of a building now and in the future, but also plays a key part in the wider digital transformation of the built environment, which will deliver economic growth, better public services, and help lower carbon emissions and greater sustainability.

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Learn more about the Building Safety Bill