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AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE GOLDEN THREAD WITHIN THE BUILDING SAFETY ACT

April 26, 2024

The golden thread is defined as ‘The golden thread is defined as ‘the information that allows you to understand a building and the steps needed to keep both the building and people safe, now and in the future.’[1] It refers to the maintenance of accurate and reliable digital information throughout the lifecycle of a building.

To understand the need for the golden thread, we must understand The Building Safety Act and why it’s important.

WHAT IS THE BUILDING SAFETY ACT 2022?

The Building Safety Act 2022 represents a significant legislative framework designed to elevate building safety standards within the UK and became law on the 28th of April 2022. It introduces a range of new measures and regulatory bodies. These include the Building Safety Regulator, the National Regulator of Construction Products, and the New Homes Ombudsman. They are responsible for overseeing and ensuring the success of the new building safety regime.

At the time of writing, the Building Safety Act is law binding for new and existing occupied buildings over 18 metres high or seven storeys which contain at least two residential units. 

In essence, the Building Safety Act 2022 serves as a critical driver in establishing and upholding standards, ensuring adherence to regulations, and fostering the enhancement of safety practices in the construction and maintenance of buildings across England.

We looked at The Building Safety Act 2022, in depth when Gateway 3 was introduced. You can read more here.

WHY WAS THE BUILDING SAFETY ACT INTRODUCED?

Following the Grenfell disaster in 2017, there was a clear and immediate need to provide more effective and uniform legislation nationwide. The Building Safety Act was introduced to make our buildings in the UK safer and more secure. We understand how important it is for homeowners and residents to feel safe in their homes. This is why the Act focuses on enhancing regulations for higher-risk buildings and construction projects.

The Act ensures proper oversight and enforcement of the new building safety regime by establishing the regulatory bodies mentioned above. These regulatory bodies play a crucial role in monitoring compliance, setting standards, and improving safety practices throughout the construction process.

At its core, the Building Safety Act 2022 strives to create a safer and more accountable environment for building construction and maintenance. By implementing these changes, we can better manage risks and ensure the well-being of residents in England.

WHAT IS THE GOLDEN THREAD?

The golden thread stands as a vital concept within the Building Safety Act, emphasising the upkeep of precise and trustworthy information throughout a building’s entire lifespan. By doing so, it ensures that duty-holders are equipped with the necessary knowledge to understand the building and implement essential measures for guaranteeing the safety of both the building and its occupants.

When assessing the golden thread, its attributes are clearly split by definition and principles. The defining factors help show that the golden thread is made to support the Building Safety Act by ensuring the correct people have the correct information. Its principles are then focused on how this is translated into the public realm through factors like accessibility and durability.

GOLDEN THREAD DEFINITIONS

  1. The golden thread will hold the information that those responsible for the building require to:
  • show that the building was compliant with applicable building regulations during its construction and provide evidence of meeting the requirements of the new building control route throughout the design, construction and refurbishment of a building
  • identify, understand, manage and mitigate building safety risks to prevent or reduce the severity of the consequences of fire spread or structural collapse throughout the life cycle of a building
  1. The information stored in the golden thread will be reviewed and managed so that the information retained, at all times, achieves these purposes.
  2. The golden thread covers both the information and documents and the information management processes (or steps) used to support building safety.
  3. The golden thread information should be stored as structured digital information. It will be stored, managed, maintained and retained in line with the golden thread principles (see below). The government will specify digital standards which will provide guidance on how the principles can be met.
  4. The golden thread information management approach will apply through design, construction, occupation, refurbishment and ongoing management of buildings. It supports the wider changes in the regime to promote a culture of building safety.
  5. Building safety should be taken to include the fire and structural safety of a building and the safety of all the people in or in the vicinity of a building (including emergency responders).
  6. Many people will need to access the golden thread to update and share golden thread information throughout a building’s lifecycle, including but not limited to building managers, architects, contractors and many others. Information from the golden thread will also need to be shared by the Accountable Person with other relevant people including residents and emergency responders.
 
    Information is sourced from gov.uk

GOLDEN THREAD PRINCIPLES

  1. Accurate and Trusted: the dutyholder/Accountable Person/Building Safety Managers and other relevant persons (e.g. contractors) must be able to use the golden thread to maintain and manage building safety and ensure compliance with building regulations. The Regulator should also be able to use this information as part of their work to assess the compliance with building regulations, the safety of the building and the operator’s safety case report, including supportive evidence, and to hold people to account. The golden thread will be a source of evidence to show how building safety risks are understood and how they are being managed on an ongoing basis. The golden thread must be accurate and trusted so that relevant people use it. The information produced will therefore have to be accurate, structured, and verified, requiring a clear change control process that sets out how and when information is updated and who should update and check the information.
  2. Residents feeling secure in their homes: residents will be provided information from the golden thread – so that they have accurate and trusted information about their home. This will also support residents in holding Accountable Persons and Building Safety Managers to account for building safety. A properly maintained golden thread should support Accountable Persons in providing residents the assurance that their building is being managed safely.
  3. Culture change: the golden thread will support culture change within the industry as it will require increased competence and capability, different working practices, updated processes and a focus on information management and control. The golden thread should be considered an enabler for better and more collaborative working.
  4. Single source of truth: the golden thread will bring all information together in a single place meaning there is always a ‘single source of truth’. It will record changes (i.e. updates, additions or deletions to information, data, documents and plans), including the reason for change, evaluation of change, date of change, and the decision-making process. This will reduce the duplication of information (email updates and multiple documents) and help drive improved accountability, responsibility and a new working culture. Persons responsible for a building are encouraged to use common data environments to ensure there is controlled access to a single source of truth.
  5. Secure: the golden thread must be secure, with sufficient protocols in place to protect personal information and control access to maintain the security of the building or residents. It should also comply with current GDPR legislation where required.
  6. Accountable: the golden thread will record changes (i.e. updates, additions or deletions to information, data, documents and plans), when these changes were made, and by whom. This will help drive improved accountability. The new regime is setting out clear duties for duty-holders and Accountable Persons for maintaining the golden thread information to meet the required standards. Therefore, there is accountability at every level – from the Client/Accountable Person to those designing, building or maintaining a building.

  7. Understandable/consistent: the golden thread needs to support the user in their task of managing building safety and compliance with building regulations. The information in the golden thread must be clear, understandable and focused on the needs of the user. It should be presented in a way that can be understood, and used by, users. To support this, dutyholders/Accountable persons should where possible make sure the golden thread uses standard methods, processes and consistent terminology so that those working with multiple buildings can more easily understand and use the information consistently and effectively.
  8. Simple to access (accessible): the golden thread needs to support the user in their task of managing building safety and therefore the information in the golden thread must be accessible so that people can easily find the right information at the right time. This means that the information needs to be stored in a structured way (like a library) so people can easily find, update and extract the right information. To support this the government will set out guidance on how people can apply digital standards to ensure their golden thread meets these principles.
  9. Longevity/durability and shareability of information: the golden thread information needs to be formatted in a way that can be easily handed over and maintained over the entire lifetime of a building. In practical terms, this is likely to mean that it needs to align with the rules around open data and the principles of interoperability – so that information can be handed over in the future and still be accessed. Information should be able to be shared and accessed by contractors who use different software and if the building is sold the golden thread information must be accessible to the new owner. This does not mean everything about a building and its history needs to be kept, the golden thread must be reviewed to ensure that the information within it is still relevant and useful.
  10. Relevant/proportionate: preserving the golden thread does not mean everything about a building and its history needs to be kept and updated from inception to disposal. The objective of the golden thread is building safety and therefore if information is no longer relevant to building safety it does not need to be kept. The golden thread, the changes to it and processes related to it must be reviewed periodically to ensure that the information comprising it remains relevant and useful.

    Information is sourced from gov.uk

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GOLDEN THREAD

When a building is being developed that meets the criteria of The Building Safety Act 2022, information that details the building must be stored digitally as per the definitions above.

The golden thread offers a comprehensive and organised approach to managing building safety information, covering every aspect from design to maintenance. Through the implementation of the golden thread companies across RIBA stages ensure a digital trail of critical building information. This means building owners and operators can not only manage their buildings but also have liable information in the case of emergencies. This holds responsible parties accountable. The golden thread allows us to identify, understand and mitigate potential safety risks throughout a building’s life. 

It’s important to note that the introduction of the golden thread has been beneficial to the construction industry as a whole. Its relevance spans across all sectors and building sizes, including those outside of The Building Safety Act 2022. Increasing digital processes within construction is positive for all. We believe that consistent digital storage is the best practice within construction. The golden thread has ensured construction and STEM-based companies are at the very least thinking about implementing these processes.

In conclusion, the golden thread guarantees the reliability and traceability of crucial building information, elevates building safety, and establishes a strong foundation for accountability for all new buildings. Its introduction into the Building Safety Act has played a pivotal role in digital storage processes as a whole and will continue to do so.

DIGITAL DOCUMENTATION WITH SPATIAL DIMENSIONS

Digital documentation in the construction process has never been more important. 

Our construction verification service is the checking of as-build conditions. Our state-of-the-art laser scanning technology ensures quick turnarounds and accuracy. By comparing registered laser scans with models or construction drawings we can check the match and provide statistical feedback. 

Throughout a project, construction verification can mitigate communication and reduce the risk of costly mistakes, as well as help our clients with potential litigation or disputes.  

You can find out more about construction verification and request a quote here.

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