A new policy paper from the Building Regulations Advisory Committee has set out the definition and principles that will guide the development and implementation of the golden thread of information, a key recommendation of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Building a Safer Future report
In her independent review of the Building Regulations and fire safety commissioned in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Dame Judith Hackitt found there was “almost unanimous concern surrounding the ineffective operation of the current rules around the creation, maintenance and handover of building and fire safety information”.
“Where building information is present, it is often incomplete or held in paper form and is not accessible to the people who need to see it,” she added.
Dame Judith called for the creation of the “golden thread”: a digital record of securely created, updated and accessible information covering a building’s design, construction and management throughout its lifecycle. The government has committed to implementing Dame Judith’s recommendations.
The Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) working group was formed to bring together a cross-section of experts in areas such as design and construction, digital information management, building and portfolio operation, and building, housing and workplace legislation to support the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), as the future home of the Building Safety Regulatory, in developing golden thread policy.
In July, the working group published a report setting out the golden thread definition and principles, which will inform ongoing work in developing secondary legislation and guidance, and calls on the industry can do to help deliver safer buildings.
The golden thread defined
At its heart, the golden thread is about supporting building safety by ensuring the right people have the right information at the right time.
The full definition states:
- 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 and construction and refurbishment of a building.
- Identify, understand, manage and mitigate building safety risks in order to prevent or reduce the severity of the consequences of fire spread or structural collapse throughout the lifecycle of a building.
- The information stored in the golden thread will be reviewed and managed so that the information retained, at all times, achieves these purposes.
- The golden thread covers both the information and documents, and the information management processes (or steps) used to support building safety.
- 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. The government will specify digital standards that will provide guidance on how the principles can be met.
- 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.
- “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).
- 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.
Golden thread principles
To underpin the golden thread definition, the BRAC working group has produced a set of golden thread principles to inform secondary legislation. They set out details on the requirements that dutyholders/Accountable Persons will need to meet for their golden thread to achieve the government’s expectations.
- Accurate and trusted: The dutyholder/Account Person/building safety managers and other relevant persons, such as 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 its work to assess compliance with the 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 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.
- Residents feeling secure in their homes: Residents will be provided information from the golden thread so 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.
- 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.
- 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 (ie 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 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.
- 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.
- Accountable: The golden thread will record changes, when these changes were made and by who. This will help drive improved accountability. The new regime is setting out clear duties for dutyholders 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.
- 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.
- Simple to access: 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.
- 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, 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.
- 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.
The role of industry
Primary and secondary legislation will be supported by guidance to help the industry to implement the golden thread and associated information management.
But the BRAC working group is also encouraging the industry to make changes now to “own” the golden thread and embrace the opportunity to maximise the awareness and understanding of the value of data, and to drive the adoption of digital technologies across the construction supply chain.
“We want to encourage the sector to begin preparing for the upcoming legislation now, by considering the way they currently manage and exchange information,” the report says.
As the Building Safety Bill continues its passage through parliament, the BRAC golden thread working group will continue to support MHCLG, HSE and industry in developing and understanding the golden thread.
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