A key element of the Building Safety Act, this tool is crucial in keeping buildings and their residents safe.
The Grenfell Tower fire disaster in 2017 claimed the lives of 72 people.
Following the disaster, the UK government commissioned Dame Judith Hackitt to conduct an independent review of building regulations and fire safety.
The Hackitt Review recommended numerous changes and practices to improve transparency, accountability and information flow between stakeholders in the construction industry.
One of the recommendations was the introduction of a ‘golden thread of information’ for all complex or high-risk residential buildings (HRBs), new and occupied.
This is to ensure that duty-holders understand the building and the steps needed to keep it and the people living in it safe.
The Building Safety Act
The UK government accepted Dame Judith’s recommendations in full, leading to the Building Safety Bill being published. It became the Building Safety Act in 2022.
This enabled the Health and Safety Executive to set up the new independent Building Safety Regulator (BSR) in England.
The BSR enforces the Building Safety Act, overseeing the safety, standards, design and management of all buildings.
It has a vital focus on ensuring that the new regime for HRBs is enforced effectively and robustly.
This new regime has been aptly described by the UK government as the “biggest change in building safety in a generation”.
It places new legal responsibilities on those who are involved in the design, construction and occupation of HRBs.
This means that everyone undertaking building work will need to demonstrate compliance with the law and provide hard evidence of this if challenged.
The golden thread explained
The golden thread is a crucial chain of the building information and the information management process.
It includes the steps needed to keep the building and its residents safe, now and in the future.
It requires those responsible to document accountable, reliable, consistent, secure and accessible information.
This is what will enable duty-holders to manage and mitigate building safety risks holistically throughout the building’s lifecycle.
In the built environment sector, the efficient management of information is paramount.
The construction industry has evolved significantly over the years regarding this, transitioning from traditional, paper-based methods of building information modelling (BIM) to digital technologies.
The digital golden thread of information has many of the same goals that BIM has been trying to achieve for years.
Right people, right information, right time
Each golden thread will be individual, bespoke and specific to the building and its occupants.
It provides a trackable audit trail concerning fire and structural safety – including everything installed in the building, all those involved and responsible parties, and compliance with safety regulations.
The golden thread is all about the right people having the right information when they need it:
- The right people – those who require the information to carry out a function
- The right information – presented in a way that the receiver can use
- The right time – when the information will add value
Without this information, it’s difficult to manage a building’s safety because duty-holders need the golden thread to enable them to fulfil their legal duties and demonstrate it.
A culture of safety
The golden thread also aims to boost the feeling of security among residents and promote a shift in culture towards safety.
One of Dame Judith’s recommendations was to achieve a culture where residents “are safe and feel safe” in their homes.
Who’s responsible for the golden thread?
The responsibility for the golden thread varies during different phases:
Design and construction
During this phase, duty-holders – such as the client, principal contractor or principal designer – are responsible for creating and managing the golden thread.
They must ensure that the information is up to date and accurate as changes occur in the building plans.
After the building is completed, the golden thread is handed over to the accountable person (AP).
The AP is responsible for the structural and fire safety of the occupied building.
They must coordinate, update and ensure the accuracy and accessibility of the information, and have justifiable reasons if they cannot find that information.
When a building undergoes refurbishment, the principal accountable person (PAP) and other APs are involved, especially if the building remains occupied during the process.
In short, the golden thread must be:
- Started before building work commences
- Maintained throughout the building’s lifecycle
- Kept digitally
- Kept securely
- A building’s single source of truth
- Available to people who need the information to do a job
- Available when the person needs the information
- Presented in a way that can be easily used
It’s a crucial tool in ensuring the safety of complex or high-risk residential buildings now and into the future.
For further insights into the Building Safety Act, read Dame Judith Hackitt’s blog.