The draft Building Safety Bill was released in July 2020, incorporating the suggestions of the Hackitt Review. The bill proposes various significant reforms to regulate the construction industry and ensure the safety of every citizen by ensuring more transparency in the industry. The suggestion is to introduce the concept of a ‘digital Golden Thread’ of information, which would help increase transparency and accountability throughout the lifecycle of the building. Let’s understand what the Golden Thread of Information is all about:
The Golden Thread of Information
The Golden Thread of Information, as proposed in the draft Building Safety bill, is a live digital document with accurate and up-to-date information of the building data. With the aim of promoting transparency, the document allows you to access details on how the building was designed, built and is being operated at any point of time during the lifecycle of the building.
Through this Golden Thread of Information, the Regulator or residents will be able to access the data and identify and hold the right party responsible in case of a mishap. It will also standardise and regulate the way that the industry stores and passes on essential information.
As mentioned in the draft Building Safety Bill, the Golden Thread of Information includes the fire and emergency file (FEF) and a digital record. The FEF is where all the critical fire safety information for the building will be collected and stored. The report suggests that this document would need to be initiated and updated throughout the design and construction phase by the relevant duty holders and then subsequently passed on to the building owner. Once enforced, the building will not be passed to the next stage without the updating of the golden thread of information by the relevant duty holders. This way, all the relevant data will be updated, including the weak points and the problems that arise along the way, and passed on in the right way.
Gateways and the Golden Thread of information
The draft Building Safety Bill talks about three gateways during the planning, design and construction phases of the building. Each of these gateways would have certain requirements that would need to be met through the co-operation of various duty holders. The first is the planning gateway that focuses on the planning permission process. Gateway two must be met before the construction begins, whereas the third gateway needs to be met before the occupation of the building. A similar process has been proposed for major building refurbishments and for buildings that switch from commercial to residential usage. At each gateway, the Golden Thread of Information will need to be updated to get to the next stage.
What does this mean for the industry?
While the concept of a Golden Thread of Information seems to be promising and may be possible to assemble for new buildings, it will be challenging to compile data for existing buildings. Additionally, it would also require a large investment from companies towards enforcing this approach. A great deal of planning and regulation will be needed to ensure a smooth handover of plans and documents to relevant duty holders. One of the most important things required will be a shift in the culture of the industry and identifying the person responsible for creating the information chain.
What does it mean for leaseholders?
The Golden Thread of Information will allow leaseholders to access the data accumulated over the lifespan of the building at any given point, promoting transparency and trust in the industry. This, along with the other provisions in the draft Building Safety Bill, may translate into an additional monthly fee to ensure the smooth functioning of the proposed systems. But the government is also trying to figure out an additional funding scheme for unaffordable remediation work on buildings.