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Golden Thread and Building Safety

The Fire Safety Act 2021 was passed on April 29, 2021 introducing a wide range of reforms in the construction industry in order to ensure safety for every resident in the country. Among the reforms introduced was the concept of the golden thread of information, as suggested by Dame Judith Hackitt in her Building a Safer Future report. The idea behind the golden thread is to increase transparency and accountability in the industry.

Since the idea of the golden thread was first floated, there have been many concerns about how it would work and be implemented in the industry. To make things clear and easy to put in place, a Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) working group has published details and definitions to ensure the implementation of the industry-wide golden thread. This report contains the definition and principles which will be the basis for developing secondary legislation and guidance with regards to the golden thread.

According to the report, the golden thread is ‘both 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.’ It will hold all relevant information that proves that the building is compliant with applicable regulations during its construction and evidence that all the new building control requirements are being met. Additionally, it will also hold details to identify, understand, manage and mitigate any safety risk that may arise in the future.

The BRAC report also lists 10 principles of the golden thread that are designed to detail the responsibilities of various duty holders and accountable persons in the industry. These principles are as follows:

Accurate and Trusted

The golden thread needs to be accurate and trusted so that the duty holder/accountable person/building safety managers and other relevant persons (e.g. contractors) can use it to maintain and manage building safety and compliance. The golden thread should also provide information for the building safety regulator so that they can use it to check if the building is in 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.

Residents feel secure in their homes

The golden thread needs to provide accurate and trusted information about their home to every resident so that they feel secure in their building. It will also empower them to hold accountable persons and building safety managers to account for building safety.

Culture change

The golden thread will drive and support culture change within the industry. It will demand increased competence and capability, different working practices, updated processes and a focus on information management and control. These will come from different accountable persons in the industry at every stage during the lifecycle of the building. It should be considered an enabler for better and more collaborative working in the industry.

Single source of truth

The golden thread should be the single source of truth, i.e. it should bring all information together in a single place. It will be updated regularly with details on changes, including the reason for change, evaluation of change, date of change and the decision-making process.

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 should aim to increase accountability by recording details like changes made; when these changes were made and by whom. 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.

Understandable and consistent

The information in the golden thread needs to be understandable and consistent. All the information recorded in the golden thread needs to be clear, understandable and focused on the needs of the user. The presentation of the information needs to be understandable, clear and consistent. It needs to support the user in their task of managing building safety and being compliant with building regulations.

Simple to access

The golden thread needs to be simple to access and support the user in their task of managing building safety. The information needs to be accessible so that the right information can be located at the right time. The information needs to be stored in a structured way so people can easily find, update and extract the right information.

Longevity and shareability of information

The information in the golden thread needs to be formatted so that it can be easily handed over and maintained over the 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.

Relevant and proportionate

The golden thread needs to have relevant data with regards to the building. This means that not everything about a building and its history needs to be kept and updated from inception to disposal. The information should be edited keeping the goal of building safety in mind. Information that is no longer relevant to the building’s safety does not need to be kept.