Discover why information and people are key to building safety
Published 28 Apr 2022
The golden thread is a tool consisting of building safety information and its management. As a concept, the golden thread helps dutyholders and accountable persons work together to maintain a database of readily accessible information for the use of various stakeholders throughout the building’s life cycle.
What is the Golden Thread?
The golden thread is part of a wider legislation, known as the Building Safety Bill, which aims to enforce stricter regulations on the design, construction, operation, and management of buildings that are 18 metres or 7 stories and above. Buildings should also have at least 2 residential units to be within the scope of the Building Safety Bill.
In response to the Grenfell Tower fire that claimed the lives of 72 people, the UK government commissioned an independent review of building regulations and fire safety. The final report, written by Dame Judith Hackitt, introduced the concept of the golden thread as an effective measure against similar incidents in the future.
The purpose of the golden thread of information is to ensure that everyone involved in building safety management, whether directly or indirectly, has access to key details that could help identify, assess, and mitigate risks. The intended outcome of putting the golden thread into legislation is to significantly reduce the severity of the consequences of fire and structural collapse on the lives and well-being of residents.
The 10 principles of the golden thread concept are the following:
Since the golden thread is intended to be a key source of evidence during assessments of compliance with building regulations, then the information within it should be as accurate and as trusted as possible. This means that all information should be checked and verified before being placed in the golden thread.
Another reason why the golden thread should be accurate and trusted is that it’s supposed to be passed down to the next building owner and their management team. However, this doesn’t mean that the information within the golden thread can never be changed. Instead, there should be a strict change control process whenever the golden thread is updated.
One of the key purposes of the golden thread is that it should help residents feel more secure about the safety of their homes. Additionally, it should provide residents with a method of obtaining accountability from the responsible people involved, such as the accountable persons and the building safety managers.
According to the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC), mandating the development, use, and maintenance of a golden thread of information will lead to a larger culture change in the construction industry. By having more requirements for competence, capability, working practices, processes, and information management, the golden thread sets higher standards for all stakeholders.
A particular feature of the golden thread is that teamwork is necessary for it to be successful. Without the support and participation of both previous and current stakeholders, the person in charge of the golden thread will not be able to implement it effectively.
All information pertaining to building safety should be in the golden thread. Therefore, the golden thread can be seen as a master document or database containing all of the relevant information. To make the golden thread the ‘single source of truth,’ dutyholders, accountable persons, and building safety managers should refrain from providing updates via email or other means to prevent duplication.
The golden thread should not be vulnerable to cyber attacks that can greatly harm the privacy and security of the building and its residents. To this end, systems holding the golden thread should be General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant. Stakeholders should also establish extra measures to protect information from unauthorized access and use.
Since the golden thread will act as a validated record of all actions taken to improve building safety, then it can easily be used to track who did what and when. By clearly stating the duties of stakeholders and documenting their performance, the golden thread of information holds them accountable and responsible for the effects of their action or inaction on the lives of residents and on the safety and structural integrity of the building.
One of the current barriers against the information empowerment of those working in the construction industry is the miscommunication between stakeholders. Though there are many reasons why information is not shared successfully, a key factor leading up to this is a general lack of understanding and communication between the people involved.
For the implementation of the golden thread to be successful, dutyholders, accountable persons, and building safety managers should strive to over communicate to ensure that each individual or group understands the issues of the building, the proposed and/or existing solutions, and what they need to do to prevent or mitigate those issues and contribute to the solutions.
To make the information within the golden thread more useful and more understandable, the BRAC recommends that stakeholders use standard methods, processes, and consistent terminology, where possible, when developing and maintaining the golden thread.
Aside from being readily available to those who need it, information within the golden thread should be organized and structured in such a way that retrieving specific information is easy. As of now, the BRAC recommends the golden thread to be stored like a library, where access is controlled and documented, but also highly specific. Future guidance from the UK government will also include how digital standards can be applied to the golden thread for it to meet this principle.
To ensure the survival of information throughout the life cycle of a building, it’s important for the golden thread to be aligned with rules around open data and principles of interoperability, a.k.a. the concept about information being accessible on different platforms. Contractors using different software and the new owners of a building should still be able to access the golden thread information.
Though durability and completeness of information is a major feature of using the golden thread concept in construction, there may be times when deleting parts of that information is more beneficial to the overall building safety. Outdated information or details that are no longer relevant should not be kept within the golden thread. This is also to provide more space for other pieces of information that are more relevant to the building’s current safety issues and risks.
Building owners and other professionals in the construction industry can prepare for the upcoming golden thread legislation by doing the following:
iAuditor by SafetyCulture is a GDPR-compliant and free digital platform for the golden thread and other types of recordkeeping. With iAuditor, developing and maintaining a golden thread of information is easy, convenient, and efficient.
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Zarina is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. She enjoys discovering new ways for businesses to improve their safety, quality, and operations. She is working towards helping companies become more efficient and better equipped to thrive through change.
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