The Golden Thread: The Latest Definition & Principles

In late 2017, Dame Judith Hackitt released her interim report following the tragedy of the Grenfell tower fire. Inside this report, there was a key message to everyone. This message was:

There needs to be a golden thread for all complex and high-risk building projects to prevent disasters, like Grenfell, from happening again.

Fast forward to May 2018, and the final report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety was published. Once again, this report highlighted the importance of the golden thread to ensure that the original design intent of a building is maintained and that any design changes made can be kept on record.

Since then, the Golden Thread has continued to evolve. In July 2020, the Explanatory Notes to the Draft Building Safety Bill, were published by the MHCLG. These notes defined the Golden Thread of information as the fire and structural safety building information held digitally to specific standards. These standards included the requirements regarding robust dynamic information management and keeping this information up to date.

In August 2020, the MHCLG created a Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) to define the Golden Thread. In July 2021, the BRAC published the Golden Thread Report, which provided greater clarity on the Golden Thread, including the golden thread definition and principles. As a result of this report, the golden thread was given the following definition:

Golden Thread – Full Definition

1. 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 to prevent or reduce the severity of the consequences of fire spread or structural collapse throughout the life cycle of a building

2. The information stored in the golden thread will be reviewed and managed so that the information retained, at all times, achieves these purposes.

3. The golden thread covers the information and documents and the information management processes (or steps) used to support building safety.

4. The 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 (see below). The government will specify digital standards, which will provide guidance on how the principles can be met.

5. 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.

6. 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).

7. 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 need to be shared by the Accountable Person with other relevant people, including residents and emergency responders.

(Source: UK Gov Website

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The Golden Thread – Principles

1. Accurate and Trusted: the dutyholder/Accountable Person/Building Safety Managers and other relevant persons (e.g. 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 their work to assess the 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. 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 golden thread must be accurate and trusted so that relevant people use it. 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.

2. Residents feeling secure in their homes: residents will be provided information from the golden thread – so that 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 (i.e. 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 (email updates and multiple documents) 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.

5. 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.

6. Accountable: the golden thread will record changes (i.e. updates, additions or deletions to information, data, documents and plans), 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 Person 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.

7. 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 person 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.

8. Simple to access (accessible): 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.

9. 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 the 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.

10. 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.

(Source: UK Gov Website

So How Does Operance Help?

Whilst the Golden Thread changes are exciting and long overdue, we appreciate that having a golden thread of information for a building’s lifecycle can be a daunting task under the current structure of static, paper-based O&M manuals.

With this issue in mind, we have developed our O&M software which will automatically define and curate this information for you (in digital format) so that you can access and maintain it regularly. Better yet, this information is stored securely (ISO19650 compliant) in the cloud with user access management and external auditing capabilities at any time.

Our software does not stop at traditional O&M manuals. It has standards, supply chain, facilities and quality management already built in, with open API integration to enable you to experience a seamless O&M coordination process. Automate your supply chain management and produce high-quality building information, all for a fraction of the cost of a paper-based solution.

Watch our video below on the issues with traditional O&M manuals, and how we provide the solutions. If you would like to book an online demo, then press here or use the buttons below the video! 👇

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