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Freelance journalist

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Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
November 7, 2023


Lithium-Ion batteries. A guide to the fire risk that isn’t going away but can be managed

Golden thread

The fundamentals of the golden thread of building information – “Accountability at every level”

Much is talked and written about the “golden thread” of building information, but what exactly is it, how should it be organised and who should have access to it? Ron Alalouff reports from a session at Fire Conference 2023, where the FIA’s Will Lloyd outlined the fundamentals.

Will Lloyd head shot.jpg

Will Lloyd, Technical Manager, FIA

Speaking to delegates at the Fire Conference 2023, Fire Industry Association (FIA) Technical Manager, Will Lloyd, said all information about a building should be stored in the golden thread of building information.

The information needs to be accurate and trusted, so that it can be maintained and managed reliably.

Is the building built as designed? asked Lloyd. We need to identify, understand, manage and mitigate building safety. This needs to start off with the foundation of trusted information – without this we’ve already failed. We all know that buildings evolve, so a “change control” process is needed so that information doesn’t suddenly become out of date.

Not only do we have to collect and maintain the information, but we have to make it available and accessible to others, including residents. This means it has to be in digital format, including information on who manages the building.

Changes need to be communicated and recorded

And if you’re making changes, how do you tell everyone? Information needs to be a “single source of truth” to be cascaded down the chain – that’s all part of a culture change involving different working practices.

We need to monitor and manage all the information and any changes taking place, explained Lloyd, including information on how a building is being managed. For example, are residents leaving materials in communal areas?

Or what about the case where a shop on the ground floor hasn’t really worked out, so there’s a proposal to change it to a nursery. Does that affect the golden thread? Yes, because suddenly the risk changes. Or the situation where a building has just been installed with new, upgraded fire doors – what is the schedule for their inspection and maintenance?

Those maintenance records need to be part of the golden thread.

Data needs to be open and accessible

The format in which information is kept is also important, Lloyd told delegates. A common data environment is needed in which programs used are compatible with each other, so that data can be shared and accessed by people using different software.

The data also needs to be secure and resilient with sufficient protocols in place to protect it, at least to the government’s Cyber Essentials scheme.

Data protection provisions are also essential – holding information on residents, for example, needs to be GDPR-complaint. Meanwhile, it’s essential to decide who can make changes to the data, with the correct user rights.

Accountability at every level

The golden thread means accountability at every level – anyone involved in designing, building, maintaining and using a building, said Lloyd. The information also needs consistent and clear terminology.

“The golden thread of information is everything [about the building], and everyone needs to understand everything – without these we’re failing.”

The information needs to be simple to access and stored in a structured way to easily find, update and extract the right information. And the information needs to be readily transferable to any new owners of the building. You need to be able to transfer data in an open and interoperable way.

But keeping information up to date and relevant doesn’t mean you have to keep everything for ever. For example, with the installation of new fire doors, information on the old fire doors should be deleted. “If it’s no longer relevant, we can get rid of it.”

So building information needs to be periodically reviewed to ensure it stays relevant and useful, concluded Lloyd. “It sounds easy, but it’s not!”


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