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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.
August 24, 2021

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The Video Surveillance Report 2021

Building safety

Building industry must change its safety culture by adopting ‘golden thread’ principles says building regulations committee

The building industry needs to change its safety culture and embrace digital information in order to rise to the challenges of improved building safety, a new report from the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) says.

Published last month, the committee’s report picks up on Dame Judith Hackett’s concept of a ‘golden thread’ running through the lifetime of a building, as set out in her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. The BRAC report fleshes out what the golden thread means in terms of providing and managing key information about a building’s potential fire and structural safety, and the digital recording and processing of that information. The provisions apply to higher risk buildings – those that are more than 18m or seven storeys high and comprise a minimum of two residential units.

The report emphasises that the golden thread is not just information about a building – it also includes how that information is managed and processed, to ensure it is both accurate and accessible. It applies to the whole life of a building, from design and construction through to occupation. Crucially, the golden thread will record any changes (such as amendments to information, documents or plans), when changes were made and by whom, to help drive improved accountability.

BIM-BuildingSafety-HENADZAdobeStock

Credit: HENADZ/AdobeStock


The golden thread supports the safety case approach, where those accountable for high-rise and in-scope buildings must ensure reasonable steps are taken to manage fire and structural safety risks through prevention, control and ongoing management. They must set out and justify their approach in their safety case report, which will be assessed by the Building Safety Regulator. The intention is for the regulator and residents to be able to hold accountable those involved in the design, construction and management of a building.

The new regime will place legal responsibilities on those who commission building work, participate in the design and construction process, and those who are responsible for managing structural and fire safety in higher-risk buildings when they are occupied. As the report states: “The golden thread will ensure that the people responsible for these buildings have the right information at the right time to ensure that their building is safe.”

While the report is concerned with the principles of the golden thread, the Government intends to set out the specifics – such as the information that has to be stored in the golden thread and how the information must be kept – in secondary legislation. In design, construction and refurbishment, the golden thread should contain the information needed to demonstrate compliance with specified building regulations. When the building is completed, this information should be handed over to the person responsible for the building (the Accountable Person).

The legislation to enact the golden thread is contained in the Building Safety Bill, currently making its way through parliament. MHCLG will be publishing more detailed requirements in regulations, which will be supported by guidance.

The golden thread will also support a culture change in the industry, as it will require increased competence and capability, different working practices, up to date processes and an emphasis on information management and control. BRAC intends to promote the “development of a culture where building safety is the core priority for those interacting with a building throughout its lifecycle.”


READ: The vital role of digitalisation in construction and property management


As the report states: “In addition to legislation, significant and immediate industry ownership and culture change is essential. Implementation of a successful golden thread requires a culture of building safety to be at the forefront of safety and information management throughout the lifecycle of a building and embedded within organisations… The golden thread needs to be owned by industry.”

In terms of information management, the report envisages the use of existing British and international standards, as well as the UK BIM (Building Information Modelling) Framework.

In addition to improving building safety, BRAC believes that the golden thread can play a key part in wider digital transformation in the built environment, delivering economic growth, better public services, and greater sustainability.

Although the emphasis of the report is on high rise buildings in scope, the committee notes that the principles of the golden thread are also applicable and relevant to the safety of other buildings. It is hoped that these principles will start being applied to the design, construction and management of all relevant buildings, as the risk from fire is not confined to high-rise buildings.

‘Golden thread’ definition

The full definition of the golden thread by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee is as follows:

  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 in order to prevent or reduce the severity of the consequences of fire spread or structural collapse throughout the life cycle of a building
  1. The information stored in the golden thread will be reviewed and managed so that the information retained, at all times, achieves these purposes.
  2. The golden thread covers both the information and documents and the information management processes (or steps) used to support building safety.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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 also need to be shared by the Accountable Person with other relevant people including residents and emergency responders.

[Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.]

 

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