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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.
July 7, 2022


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Golden thread

The digital golden thread of building safety information and its intrinsic role in the new building safety case

An informative presentation on digitising the golden thread of building safety information was held at the 7th International Tall Buildings Conference in May, alongside FIREX International in London. Ron Alalouff reports from Chris Chennell’s session.

Chris Chennell, Director of Fire Safety at engineering consultancy Hydrock, defined the digital golden thread as “a delivery method for the capture of data to create a building safety case”. The building safety case is a fundamental aspect of the new Building Safety Act, where accountable persons are responsible for compiling information on the fire structural protection in their buildings, demonstrating how they are preventing fire spread and structural failure and limiting their consequences.

The safety case report is a document that summarises the safety case, identifying a building’s major fire and structural hazards and setting out how those risks are being managed. The golden thread of building information – first set out in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report – is intrinsically connected to the safety case.

Chennell emphasised the importance of collecting and passing on critical information on the building and its fire safety aspects. “Anyone involved in surveying buildings will know that what’s designed, built and occupied can be very different. It’s very hard for building users to make safety decisions if they don’t have access to the design information.”

He then went on to outline the role of the Building Safety Regulator, who will oversee the performance and safety of buildings by encouraging and helping to improve competency, and leading the implementation of the new regulatory framework for higher-risk buildings.

Chennell explained the various roles of dutyholders such as the principal designer, principal contractor and accountable person. Although the statutory role of building safety manager was taken out of the legislation just before it became law, accountable persons will still need someone to carry out those functions.

Structure of the digital golden thread

The digital golden thread would be based on the following structure.

  • Planning stage: The client and principal designer would be involved in the planning stage, where a brief, hazard identification and audit will be put in place. A fire safety statement – which needs to identify the accountable person – has to be submitted, and the accountable person should be involved in writing the brief for data capture, and feed into that data.
  • Design stage: The client and the principal designer create a platform, validate BIM (building information modelling) and carry out an audit of the safety case data.
  • Build stage: The client will appoint a principal contractor who will operate the platform and collect construction data. There would be monitoring by a clerk of the works, and a safety case data audit would be carried out.
  • Occupation stage: The accountable person will migrate the data to an asset information model, assess the safety case on an ongoing basis, and obtain approval from the Building Safety Regulator.

HSE safety case principles

In its safety case principles for high-rise residential buildings, the HSE defines a major accident hazard as an “an occurrence that has the potential to adversely impact the health or safety of many people. For example, multiple injuries or deaths, or serious damage to property.”

Major accident hazards usually need a series of failures to occur, resulting in catastrophic outcomes, so the likelihood of a major accident is very low. But when such failures do occur, they can have a severe impact through lives lost, injuries, the destruction of livelihoods, damage to homes and property, and wider societal and economic impact.

More on the HSE’s safety case principles for high-rise residential buildings can be found here.

Chennell concluded that it’s highly likely that the digital golden thread will be adopted in buildings other than high rise residential ones. As the insurance industry will appreciate the benefits of this collation of safety data, it is foreseeable that any building of complexity will involve a golden thread. Once buildings have data collated for fire and structural systems ­– and the platform in place aligns with an asset information model – it’s not a huge leap to see this method used to collect data to enhance overall building performance.

For more information regarding the golden thread, see:


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