What is the Golden Thread of Information?

Stemming from the events at Grenfell Tower on 4th June 2017, and after uncovering wider systemic faults within the Construction Industry, Dame Judith Hackitt produced her Building a Safer Future report in May 2018.

But what is it?

Building a Safer Future outlined the introduction of a Golden Thread of Information to ensure that all those who design, construct, renovate, and manage buildings have access to and can provide relevant, up-to-date, and easy-to-access information that demonstrates both compliance to building regulations, and the safety of the building, and its residents.[1]

The Golden Thread includes both the ‘information about a building that allows someone to understand a building and keep it safe, and the information management to ensure the information is accurate, easily understandable, can be accessed by those who need it and is up to date.’[2] This will ensure that safety is considered, and prioritised at every stage of the building’s life.

The Golden Thread policy, within the Building Safety Bill 2021, focuses the efforts of the ‘Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), supported by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) golden thread working group, and key stakeholders from across the built environment and housing sector,’[3] to implement a widespread change throughout the Construction Industry.[4]

The Golden Thread will be looked after by the newly-appointed Building Safety Regulator, BSR, who will monitor Dutyholders and Accountable Persons and take on the role of regulator for their High-Risk Residential Buildings, HRRBs.

Golden thread on a bobbin

Based on Dame Hackitt’s recommendations, the Building Safety Bill 2021 sets out to

‘overhaul regulations, create lasting generational change, [and] set out a clear pathway on how residential buildings should be constructed, maintained and made safe.’[5]

The Golden Thread will be digitised to ensure it is accessible and easy to update. This digital Thread covers every stage of the building’s life cycle, from the early design stages, through to continued occupation, and future refurbishment, and aims to provide an entirely new way of providing information to any who may need to access it, from Building Managers to future owners, from engineers to future construction companies carrying out remedial works or refurbishment.

Although the specific requirements of the Golden Thread are yet to be published, (it is expected in secondary legislation) general documents relating to safety and compliance will be included. For example, any information that demonstrates compliance with building regulations during its construction, or relates to the safety of the building, and building users will be included. Similarly, updates or changes to the building to meet the requirements of new building controls will also need to be included.

The Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) created the Golden thread Report which set out a ‘golden thread definition and principles which will inform ongoing work in developing secondary legislation and guidance.’[6] This expected secondary legislation and guidance is explained in more detail below.[7]

Diagram that explores what we can expect from Primary, and secondary legislation, and further guidance.

Who will look after the Golden Thread?

The policy outlined 4 key stages in the asset’s lifetime, planning, design, building, and occupation. During each of these stages, the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) will consider if the Dutyholders are prioritising safety and meeting regulations.

During the design and construction stages, the Golden Thread will be looked after by a Dutyholder also, who remains answerable to the BSR.

These Dutyholders would be:

  • those who commission building work, those who participate in the design and construction process, and

  • those who are responsible for managing structural and fire safety in the building when it is occupied.

In the planning stage, before construction can begin, the Dutyholder must submit the following to the BSR, to prove compliance:

  • full plans, including a detailed specification in relation to how fire and structural safety risks will be managed.

  • 3D digital modelling of the building 'as planned', which must also show the construction products to be used.

  • Fire statement, addressing fire service access and water availability. This will ultimately be developed into a fire and emergency file, building on the fire statement, and updated throughout the construction phase.

  • A construction control plan setting out how compliance with the Building Regulations will be achieved and how changes will be controlled and recorded. Major changes affecting safety will need to be agreed upon with the principal designer and client and approved by the building safety regulator in advance. [8]

High rise building tops rising dramatically from a foggy skyline

Image from Pexels.com, courtesy of Aleksandar Pasaric.

Upon completion of the building stage, the BSR must see more evidence of the following before the building can be awarded a building safety certificate.

− A handover of building safety information on the final, 'as-built' building.

− A safety case for the building identifying hazards, describing how risks are controlled and detailing safety management systems, including emergency response procedures.

− A resident engagement strategy setting out how [the] information will be provided to residents, complaints procedures and wider engagement initiatives.’[9]

Upon receipt of the building certificate, the Golden Thread becomes the responsibility of the Accountable Person/s, (AP) whose duty would be to coordinate, update, and ensure the accuracy of all information, and who answers to the BSR. If in a large building, there may be multiple Accountable Persons, who then report to a Principal Accountable Person (PAP). This PAP will be appointed to develop and coordinate Golden Threads from all APs who are individually responsible for smaller sections of the building.

If further construction or renovation takes place on-site, a union of dutyholders, APs and Principle Accountable Person will work together to maintain and update the Golden Thread.

The PAP will then report to the BSR whose duties include ‘the requirement to conduct an assessment of building safety risk and register these in a safety case report, which will be stored within the golden thread of information.’[10] This Building Safety Regulator will then work with the building management to ensure they meet regulations for the lifetime of the building.

Does the Golden Thread glisten with potential?

For the future of properly managed HRRBs, with safer futures, the answer is surely yes.

The Golden Thread would improve many areas, such as,

  • accessibility,

  • risk, and

  • collaboration.

If everyone involved in the building’s lifecycle had easy access to all information and could share this with inspectors, specialist engineers, tradespeople, etc., quickly and simply, this will likely reduce time delays and the siloing of information, making day-to-day decisions easier. Similarly, it removes the risk from potential decision-making, as everyone involved in the project has access to all the information they could need, for the entirety of the asset lifecycle.

Moreover, the benefits to Fire Protection and Safety could be enormous. Fire Protection equipment such as fire doors and fire extinguishers require routine servicing and maintenance to ensure that they adhere to Fire Safety legislation. A digital information system will allow for servicing and inspection documents to be stored together, meaning that the likelihood of these essential items being serviced and inspected regularly will, you would expect, increase.

However, this poses an interesting question about the future of residential buildings below 18 metres.

By legislating a potentially ground-breaking shift in the safety and compliance solely for high rise residential buildings, surely new legislation leaves residencies 17m or below at prolonged and unnecessary risk?

‘” The Building Safety Bill, along with the Fire Safety Act, are important pieces of legislation that will strengthen the building safety system in the UK. The LGA has long-warned about the need for building safety reforms to avoid creating a two-tier building safety system which leaves buildings under 18 metres vulnerable and unprotected. The height of a building does not define the risk to its safety, as has been proven by a number of dangerous and potentially fatal fires in buildings below 18 metres.”’[11]
High rise buildings shot from the ground, looking up at a blue cloudy sky

Image from Pexels.com, courtesy of DLKR.

In my view, we are in a position of great potential for positive change for all residential properties, reducing, and potentially removing, the risk for avoidable fires, and other disasters, that stem from general avoidance and buck-passing attitudes within the construction industry. Adapting the Building Safety Bill 2021 to include more residential properties will remove a possible two-tier system of responsibilities for building residential properties and may stop future users of the new Building Safety Bill from becoming lax in future when constructing and maintaining residential properties of 17m or less.

Thinking of residential construction as a whole now, and applying recent, troubleshooting legislation, such as the updated Building Safety Bill, to all residential buildings, will likely prove a simple way of ensuring that all future housing stock is free from unnecessary dangers and that the current stock is maintained to the same high standard expected from HRRBs already destined to be covered by the Building Safety Bill.

What do you think?

Are you worried about a two-tier system developing in the UK?

Do you believe it will be adapted to include all residential buildings, no matter their height?

Let us know below.


[1] Paraphrased from Gov.UK, ‘Golden Thread: factsheet,’ updated 8.10.2021, <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-safety-bill-factsheets/golden-thread-factsheet>

[2] As above.

[3] Gov.UK, ‘Building Regulations Advisory Committee: golden thread report,’ published 21.07.2021 <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-regulations-advisory-committee-golden-thread-report/building-regulations-advisory-committee-golden-thread-report>

[4] Golden Thread image taken from IFSECGlobal.com, ‘Hackitt’s ‘golden thread’: Steps to true transparency and accountability,’ published by Chelsey Lang on 04.08.2019, <https://www.ifsecglobal.com/fire-news/hackitts-golden-thread-steps-to-true-transparency-and-accountability/ >

[5] Gov.UK, ‘Building Safety Bill,’ published 05.07.2021, <https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/building-safety-bill#factsheets>

[6] BuildingDesignOnline.co.uk, ‘Key principles of Hackitt’s ‘golden thread’ revealed,’ published by Jordan Marshall on 29.07.2021, <https://www.bdonline.co.uk/news/key-principles-of-hackitts-golden-thread-revealed/5113025.article>

[7] Diagram from Gov.UK, ‘Building Regulations Advisory Committee: golden thread report,’ published 21.07.2021, <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-regulations-advisory-committee-golden-thread-report/building-regulations-advisory-committee-golden-thread-report>

[8] PinsentMasons.com, ‘High-rise building safety reform: the 'golden thread' of information,’ published 04.07.2019 <https://www.pinsentmasons.com/out-law/analysis/high-rise-building-safety-reform-the-golden-thread-of-information>

[9] PinsentMasons.com, ‘High-rise building safety reform: the 'golden thread' of information,’ published 04.07.2019 <https://www.pinsentmasons.com/out-law/analysis/high-rise-building-safety-reform-the-golden-thread-of-information>

[10] InsideHousing.co.uk, ‘What impact will the Building Safety Bill have? The key takeaways,’ published 06.07.21 By IH Reporters, <https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/insight/insight/what-impact-will-the-building-safety-bill-have-the-key-takeaways-71452>

[11] Cllr David Renard, housing spokesperson at the Local Government Association (LGA) quoted in the ConstructionIndex.co.uk, ‘Councils urge MPs to expand scope of Building Safety Bill,’ published 19.01.2022, <https://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/councils-urge-mps-to-expand-scope-of-building-safety-bill>

Cover image from Pexels.com, courtesy of Miklos Magyar

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