Keeping and maintaining the Golden Thread Information for Higher-Risk Buildings under the Building Safety Act
In "Building a Safer Future: Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety," Dame Judith Hackitt recommended the introduction of a ‘Golden Thread’ as a tool to manage buildings as holistic systems and allow people to use information to safely and effectively design, construct and operate their buildings.
She intended that a single Golden Thread of key information should be passed across to future building owners to underpin more effective safety management throughout the building life cycle.
Following consultation on the scope of the Golden Thread Information in 2022 and the implementation of the Building Safety Act, which refers to Golden Thread Information in section 89, the secondary legislation has now been published to set out what information developers and building owners need to produce, store and provide to residents, the Building Safety Regulator and other key persons involved in keeping buildings safe.
- The Building (Higher-Risk Buildings Procedures) (England) Regulations 2023 covers the obligation to produce, maintain and store Golden Thread information in relation to design and construction of higher-risk buildings and works undertaken to higher-risk buildings;
- The Higher-Risk Buildings (Management of Safety Risks etc) (England) (Regulations) 2023 (the "Management Regulations") applies to management of higher-risk buildings and covers the format and method of storing Golden Thread Information during the in-occupation phase; and
- Higher-Risk Buildings (Keeping and Provision of Information etc.) (England) Regulations 2023 (the "Golden Thread Regulations") (which were recently published in draft) will cover the detail of what should form the Golden Thread Information during the in-occupation phase. At the date of writing, these draft regulations had lapsed when Parliament was prorogued for the King's Speech and will need to be re-laid once Parliament resumes.
There was an expectation that the Golden Thread was supposed to be a "single source of truth" which starts with design, is added to and updated throughout the construction phase, and is then handed over to the Principal Accountable Person and further added to and kept updated throughout the occupation phase of the building. A continuous unbroken thread, as it were, from beginning to end, all stored on a single interactive system which all relevant people have access to.
In reality, there are two very distinct Golden Threads:
- For the design and construction phase, the Golden Thread Information covers the documentation required for Gateways 1, 2 and 3 sign off by the Building Safety Regulator plus any changes and mandatory occurrence reports. Prior to submission of the Gateway 3 application, the client (i.e. the developer or the employer of the main contractor) must hand over the "specified" Golden Thread information to each Accountable Person (and each Responsible Person under the Fire Safety Order).
- For the in-occupation phase, the contents of the Golden Thread are extensive and cover not only the design and construction information, but all building information relating to building safety and fire safety.
Yet, for the majority of higher-risk buildings, only the in-occupation Golden Thread will be relevant. For many years to come, the proportion of newly built higher-risk buildings that go through the Gateways regime (which therefore have the design and construction phase Golden Thread available), will remain a very small percentage of the total number of all extant higher-risk buildings (of which there are currently around 12,500). Instead, Accountable Persons for existing higher-risk buildings will need to obtain enough information about the building design and as-built plans for their older buildings in order to comply with the regulations – which might require intrusive surveys to be done.
Storage and management of the Golden Thread
The required standard of data storage and management is set out in regulation 7 of the Management Regulations.
Notably, this does not require the Golden Thread to all be stored on one system, but only that the documents should be capable of being transferred to others without being lost or corrupted. No particular standards of coding or indexing are prescribed.
Regulation 24(2) of the Golden Thread Regulations waters this down further, by saying that each Accountable Person is only required to keep the part of the Golden Thread insofar as it relates to the part of the building that they are responsible for. So, for complex buildings with multiple Accountable Persons, the Golden Thread might not only be stored on different systems, but different parts of it might be held by different people.
Sharing Golden Thread documents with other people
The Golden Thread Regulations develop sections 89 and 90 of the Building Safety Act in relation to the provision of information to other people, namely to:
- the Building Safety Regulator;
- other Accountable Persons for the building;
- residents aged 16 or over (which the Accountable Person is obliged to take all reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of);
- owners of dwellings (i.e. leaseholders, including buy-to-let landlords who are not residents);
- clients (i.e. people who procure works in respect of the higher-risk building, including individuals doing works to their own dwellings which are caught by building regulations);
- any Responsible Persons including in relation to any part of the "wider building" of which the higher-risk building is an independent section – so this would require the Accountable Person to provide information to Responsible Persons for the commercial or non-residential sections of a wider/complex set of structures; and
- any incoming Accountable Person upon the sale of the outgoing Accountable Person's interest (where the entirety of the Golden Thread needs to be handed over on completion of the sale).
The use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) as a tool to store this information has been suggested by the Government Guidance on Collaborative Procurement for Design and Construction to Support Building Safety. The Guidance also emphasises the need for principal contractors and designers to build into the procurement process a clear evaluation on how they will be developing and maintaining the Golden Thread and that obligations to store and update the Golden Thread need to be set out in collaborative contracts, both for the design and construction phases and asset management of the higher-risk building.