May 27, 2021
The following commentary is based on the draft Building Safety Bill. It is therefore subject to change and provided for information only.
A key theme to emerge in the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire was the importance of developing and maintaining a ‘golden thread’ of information and data throughout the lifecycle of a higher-risk building, from design, construction and throughout occupation.
The Bill requires dutyholders to maintain complete and comprehensive records and documentation in digital format for higher-risk buildings. This body of documentation and information is known as the ‘golden thread’.
At any point throughout a buildings lifecycle, the ‘golden thread’ will enable dutyholders or the Building Safety Regulator to understand a building – how it’s to be constructed, how safety is designed into the building, how it’s to be maintained and operated, its current condition, statutory compliance status and any outstanding remedial actions.
During construction, the Client, Principal Designer and Principal Contractor dutyholder roles will be responsible for the development of the ‘golden thread’. Once the project reaches completion and handover, the ‘golden thread’ should be a substantial body of information and documentation. The dutyholders through construction will be required to handover the ‘golden thread’ to the Accountable Person, who then has a duty to maintain it throughout occupation.
Handing over a complete and comprehensive ‘golden thread’ of documentation will be essential for dutyholders during construction. The Regulator will use it to determine whether a completion certificate can be issued for the works and the Accountable Person will require it apply for a Building Assurance Certificate from the Regulator, which allows the building to be occupied.
Clients, Principal Designers and Principal Contractors will therefore need to agree an integrated approach to storing and managing documentation throughout the project. Failure to do this and collate a comprehensive ‘golden thread’ may result in significant delays and costs through the new development gateways.
For existing occupied buildings, it appears the Accountable Person will have a duty to ensure sufficient building information is collated and consolidated into a golden thread, if it doesn’t already exist.
The scope of the ‘golden thread’ has not yet been set out in official guidance, but can be expected to include as-built plans, operations and maintenance documents, health and safety documents, change management documents, materials documentation, installation certificates and risk assessments, amongst other documents.
The body of information that constitutes the ‘golden thread’ should be sufficient to serve as the basis for the Building Safety Case, which must be submitted to the new Building Safety Regulator before they issue a Building Assurance Certificate allowing the building to be occupied.
Both the Independent Review and Explanatory Notes to the new Bill make clear the expectation that these records are maintained digitally, allowing proper retention, security and version control to be maintained.
During occupation, the Accountable Person will need a robust technology platform to maintain the documentation of the ‘golden thread’ and comply with their duties. Data and documentation relating to building safety may be managed and maintained on their behalf by the Building Safety Manager, subject to suitable roles and functions being defined. Accountable Persons should therefore verify the technology platform and document management capabilities of their potential Building Safety Manager to ensure they sufficient.
Whilst this new duty may seem onerous for Accountable Persons, particularly for existing higher-risk buildings where historical information may need to be collated, meeting the requirements of this new duty is also an opportunity.
Effectively implementing the necessary platforms, processes and systems to comply with the ‘golden thread’ duties would provide: