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The golden thread and storing your building's information

30 January 2023

In the wake of the Grenfell disaster, the Building Safety Act 2022 introduced a reinforced regulatory regime to improve accountability and risk management in higher risk buildings, such as high rise residential buildings. A key part of this regime was the introduction of more prescriptive requirements in relation to storing information about buildings.   

What is the 'golden thread'?

The Building Safety Act 2022 requires building owners to gather and store certain types of information about their buildings referred to as the 'golden thread of information'. The concept of the golden thread originated in the Hackitt report, the independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety set up following the Grenfell disaster.

In summary, the golden thread is both the information that allows you to understand a building and the steps needed to keep both the building and people safe now and in the future. The full definition can be found on the Government website here. Basically, it is a digital record of all information associated with the building, such as design, planning, approvals, decisions, processes, refurbishments and usage that should be kept for the entire life of the building.

What is the benefit?

The golden thread of information offers many benefits, including:

- Accessibility – having all of the key building information in one place means that all parties can easily find and access information as and when it is needed.

- Risk – it prevents decisions being made based on old or irrelevant information and facilitates easier assessment of building safety risks.

- Time and money – it helps to save time and money with more seamless collaboration between parties and the ability to minimise the impact should any building safety incidents occur. As the golden thread allows regulators access to details on how the building was designed, built and operated throughout its life, it means it is easier for regulators to hold the right person (or people) responsible in the event of an incident.

How should the information be managed?

The buildings information must be:

  • kept digitally and securely;
  • a building's single source of truth;
  • made available to people who need the information to do a job;
  • made available when a person needs the information; and
  • presented in a way that is usable.

What information needs to be kept?

The information that needs to be kept must be proportionate and will be dependent on what stage the building is at in its lifecycle. Anyone responsible for a building's information should be cautious of keeping too much information, as this might make it more difficult to find important information when it is needed.

Whilst a building is being designed and built, information should be kept that describes the building and shows how it complies with building regulations. Once the building has been completed, if it is occupied then information will need to be kept that shows how building safety risks are being assessed and managed. The HSE has produced useful guidance on the types of information that should be gathered on their website here, what follows is an overview:

Information should be kept that relates to:

  1. The design and build, such as documents evidencing required approvals and compliance with building regulations.
  2. Basic building information, such as when the building was built, the number of storeys, flats, staircases and if it has been refurbished.
  3. The building's construction, such as the load bearing and stability systems and construction materials (e.g. cladding, insulation, roofing and wall material)
  4. Resident profile, and more specific information such as the emergency arrangements for those who cannot evacuate without help or those whose first language is not English.
  5. Refurbishment, such as approvals and specifications for refurbishment materials and work.
  6. Fire prevention and protective measures
  7. Structural safety, such as significant challenges to maintaining structural safety and any findings from structural surveys or inspections.
  8. Services and utilities, such as plans showing where the services are in the building, where and how they can be isolated and the contact details of suppliers.
  9. Maintenance and inspection

What if some information is missing?

Buildings that are very old or have changed ownership many times may not have all of the information described above easily available. However, the person responsible for a building's information must take reasonable steps to find the required information and the level of investigation should be proportionate to how important the information is for managing building safety. For example in some cases contacting the previous owners or building control to request copies of documents will be enough, whereas in other cases significant investigation such as consulting with specialists or commissioning reports will be required.

What if the information reveals a problem?

If the information gathering process uncovers problems with the building, these should be acted on before an incident can occur. Consideration should be given to how serious each problem is and what can reasonably be done about it, any response should be proportionate to the risk but building owners must be able to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to keep people safe and meet their legal duties.

DWF's Tier 1 Regulatory, Compliance and Investigations Team has a wealth of knowledge and experience and is here to assist you with any concerns you may have in relation to your buildings and storing information. If you have any queries regarding the topics raised in this article, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the contact below to discuss issues further.

Read the latest Regulatory, Compliance and Investigations Insights 

Further Reading