What is the Golden Thread?

In the Building Safety Act 2022, the Golden Thread is the information that allows you to understand a building, as well as and the steps needed to keep both the building and people safe. Essentially, it involves getting the right building safety information, to the right people, at the right time.

It starts from when a building is designed and before it is constructed. This information should be updated throughout these stages, ready for handover to the Accountable Person once the building is occupied.

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The need for building information to be made clear and accessible was made most stark following the Grenfell Tower fire, where inaccurate information about the building’s construction led to tragedy. Not only did the dangerous ACM cladding mean the shelter-in-place fire safety strategy advised to residents was inappropriate, firefighters thought there were only 20 storeys, when there were actually 24, leading to additional difficulties fighting the fire. They were also unaware that the lifts were not designed for firefighting purposes.

The Golden Thread is not just a digital record and single source of truth of all current and updated information about a building’s safety, it also helps keep that information readily available to the people who need it. It should be made available to the Building Safety Regulator, forming the backbone of the Building Assessment Certificate.

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Who is responsible for the Golden Thread?

The dutyholder is responsible for maintaining the Golden Thread. Who this would be differs depending on the phase of the building’s life cycle. During design and construction, this could be the Client, Principal Contractor or Principal Designer. Once the building is occupied, the responsibility rests with the Accountable Person, or Principal Accountable Person if there are multiple Accountable Persons. Depending on the management structure, the Accountable Person can be an individual, partnership or corporate body.

Information in the Golden Thread must be trustworthy and up-to-date. There should be clear change control procedures in place to ensure any updates which take place are accurate and reliable.

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Who should be able to see the Golden Thread?

Golden Thread information should be accessible to anyone involved in keeping the building safe. This could be building safety managers and accountable persons as well as contractors.

This information should be shared with the Building Safety regulator to allow them to assess the compliance of the building.

Crucially, information from the Golden Thread should also be provided to residents so they feel safe in their homes and up-to-date about what is going on regarding the safety of their building.

 

How to store Golden Thread information

Golden Thread information should be a building’s single source of truth. All information must be stored digitally and securely and accessible to anyone who needs it, in the right format to ensure they are able to use it to do their jobs.

 

How will the Golden Thread be paid for?

Who bears the financial burden of creating and maintaining the Golden Thread and Safety Case reports? Michael Gove has assured leaseholders they won't be responsible for the costs associated with building safety works. However, there remains ambiguity surrounding the expenses incurred in the reporting process.

The Building Safety Act primarily seeks to shield leaseholders from the financial implications of necessary safety upgrades. However, the cost of compiling and maintaining the required information to make these upgrades will fall upon leaseholders –  the time and effort needed to bridge information gaps is not insignificant.

However, these costs can be spread over time. The regulator will take into account the fact that not all buildings will be perfect from the outset. The initial reports are expected to serve as a solid foundation, demonstrating a commitment to building safety, but they will not have to be perfect straight away.

The biggest distinguishing factor in costs is the difference between reporting and works. 

 

Paying for reporting

Reporting costs, such as creating and maintaining the golden thread and safety case reports, will be recovered via the service charge.

The reporting cost will depend on how large and complex the building is. The two most critical pieces of information are fire safety information related to Regulation 38, which stipulates that upon completion of any building, all necessary data for an accurate fire strategy should be available, and Operation and Maintenance manuals, which contain structural and material information. These sources of information should be readily available but often go missing, necessitating significant effort and cost to recreate them.

 

Paying for works

The costs of remedial works, on the other hand, will be drawn from funds allocated by the Government for the purpose of building safety. These include the Building Safety Fund, Cladding Safety Scheme (for buildings 11-18 meters tall), developers' contributions, and support from the National House Building Council (NHBC). Warranty providers may also play a significant role, as demonstrated by a recent £7 million settlement paid to one managing agent.

 

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Avoiding Golden Thread remediation pitfalls

Exercise caution when dealing with contractors who undertake remedial work. It's crucial to thoroughly inspect their work before signing off on liability. Discovering defects or non-compliance after the fact can lead to both escalating costs and delays in obtaining the Building Safety Certificate.

Managing agents may also run into unforeseen issues when delivering their updated Building Safety Cases to insurers, thinking that their premiums will become less expensive. It’s unlikely insurers will be interested in the installation of new fire alarms to meet building safety standards if the building is still going to be damaged in case of fire, as they are primarily concerned with the ultimate cost of actual damages. Remedial works should also take asset protection into account, not just compliance. 

The Building Safety Act represents a seismic shift in the construction and property management landscape. The introduction of the Golden Thread and Safety Case Reports bringing newfound transparency and accountability, albeit with associated costs. It will take careful planning and consideration to make sure all leaseholders feel the financial burdens they face are reasonable and fair.

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