What is the golden thread?

Throughout the lifecycle of a building, a web of information regarding how the building is built, the materials used, the fire safety measures taken, and much more is created  and it is important that this information is collected, recorded, and saved. The information has been referred to as the ‘golden thread’ of information. This advice and guidance article covers the golden thread of information in fire safety, touching on what the golden thread means, and how it can be collated and maintained.

What does the golden thread mean?

In the wake of the tragedy at Grenfell in 2017, the importance of sufficient building information and accountability related to fire safety in buildings was brought into focus. In her UK Government-funded report, Dame Judith Hackitt called for a change in culture in the construction industry to ensure that buildings are built and designed to prioritise life safety.

As a result of this, and alongside the growing drive for more sustainable buildings, there is a growing emphasis on the lifecycle of a building. This has created the need for improved transparency, communication, and documentation throughout the built environment to ensure the safety of all occupants of a building.

The golden thread of information in construction refers to the flow of this essential information about a building, starting at the design phase and continuing through the entire lifecycle of the building, including decommissioning. The thread should be the single source of truth when it comes to the building, and this essential information includes, but is not limited to:

  • the building’s fire safety features, including all fire protection systems included in the building
  • the design of the building
  • the materials used in the construction of the building and all accompanying information about the building materials
  • information about the escape routes of the building
  • information about the emergency procedures of the building should a fire event occur.

The purpose of the golden thread of information is to adhere to the applicable building regulations, as well as identifying, understanding, managing, and mitigating building safety risks to prevent or reduce the consequences of fire spread or structural collapse.

During the design and construction phase of a building, it is the responsibility of the dutyholder (e.g. the principal designer or contractor) to keep and manage the information. In the occupation phase of the building, this responsibility passes to the accountable person/accountable persons (e.g. the person responsible for the building, building safety managers). Where a building already exists, the accountable person must make ‘reasonable enquiries’ that allows them to find historical information about the building.

How to maintain the golden thread

The maintenance of the golden thread is a hugely important aspect of understanding a building’s ongoing lifecycle. The information of a building will be changing regularly whenever any modifications are made, so it is important to ensure that stringent maintenance of the information is in place to ensure the Golden thread remains accurate.

The dutyholder should ensure that the building information is kept digitally and securely so that there is no risk of losing the information. It should be made available to people who need the information to do a job, and it must be available when the person needs it. It must be presented in a way that is easily used.

Some useful ways to maintain the golden thread of information in your building include:

  • establishing management procedures and a control process to ensure that the collection, documentation, updating, and disseminating of fire safety information is collected through the lifecycle of the building
  • documenting all design and construction details
  • using digital tools and technologies where appropriate to aid you in the collection and management of digital information. Ensure this is maintained to the highest digital standards
  • implementing a change management process to ensure that any changes in the building are correctly documented
  • providing education and training to relevant stakeholders about the importance of maintaining the golden thread. If you manage buildings, this should be done with a range of stakeholders e.g. building occupants
  • conducting regular inspections and audits to ensure that information is being correctly collected and documented
  • ensuring that all information is easily accessible and that information is transparent
  • working to continuously improve the way you are recording building information in order to ensure that fire safety is maintained throughout the building.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to maintain the golden thread of information in your building, but it should provide a framework for the correct information to be documented to ensure the safety of your building occupants.You can find more information on the ‘golden thread’ of information here.

Please be aware that considerable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained within this article at the time of publication, however any legislative (or other) changes that come into effect after this may render the information out of date until it is reviewed and updated as part of the FPA’s content review cycle.