224: The Golden Thread in the Building Safety Bill
Assuming that all goes to plan, the Building Safety Bill (the Draft Bill) is expected to receive Royal Assent in April-June 2022. The Bill has passed the committee stage in the House of Commons. The Reports Stage, where MPs will have the opportunity to propose further amendments has taken place this week.
The Draft Bill will bring about vast changes to the regulatory framework for the design and construction of higher risk residential buildings and their subsequent occupation, management and operation. Higher risk buildings are multiple occupancy buildings over 18 metres / six storeys in England. This definition includes student accommodation but not prisons, care homes or hotels.
The Draft Bill will create additional responsibilities for those who commission building work, who are involved in the planning, pre-construction and construction phases of high risk residential buildings (dutyholders), and those who are responsible for building safety management (Accountable Persons) These responsibilities will include creating a ‘golden thread’. The Building Regulations Advisory Committee Golden Thread Report (the Report) defines this as:
- the information about a building that allows someone to understand a building and keep it safe; and
- information management to ensure the information is accurate, easily understandable, can be accessed by those who need it and is up to date.
The golden thread must be created before building work starts and be kept updated throughout the design and construction process. When the work is completed the golden thread must be passed onto the Accountable Person who must maintain and update the information available. For existing buildings it will be the Accountable Person’s responsibility to create a golden thread of building information.
The government is set to specify digital standards (but not the specific software or tools) that parties should follow when creating, updating and maintaining the information. There are many existing standards (including the BIM Framework) which could support duty holders to create and maintain a golden thread but there are currently no standards which specifically apply to higher-risk buildings.
Guidance will be released setting out the requirements to demonstrate compliance with the Draft Bill and the golden thread but in the meantime parties involved in the construction of high risk buildings could consider:
- information already available on the building’s structural and fire safety;
- information that will become available during the development and construction;
- storing information digitally – identify a way to store information and provide access to other parties;
- use document tracker / consider a way to monitor, record and detail and changes to structural and fire safety design at design and construction stage;
- consider who should be responsible for maintaining the golden thread;
- are contractual arrangements in place that cover responsibilities for producing, maintaining, updating, and recording changes to the golden thread?
- if there are any draft leasehold arrangements do they include a clause to give access for inspection and to encapsulate and changes in the structural and fire safety of the building once occupied? and
- does the leasehold include a requirement for occupiers to provide any information needed to comply with obligations?
Further guidance on how to demonstrate compliance is expected, but there are steps that parties involved in the construction of higher risk buildings can do now to get ahead, save additional time (and perhaps costs) and ensure that they have the information available to show compliance when the Draft Bill becomes law.