Last edited 28 May 2024

Golden thread of building information

In December 2017, Dame Judith Hackitt said in her interim report following the Grenfell Tower Fire: “There needs to be a golden thread for all complex and high-risk building projects so that the original design intent is preserved and recorded, and…any changes go through a formal review process involving people who are competent and who understand the key features of the design."

On 16 May 2018, Building a Safer Future, Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report, was published, stating: 'The interim report identified the need for a ‘golden thread’ of information for all higher risk residential buildings (HRRBs), so that their original design intent is preserved and changes can be managed through a formal review process. Equally, access to up-to-date information is crucial when effectively carrying out a fire risk assessment of a building and determining whether any action is required.'

A reformed building safety regulatory system, Government response to the ‘Building a Safer Future’ consultation, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in April 2020 states:

Duty-holders will be responsible for creating and maintaining the golden thread of building information related to fire and structural safety. The golden thread will be held digitally to ensure that the original design intent and any subsequent changes to the building are captured, preserved and used to support safety improvements. At the handover stage between Gateway three and occupation, key information (the golden thread) will have to be handed over from the Client to the Accountable Person - both will need to confirm that this has happened. The Accountable Person will continue to be responsible for the golden thread and ensuring the information remains accurate and up to date.

The Explanatory Notes to the Draft Building Safety Bill, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government on 20 July 2020, define the golden thread of information as: 'Fire and structural safety building information held digitally to specific standards. These standards will include requirements around robust information management and keeping the information up to date. The golden thread will ensure that those responsible for the building have the required information to manage building safety during throughout the lifecycle of the building'

NB, The term 'golden thread' is also used in relation to the soft landings framework. The Government Construction Strategy: One Year On suggests that '...the reason for the creation of an asset and its intended business purpose, the 'golden thread', can often be lost in the construction process. GSL (Government Soft Landings) will be used to maintain this 'golden thread' and ensure its continuation into the building's operative stage.'

And in relation to planning, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) suggests that, 'the purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development' and that development that is sustainable should go ahead, without delay, that is, a presumption in favour of sustainable development should be '…a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking'.

In December 2020, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and i3PT published the research report, The Golden Thread: Understanding the capability and capacity of the UK built environment to deliver and retain digital information. The report looks at the industry's understanding of the golden thread, how responsibility for its delivery might be distributed, current capacity and capability of the built environment to deliver, and potential blockers and solutions.

The Digital Twin Interactive Navigator published by the Construction Innovation Hub in May 2021, states: 'The ‘Golden Thread’ of information is a digital record of building work that is passed across to future building owners, similar to a cars ‘log book’ outlining the assets history including the as-built design of the asset and the products that were used. It is a live document, held digitally that captures the digital fingerprints of people, recording their decisions providing a clear accountability trail. Therefore the Digital Twin becomes a vital part of the Golden Thread which can provide a historic, current representation of the built asset and maybe used as a vehicle to simulate future scenarios.'

In August 2020 MHCLG convened a Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) Golden Thread Working Group to define the Golden Thread. In July 2021, the BRAC published a report providing greater clarity on high-level golden thread requirements including the golden thread definition and principles, and how digital standards will underpin implementation of the golden thread of information. Ref

This gave the following definition:


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.

Full definition

1. The golden thread will hold the information that those responsible for the building require to:

2. The information stored in the golden thread will be reviewed and managed so that the information retained, at all times, achieves these purposes.

3. The golden thread covers both the information and documents and the information management processes (or steps) used to support building safety.

4. The golden thread information should be stored as structured digital information. It will be stored, managed, maintained and retained in line with the golden thread principles (see below). The government will specify digital standards which will provide guidance on how the principles can be met.

5. The golden thread information management approach will apply through design, construction, occupation, refurbishment and ongoing management of buildings. It supports the wider changes in the regime to promote a culture of building safety.

6. Building safety should be taken to include the fire and structural safety of a building and the safety of all the people in or in the vicinity of a building (including emergency responders).

7. Many people will need to access the golden thread to update and share golden thread information throughout a building’s lifecycle, including but not limited to building managers, architects, contractors and many others. Information from the golden thread will also need to be shared by the Accountable Person with other relevant people including residents and emergency responders.

In its third annual report, the Industry Safety Steering Group (ISSG), chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt, said: “...we do not believe it should be necessary to prescribe or mandate exactly how the golden thread should be implemented and how organisations should manage their information. This would create a burdensome and rigid process that would not be flexible in line with the requirements of different projects and different areas of industry. It would further indicate leadership failure within the industry.” Ref

NB Smart Building Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work, published by the RIBA in 2024, states: ‘The Golden Thread4 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. A Golden Thread is a digital record of the life cycle of building systems and components from design intention to the present, and provides a log of actions and decisions specifically for higher-risk buildings (though the principles align well for all projects, as well as with the CDM 2015 requirements for the health & safety file.’

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