Understanding the golden thread

The purpose of the ‘golden thread’ is to have the right information in order to understand the building and the steps needed to keep both the building and the people living in it safe.

2 building inspectors

To ensure that dutyholders identify, understand, manage, and mitigate building safety risks throughout the building’s life-cycle, those responsible for building safety must now retain a ‘golden thread of information.’

The purpose of the golden thread is to have the right information in order to understand the building and the steps needed to keep both the building and the people living in it safe.

It will hold the information that those responsible for the building require, to: 

  • show that the completed building and any later building work meets the requirements of applicable building regulations
  • identify, understand, manage, and mitigate building safety risks, to prevent or reduce the severity of the consequences of fire spread or structural collapse throughout a building’s life-cycle

Having a golden thread means that those people responsible, will have easily accessible, reliable, up to date and accurate information. Without this information, it is very difficult to manage buildings safely, because the golden thread content is the information a dutyholder needs to enable them to both fulfil and demonstrate that they are carrying out their legal duties.

The introduction of a golden thread of information for buildings was a recommendation by Dame Judith Hackitt in her report, Building a safer future, to support duty-holders in designing, constructing and managing their buildings as holistic systems. 

The golden thread involves keeping a digital record of crucial building information – starting from the design phase and continuing throughout the building’s life-cycle. The government has decided that the golden thread of a building’s information must be stored digitally, but this can be on multiple systems.

The golden thread comprises two parts: building work, and maintenance. This ensures that any modifications or enhancements to the building are accurately documented, and enables building owners to proactively identify potential risks or hazards and take corrective action.

The important bit is that those who are responsible for the building know where up-to-date information is and can give access to the people who need it. This includes anyone responsible for maintaining or working on the building and other relevant groups, such as residents and emergency responders.

When does the golden thread start?

The golden thread needs to be created before building work starts and the information must be kept updated throughout the design and construction process (for example where – through the change control process – the plans for the building work are changed).

When the building work is completed, the golden thread must be handed over to the Accountable Person(s), who is responsible for the occupied building.

Crucially, by maintaining an accurate and up-to-date source for all building information you will ensure that building owners can better manage their buildings and optimise safety.

So, remember your building’s information must be:

  • kept digitally
  • kept securely
  • a building’s single source of truth
  • available to people who need the information to do a job
  • available when the person needs the information
  • presented in a way that can be easily used  

Essentially, the golden thread is all about the right people having the right information when they need it. 

  • right people – those who require the information to carry out a function
  • right information – presented in a way that the receiver can use
  • right time – when the information will add value

Each golden thread will be individual, bespoke, and specific to the building and group of residents and occupants. 

Who is responsible for the golden thread?

2 women and 1 man, with an image of a teal half-tone pattern of a high-rise building in the background

During the design and construction phase:

The duty to keep and manage the information thread rests with the dutyholder. This could be the:

  • the Client
  • the Principal Contractor
  • the Principal Designer

During occupation:

The Accountable Person is responsible for coordinating the golden thread, keeping it updated and ensuring it is accurate and accessible. And when they can’t find this information, they need to justify why.

The Accountable Person may be an individual, partnership or corporate body and there may be more than one Accountable Person for a building. If there are multiple Accountable Persons, then the Principal Accountable Person will take lead responsibility for the golden thread.

Where the building already exists, the accountable person will need to make reasonable enquires to find the information that allows them to assess and manage the safety risks of fire spread and structural stability.

When a building is being refurbished this may involve both dutyholders, the Principal Accountable Person and Accountable Persons, as many buildings will remain occupied during refurbishment.