19 July, 2021

The heart of building safety

With the publication of The Building Safety Bill last week, our Managing Director, Jacqui Bateson, writes how the Golden Thread initiative sits at the heart of the Bill and how it’s imperative that the sector acts in applying data standards to buildings now and not to wait for the Bill to become law.

The Building Safety Bill was published last week. It set out in its explanatory notes that “information that must be obtained, kept up to date and in accordance with prescribed standards”, and that this information must be stored digitally to the prescribed standards set out in regulations”.

This information is also known as the Golden Thread and sits at the heart of the Building Safety Bill. 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.

Without it, building safety managers will be unable to deliver on their duties as prescribed in the Bill. Without it, residents will be unable to understand the safety of their building. Without it, housing associations might find themselves, subject to further statutory guidance and regulations, failing to fulfil their statutory duties.

One of the key findings of the Hackitt Review was the ineffective creation, handing over and maintenance of vital building and fire safety information. It was only two months after the Grenfell Tower fire that the housing sector were able to confirm that there were 186 other buildings across the UK clad in ACM.

Typically, data systems used at that time had only a word or two to describe external walls: “cladding” or “metal”. No mention was made of the type of insulation. The lack of data prompted urgent reviews. The urgent reviews revealed little documentation or digital information. In most cases, the only way of resolving the question mark and determine whether ACM was present or not was through an on-site inspection.

In December 2020, we launched the fourth iteration of the UK Housing Data Standards**, which included the development handover use case. This was exceptionally timely and resulted in Dame Judith Hackitt inviting us to give evidence to the Industry Safety Steering Group. Following our appearance, she wrote to HACT stating, “We see real value and importance in the UK Housing Data Standards (UKHDS) you are developing. They will enable organisations to keep information about the way homes are constructed and how they meet the compliance regime in an accessible way that can be shared with residents and contractors alike.”

We were invited to take part in the Golden Thread working group, bringing our expertise in data standards and advising how the UK Housing Data Standards can support the Golden Thread alongside other existing standards.  As part of the working group,  we worked alongside BIM4 housing associations as well as many other industry specialists.

Our colleagues in the Golden Thread iInitiative didn’t need to be persuaded about the value of data standards. They knew that a significant amount of resources are currently wasted on searching for building information across the sector because of the lack of consistency, whether in data organisation, storage or processes.

What’s clear from the Building Safety Bill is that this will have to change. As a sector, we have the economic power to make a difference. It is our responsibility as developers and building managers to specify our asset information requirements clearly at the outset of the development process and then to check that the building data that is transferred to us is in the correct format. The data collected over time will need to be interoperable both within organisations, and between organisations. This is not always straight forward.

It will, of course, take time for the Building Safety Bill to become law.

But why wait? Our message to the sector is clear: it’s time to start applying these standards to your buildings now.

The information you hold  on each building should include all the information necessary to understand and manage risks to prevent or reduce the severity of the consequences of fire spread or structural collapse. This Golden Thread information should be stored as structured digital information. It should be managed, maintained and retained in line with the Golden Thread principles.

As this graphic produced by BIM4 Housing Associations highlights, the UK Housing Data Standards (HACT Standards) is fundamental to this process.

Digitising and standardising Golden Thread information will result in efficiencies, reducing costs by 20% or more, according to one industry specialist. In addition, implementing standards now will also reduce error rates and the risk of your organisation failing to comply with the legislation.

HACT continues to develop and maintain the UK Housing Data Standards for the benefit of the whole housing sector: they are free to download and we can also provide advice and support in implementing them across your business. We work with a wide range of specialist organisations who are able to provide the support to bring about the change needed for greater data governance and quality.

In September, we will be launching the fifth iteration of the UKHDS, which will include customer complaints and resident feedback. We will also be launching our next two use cases, one focused on environmental data and the other on regulatory reporting.

* on page 111 of the Building Safety Bill

**The UK Housing Data Standards have been developed in a partnership between HACT & OSCRE

Let's talk

If you have a question, query or idea, we’d love to hear from you. Contact HACT Managing Director, Jacqui Bateson

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