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Expert Insights

10 June 2021

Building Safety and the “Golden Thread” – What you should be doing now

Although the draft Building Safety Bill (the Draft Bill) has not yet been put before parliament, when it does become law, it will fundamentally change the regulatory landscape for the design and construction of high risk residential buildings over 18 metres / six storeys (HRRBs) and their subsequent occupation, management and operation.  The Queen’s Speech on 11 May 2021 confirmed that the Draft Bill will be reintroduced to Parliament with a view to the legislation being passed in the coming year.

One of the key tenets of the Draft Bill is the obligation on “dutyholders” to create and maintain the “golden thread” of building information throughout the lifecycle of the HRRB.  The intention is for the Building Safety Regulator to review the golden thread at three gateway points (stop / go decision points) to assess the adequacy of the information.

The Draft Bill does not contain any detail as to what information should be contained in the “golden thread”, but the Government’s Consultation Paper in June 2019 (the Consultation Paper) identified the golden thread as being:

building information created, maintained and 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.”

In addition, the Government recently released guidance on the requirements for the planning gateway one that are intended to take effect on 1 August 2021 (subject to parliamentary scrutiny), which we discuss here. We are expecting the Government to release similar guidance on gateway two (pre-construction phase) and gateway three (completion / final certificate phase). 

At this stage it appears that whilst there will be an obligation to record structural and fire safety information and changes to such information once the building is in occupation, most of the “golden thread” will be produced during the design / construction phase.  All indications are that those involved in the current planning / pre-construction / construction phases of HRRB’s will have additional obligations as a result of the Draft Bill and should therefore be considering what information should be required / collated to form part of the golden thread of information, or to demonstrate compliance with the safety requirements under the Draft Bill. 

Consequently and in the absence of Government guidance at this stage, we set out below some considerations for those involved in the current development and construction of HRRB’s.

HRRBs in Development / Construction

It is clear from the Consultation Paper that the likely focus will be on capturing the original design and any subsequent changes to the structural and fire safety of a building and its associated elements.  The expectation is that this information will be stored electronically and in a single repository.  The Government has indicated that for construction / development of HRRB’s it could mandate the use of BIM modelling.

With that in mind, parties involved in the development of HRRB’s may wish to consider the following:

  • What structural and fire safety information is already available / will be produced during the development / construction of the HRRB?
  • How and where will such information be stored? Consider the use of BIM or identify a single electronic repository where such information should be stored.
  • Put in place a regime to monitor, record, and detail any changes to the structural and fire safety design of the HRRB, both throughout the design development and construction phases of the HRRB.
  • Who is responsible for maintaining the “golden thread” of information?
  • Does the existing or anticipated contractual arrangements adequately cover responsibilities for producing, maintaining, inputting into, and recording changes to the “golden thread”. What (if any) amendments to the contractual arrangements are required?
  • Do the draft leasehold arrangements permit access and inspection requirements to capture any changes in the structural and fire safety of the building once occupied and require occupiers to provide any information needed to comply with relevant obligations?

Conclusion

Whilst we are expecting further guidance to be released as to what is required to demonstrate compliance with the “golden thread” or the Draft Bill, there are clear steps parties can take now to ensure they have the information available to demonstrate compliance. 

Due to the strict nature of the regulations, any failure to demonstrate compliance could result in a partially developed HRRB being unable to pass through one of the gateways, or if it is a completed HRRB, those accountable persons being sanctioned with financial and criminal penalties. 

Parties will need to either recreate the golden thread in order to pass through gateways, or compile additional building safety information in order to demonstrate compliance with the Draft Bill, all of which is likely to be far more time consuming and costly.


For more information please contact Carolyn, Michael or your usual Charles Russell Speechlys contact. 

Carolyn Davies is an Associate in the Construction, Engineering and Projects team at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP. Carolyn can be contacted on +44 20 7438 2149 or by email: Carolyn.Davies@crsblaw.com

Michael O’Connor is a Partner in the Construction, Engineering and Projects team at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP. Michael can be contacted on +44 20 7427 6441 or by email: Michael.O’Connor@crsblaw.com 

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