How to comply with the golden thread the UCL way

UCL's Cruciform building
UCL’s Cruciform building in London (image: 138668660 © Alberto Zamorano |
The Building Safety Act brings new duties on clients and their teams, including maintaining a golden thread of information in higher risk buildings through design, construction to handover. Margaret Sackey, capital projects health and safety manager at University College London, explains how the university is preparing for it and associated new legislation.

The government is consulting on proposals for clients and their design and construction and management teams to comply with the golden thread on projects – especially those involving higher-risk residential buildings. The Building Safety Act introduces these requirements, but the government revealed more details in July as part of a range of consultations around its implementation.

A golden thread of information will mean that those responsible for the management of in-scope buildings will need to ensure that easily accessible, reliable, up-to-date and accurate information is available both during design and construction phases. And that it is packaged together for when the building needs to be handed over.

In anticipation of this requirement, clients’ procurement and project teams have already been working within their own organisations to improve data management in preparation for compliance, while more details emerge.

One of those working in anticipation of the proposed requirements is Margaret Sackey, capital projects health and safety manager at University College London (UCL). As part of its large estate, UCL operates several high-rise student accommodation buildings with more in the development pipeline.

Consulting on the golden thread

The Golden thread requirements will sit alongside the requirements for tighter control procedures, so that if products or designs are changed during construction these are also documented.

Significantly, the golden thread consultation is proposing:

  • Only relevant information is kept in the golden thread – that is information supporting compliance with all applicable building regulations.
  • Some information will need to be permanently kept and handed over on building completion, while other information may only be needed for a limited period.

Although the consultation confirms the need to keep information digitally, it deliberately does not specify systems or approach. It says: “We propose to require that the golden thread should be digital and that by digital we mean that information and data is stored electronically and can be transferred electronically. This is a purposefully broad definition.”

The consultation says that the Building Safety Regulator intends to set out some best practice and examples of how someone could implement the golden thread in guidance. The consultation is due to close on 12 October.

Margaret Sackey says she agrees with most of the proposals in the consultation and found them to be straightforward: “The sooner we get on with it, the better.”

BIMplus: Can you tell us more about your role?

Margaret Sackey: I help support UCL capital projects health and safety management arrangements and also other projects where required. The capital projects team has ongoing projects from large capital to minor works. They include developments on the new UCL East Campus on the Olympic Park in Stratford.

I make sure that UCL Employers’ Requirements with regards to projects’ health and safety management are upheld. Not just in terms of the information, but also encouraging positive health and safety performance and culture.

I have an engineering background and worked for TfL leading teams delivering CDM monitoring and management. And I chaired and am still a member of the Institution of Civil Engineering’s health and safety expert panel.

What currently happens?

Maintaining a golden thread of information, from design, to construction, through to operational management, is something UCL has done for some time.

Building information, including the health and safety file, is provided as a PDF at handover with hyperlinks into the various operating and maintenance manual sections. We want to move towards a more collaborative and intuitive format. And there are plans for improving our building information management Employer’s Information Requirements and arrangements.

Are you doing anything differently because of the act and requirements coming in?

As with other large organisations and in particular universities, we have a range of different teams at UCL who need access to the information about a building. They include the operations teams, the maintenance teams and facilities management. Plus a whole plethora of contracts for electrical, mechanical, lifts, lighting, heating, and various water systems. So we are conscious of the need for information from the day the project is handed over. Building management systems have to be up and running quickly.

So the ethos of having building information is already in place, but now it’s about formalising the way that happens. We’ve had several workshops across all of our departments about common data environments (CDE), and what that might look like. At the moment we use a number of systems.

It’s not a matter of one system has everything: that’s not possible, there many different electronic systems that deal with different things. For example, we have a website, the intranet, SharePoint, the Microsoft Office suite and project management software to name a few. We have specialists within our information systems teams supporting the development of the CDE solution.

On a basic level, we’re using MS Teams for our meetings. But the Teams Tool has much more capability than just for meetings: it’s a whole SharePoint facility in itself.

So that’s why we set up most of our projects as Teams sites. This gets the collaboration going from the design team and the contractor, the internal teams at the start, sharing drawings, specification, documentation, etc. Once the project team complete and conclude the project, the file is available for pickup and transferred to a particular system.

Information hosting

We host a certain amount of information externally. That is a legacy thing, and that’s being looked at, to bring that into the UCL family. We keep our health and safety files in house.

Margaret Sackey, UCL

“It’s not just about having a model, it’s about the structure and collation of information. This will require a change of culture.”

Margaret Sackey

There’s a lot of digital information we have gathered for many years and that needs to be available in a more structured format and for people to be able to find information quickly, whether the buildings are in scope of the legislation or not.

To that end, we may start with the in-scope buildings, introducing a front portal that says: “Legacy-wise, these are systems that apply to this building, the golden thread of information sits in A/B/C/D/E systems, and this is your key pad to get to those systems and to get to the information in those systems.” Clearly, you need UCL credentials to access these systems.

The Building a Safer Future Working Group at UCL, which I chair, will recommend a solution that may be such a portal. There are several schools of thought in terms of that particular portal. Either way, there is not one system that captures all relevant information, because it sits in so many places. We need a front window that facilitates access to all systems.

The Fire Safety Team has already done a great deal in this area. They have set in place a fire safety standard and we are seeking to work together to ensure we comply with the Building Safety Act when it comes into force.

It’s not just about having a model, it’s about the structure and collation of information. This is what will require a change of culture that we’re seeking to introduce. We amended our employer’s requirements earlier this year to reflect this.

We also have a lot of refurbishment projects as well. So those projects will meet the additional part for the Building Safety Act. We are making sure all the relevant appointments, for duties such as the accountable person, are in place as well.

How else are you gearing up for the Act?

UCL will ensure new appointments are in place to ensure compliance with the Building Safety Act competence requirements. This will be inculcated into our ways of working and in our UCL project and operational procedures.

There is a clear overlap between CDM Regulations required under the Health and Safety at Work Act and building safety legislation under the new Building Safety Act. Some organisations will have both those capabilities available. Generally there will probably be a need for two principal designers (PD): one looking after CDM regulations and a role relating to the building regulations.

To find out more about the golden thread, register for our webinar on 3 November.

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