The golden thread: the journey so far

Kirsty Villiers, BIM workstream lead, L&Q
Kirsty Villiers reviews progress towards the golden thread.

In the Industry Safety Steering Group report, we were all reminded that it is our responsibility to lead and drive forward change for building safety. But I must admit, I have at times felt disheartened to see so many organisations waiting to be told what to do before they change.  

I’m proud to say that at L&Q, we didn’t wait around to put our residents’ safety first. We have embedded safety as a key objective in our corporate strategy and are conducting one of the UK’s largest building safety programmes. But we wanted to do more.

This is one of the biggest challenges to face our industry and many of us, regardless of our roles, are in the same position. We are all trying to understand what we need to do to make sure that our residents are safe in their homes. And if we are all trying to understand the same thing, then why do it in isolation? After all, two heads are always better than one.

So, we approached the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to look at how we could bring together organisations to collaborate and pool our knowledge to find ways to change. With support from them and the Health & Safety Executive, and endorsements from Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers and the UK BIM Alliance, we created the Golden Thread Initiative.

The Golden Thread Initiative

Since its conception in December 2020, more than 60 organisations have joined to help us pilot ways that organisations can produce a standardised digital golden thread for both existing buildings and new builds.

Our main aims are to:

  • build a prototype of a standardised digital golden thread, testing how information from the golden thread can support the development of the safety case;
  • test the feasibility of collecting and storing golden thread information throughout the lifecycle of the building and produce process maps for creating a standardised golden thread of digital information; and
  • release a report for the wider industry detailing our findings.

To do this, we have divided the initiative into 10 groups looking at possible information requirements, technology, and process.

For example, in our surveying and asset information group, we have identified potential risks to a typical high-risk building. From this, we extrapolated potential information that could be collected to help mitigate and manage the risks. This information is helping us to understand the feasibility of collecting the information on our existing buildings as well as thinking about when the information would be generated and collected on a new build project.

The information management platform group has been looking at what technology is needed to store and manage the information throughout the lifecycle of the building (including all Gateways and beyond). They are identifying the functionality the systems should ideally have. This is helping us to understand the current industry capabilities for managing the golden thread and the potential future functionality we may need.

In another example, the information mapping group has been mapping our findings on a Gateway and RIBA-based timeline to understand when activities need to take place. They are also mapping them against key roles that will be interacting with the golden thread e.g. duty holders and the accountable person. This group is the foundation for creating our process maps.  

All our findings, from these groups and the others, will be included in a comprehensive report for the wider industry. 

Is this useful?

One of the main questions we get is: “Is this work going to be of any use?” And my answer is a firm “yes!”

Even if our report is only read by a handful of organisations to help them on their journey, then what we achieve will be worth it. But we are incredibly lucky that, due to our DLUHC sponsorship, our findings will also be used by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee golden thread working group to support the development of golden thread policy.

Thank you

While I may have been disheartened by the speed of progress in the past, I no longer feel that way. It has been uplifting to work with so many people who have dedicated their time and resources to this initiative and I want to say a massive thank you to all.

There is still a long way to go as an industry, but I hope that the work we are doing will go some way to helping organisations change for the better. While we aren’t accepting new membership to The Golden Thread Initiative, if you do have any questions please get in touch!

Kirsty Villiers is BIM workstream lead at L&Q.

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