12th September, 2023

The Golden Thread: What is it and what does it mean for specifiers?


The Building Safety Act 2022 has completely overhauled previous building safety regulations and set out a clear pathway on how residential buildings should be constructed, maintained and made safe.

Developed in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, Dame Judith Hackitt made a number of recommendations as part of the Building Safety Review to improve the safety of residential buildings. These recommendations included the implementation of a golden thread of information in construction, which would ensure that safety is considered at every stage of the building’s life cycle.

The Government defines the golden thread as ‘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.’ Therefore, everyone in the supply chain will be affected by this, whether it’s providing data, ensuring the provision of data, or referring back to the data in the instance of retrofitting a property later down the line.

While some elements of the 2022 legislation have already come into effect, the majority of updates to the Building Safety Act are due to come into force on 1st October 2023. This set of updates will impose greater responsibilities on housebuilders, specifiers and developers, as well as building owners and operators.

So, now is the time to prepare.

What is the golden thread?

Simply put, the golden thread is the concept of a thorough audit trail of a building and the systems used within it. The data thread should be readily available and kept up-to-date throughout the building’s life.

Dame Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations & Fire Safety mapped out the principle and framework for planning and implementing construction. A key component of this is the recording of key information in the form of a single, transparent source that runs through the entire process, like a thread.

The golden thread is a mandatory aspect of the Building Safety Act and all those responsible for building design, construction and maintenance will be expected to implement systems that ensure compliance.  This ‘golden thread’ of information must be provided and stored digitally to ensure it can be easily accessed and updated later on in the building’s life. Of course, for housebuilders, specifiers, and developers, this brings with it another challenge – they must ensure that all relevant information on their work is passed to the client in a form that they can use.

What does the golden thread mean for specifiers?

In the design phase of the build, specifiers will need to contribute to the golden thread, as it must contain any information needed to demonstrate compliance with the relevant building regulations.  This means that specifiers must ensure that the products used in a build are compliant, both on their own and as part of a wider system, and that up-to-date product information is available.

This will become a critical element of their role as the Building Safety Act grants further enforcement powers to the newly appointed Building Safety Regulator. Indeed, as part of this, Regulation 38 states that not only organisations can be held responsible, but individuals can be prosecuted too. In fact, any person responsible can be held liable retrospectively for up to 30 years since a build, and 15 years prospectively.

To avoid liability issues, the principal contractor and designer will be under obligation to report anything that could present a risk of death or serious injury to the Building Safety Regulator. These disclosures will protect that individual from criminal proceedings. However, failure to ‘whistleblow’ potential hazards during the design and construction phases could itself be a criminal offence.

This means that there can be serious consequences if it is found that the products are not in adherence with building regulations. The Building Safety Act puts a duty on the people responsible for buildings to put in place and maintain a golden thread that is accurate, accessible and up to date. During the design phase, these individuals are known as ‘duty holders’, and can be personally prosecuted if they are found not to have adhered to building regulations.

Collaborating is key

Many elements of the Building Safety Act should already take place within firms that champion construction excellence. However, the changes to legislation are prevalent and far-reaching – impacting both high-rise buildings and residential developments more widely.

Ensuring widespread adoption will be challenging. However, it should also be seen as an opportunity. As manufacturers and construction industry professionals, ensuring our products and buildings are safe is the singular most valuable way that we can spend our time.

The best way to ensure building safety, and therefore compliance, is to collaborate with the full supply chain early on in a project – ensure adequate data, scrutinise specifications, and highlight any elements of a specification that could be problematic in future. By doing so, we will make changes for the better.

At Polypipe Building Products, our technical team is on hand to support housebuilders, developers and specifiers with the provision of in-depth digital data so that you can rest assured that the products you specify are safe.

Need some technical support on your project? Get in touch with us below.

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