Senior Director, John Neale was recently invited to be a panellist at Zak World of Facades UK Conference 2021 in London to discuss Fire and Facades: An Update alongside a panel of leading experts.
DMWR has built up a reputation for offering a specialist and expert service to assist in the recladding and remediation of non-compliant buildings. Currently, the architecture practice has worked on around 30 projects, mostly residential buildings in the public and private sector.
John discussed how the golden thread will help in high rise building safety by ensuring the digital capture of accurate and up to date information of buildings providing a complete and traceable audit from RIBA stage 1 to 7. He also highlighted three major challenges that need to be overcome to get this right.
THE GOLDEN THREAD
The Building Regulation Advisory Committee (BRAC) 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.
The golden thread will help in high rise safety by ensuring the digital capture of accurate and up to date information of buildings provides a complete and traceable audit from RIBA stage 1 to 7 and beyond.
Construction drawings and specifications will form part of the golden thread information required at each stage of the project to demonstrate that the building is compliant with applicable building regulations and to mitigate any risks of fire spread or structural collapse.
It is intended to encourage openness, transparency, and accountability throughout the UK construction industry with the explicit intention that residents are at the heart of the building safety system.
The Government has proposed that the golden thread must be stored in digital format – BIM.
A key dataset of information will be maintained in database format to allow scrutiny by the Building Safety Regulator (BSR). This data set to include the following:
- Building ID, location, size, type, age, basic information about fire safety features, façade, structure and the outcome of the regulatory gateway reviews and the names of the building’s duty holders.
Primary legislation will be introduced that will put a legal duty on duty holders and accountable persons (including clients, principal designers, principal contractors) regarding this information development.
Secondary legislation will define the principles of information data and documents required and the processes for approval including the 3 information gateways.
These three key stages are identified in the draft Building Safety Bill and the basic principles are:
Planning Gateway One: submission starts at concept stage with a fire statement demonstrating that fire safety measures have been integrated into the planning proposals
Gateway Two: follows planning approval and requires detailed golden thread information to be submitted and approved by the BSR before construction commences.
- Full Plans, details, and specifications in relation to how fire and structural safety risks will be managed.
- 3D BIM model fully coordinated with construction products identified/specified.
- Fire Statement to become the Fire and Emergency File which is updated throughout the construction period.
- A Construction Control Plan setting out how compliance with the building regulations will be achieved and how changes will be controlled and recorded. Major changes affecting fire safety will need sign off by all responsible persons.
Gateway Three: requires the BSR to assess all final submissions, undertake inspections and issue completion certificates.
A change control process is required to ensure that any revisions are carefully monitored and approved so that the final gateway three information represents what has been built and any deviations from previous submissions have been approved and incorporated.
If the golden thread of information is not provided or if the BSR finds building safety issues, then the project will not progress through the gateway to the next phase.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLEMENTATION CHALLENGES?
As we consider the implementation challenges, some of the complexities and potential hurdles that must be overcome in order to make the golden thread implementable come to light. There are 3 major challenges:
BIM uptake has been hampered by:
- Uneven investment in BIM across the construction industry player – client bodies, consultants, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers etc.
- Adequate investment in BIM is a challenge because the UK construction industry comprises of a wide range of players of greatly varying sizes and resources.
- The adoption of BIM requires the allocation of specialist personnel with a high level of training.
- The majority of construction industry operators are SMEs with limited technical ability and resources
If a golden thread of fire safety information is mandated by regulation, then a lowest cost approach based on providing the minimum regulatory requirement will be the path chosen by many.
Existing BIM models will require extra work to incorporate the fire safety golden thread information.
- The challenges of data standardisation and harmonisation.
- The second issue arises of exactly what this information should comprise and how to define it so that it is unambiguous.
- BIM is an approach to the digitalisation of physical and functioning building characteristics, but it is not a stable off the shelf technology.
- Each instance of the use of BIM will require the organisation involved to agree on the data to be captured and in what formats.
- Standardisation is a key issue for the uptake of BIM.
- Harmonisation of operational practices may also be necessary to ensure that key actors are using data in the same way.
- Lack of adequate competence to use BIM
Adequate competence will be required to ensure that data is correctly inputted into the BIM system and that it is then used in an appropriate manner in the management of fire safety.
The golden thread requires total compliance, but questions arise as to who can adequately assess the compliance right the way through from RIBA stage 1 – 7 if thorough working knowledge of RIBA stage 1-7 is not there? In other words, who will audit the compliance that will give confidence in the industry, government, the insurance industry and ultimately the residents? Will a break in the golden thread be detectable, even many years after the building has been completed, and will it be detectable before potential fires?