In our first ebriefing regarding the golden thread of information, we considered the implications for constructing new build high-risk residential buildings (“HRRBs”). In this ebriefing, we examine how the duty holder regime will apply to social housing providers with existing HRRBs in their housing stock.

Collating the golden thread of information may pose challenges to social housing providers, but it also offers an opportunity to embrace innovative solutions for managing building information.

Existing HRRBs are also affected, not just new builds
Critically, social housing providers will need to collate the golden thread of information for existing HRRBs, and provide that information to the Building Safety Regulator (the “Regulator”). A failure to do so, or providing information which highlights a building safety risk, may result in the Regulator intervening. Intervention may take the form of improvement notices requiring social housing providers to take steps to address building safety issues, and in severe cases, prosecution of duty holders for a failure to discharge their statutory obligations.

There is a clear rationale for requiring duty holders to collate the golden thread of information for existing HRRBS, and it is intended that collation of this information will help to drive resident safety. It should also be recognised that for older HRRBs collating the golden thread of information has the potential to be a challenging process.

Which documents are needed to satisfy the golden thread of information?
What constitutes the golden thread of information has not yet been conclusively defined. However, it is likely to include as-built drawings, operation and maintenance manuals, the health and safety file, resident engagement strategies, and fire strategies. What is known is that the Regulator will require the golden thread of information to be maintained, and provided, electronically.

Ideally, social housing providers will have comprehensive documents relating to the design, construction and maintenance of all existing HRRBs. However, and particularly for older HRRBs, this information may be incomplete, and may not reflect any changes that have been made to the fabric or use of HRRBs through major works or significant repair and refurbishment schemes since the building was constructed. Social housing providers with older HRRB stock will therefore need to consider carefully how best to collate the information, and whether intrusive inspections and surveys are needed. An alternative option may be to consider building information modelling (“BIM”).

Could BIM offer a solution?
BIM allows building owners or designers to create 3D models of properties, which can be utilised throughout the whole life cycle of the building. Generating a single digital log of design, alteration, and building management information, enables informed decision-making and traceability of changes whilst the building is occupied. It is possible that BIM also offers a means of gathering building information that is less disruptive to residents than undertaking physical surveys and intrusive testing of the building fabric.

There is no single BIM programme or standard, and while BIM is commonly used on major infrastructure and public sector contracts, it has seen limited uptake in the social housing sector. Preparing detailed 3D images of existing HRRBs will be a key challenge for many social housing providers in exploring BIM. The slower uptake in BIM may in part be due to the costs associated with implementing the relatively recent technology, and training staff to use BIM effectively. Setting these aside, BIM has the potential to provide a digital record which would enable social housing providers to discharge their obligations under the new duty holder regime in relation to the golden thread of information.

There is unlikely to be a “one size fits all” solution for collating the golden thread of information for HRRBs. Some social housing providers may prefer to undertake intrusive surveys and inspections, while others may consider digital modelling to be an appropriate means of gathering relevant information. Regardless of what method is used to prepare the golden thread of information, social housing providers are encouraged to start planning how they intend to respond to the duty holder regime and to collate the necessary information, in advance of the Bill becoming law.

As a final consideration, it is not only the Regulator that will require the golden thread of information. Residents are likely to request access to that information, and providing the golden thread of information may also become a requirement in the sale or swap of HRRB housing stock between social housing providers. Social housing providers may also find that digitally stored golden thread of information is also an effective means of providing information to their local fire service.

For more information

Our fire safety experts are experienced in advising social housing providers on building safety issues. We also provide training for social housing providers regarding building safety issues.

If you have questions in relation to this series of ebriefings or if you would like to find out more about our bespoke training programme, please contact Lorna Kenyon.

This is the sixth in a series of ebriefings on this topic. The full list can be found below: