Construction’s Golden Thread
Since the release of Dame Judith Hackitt’s report on the Grenfell Tower disaster, there have been quite a few mentions of construction’s Golden Thread. Hackitt highlighted failings throughout the culture of construction and made recommendations for a significant shake up of the regulatory framework which governs the building control and fire safety in high rise residential buildings (HRRBs).
Hackitt discovered that the system was awash with complex compliance processes which are not robust enough to stand up to poor record keeping and change control. She proposed a new framework which includes a new regulator. This is the Joint Competent Authority (JCA) which would combine the roles of expertise of building control, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the fire and rescue services, and a change control process that requires a robust level of record keeping of all changes to any previously approved plans – with permission necessary for the more significant changes.
The proposed change control process and the robust record-keeping requirements associated with it represent a “golden thread” of information about each HRRB to be woven through each and every stage of a project. According to Dame Judith,
“There needs to be a golden thread for all complex and high-risk building projects so that the original design intent is preserved and recorded, and any changes go through a formal review process involving people who are competent and who understand the key features of the design.”
Implementing the “golden thread” into projects does not need to be difficult – it’s basically just a way of improving the collation process for a safer environment.
We have powerful digital technology nowadays which can be harnessed to make the process easier for project owners and managers. There are already free software tools available online that can help with this – such as Quality Tracker which offers a constant reminder of quality targets and sets up a formal chain of custody for quality that enables all members of a project team to collaborate effectively.
Quality Tracker is a pilot scheme by RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) and participation is welcomed from eligible projects which are in progress at any RIBA Stage 0 – 7. For the purpose of the pilot, Stages that have already passed may be filled in retrospectively, on the basis of the information that was available at the time, and not with hindsight.
In April, 2019, feedback questionnaires will be sent to participants, some of whom will be invited to participate in structured telephone interviews.
The feedback gathered from all of the participating projects will be used to improve the Quality Tracker system to provide benefits to the construction industry as a whole.