Unravelling the golden thread of compliance 

 

How do construction leaders see the future of compliance? It’s about the golden thread, one unified source of data. But creating and maintaining this thread isn’t easy…

The 2017 Grenfell tragedy still casts a long shadow over the UK construction industry, particularly its residential sector. Landlords and developers are still looking for new ways to demonstrate leadership and rise to the challenge of better fire safety compliance. For some, the right approach might mean going way back to basics. We sat down with James Heysmond from Concerto, one of our fellow Bellrock brands, to ask what can asset owners do to create a safer industry culture? Part of his answer lies in normalising one source of compliance data covering an asset’s entire lifespan: the golden thread.

What is the golden thread in property management?

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The term ‘golden thread’ appeared as early as Dame Hackitt’s 2017 interim report. There, it referred to a vaguer, more abstract means of preserving an asset’s original design intent throughout major changes. Time and subsequent reports have gone some way towards clarifying what that might look like in practice.

To James, the golden thread is: “A series of important digital documents and information sources, which are linked back to the built environment. They’re kept present, correct and consistent from the birth of the assetm all the way to its disposal.¬† This ‘disposal’ could be redevelopment or passing the information to a new owner”.

So, imagine a fire breaks out at a property. Can the fire brigade digitally access essential data like floor plans, evacuation plans and asbestos details before arriving? If so, the golden thread has been maintained. They’ll be able to manage the incident far more effectively.

Another example, say an asset changes hands and there’s a fire at the property soon after. Who’s liable: the new owners, or the old owners for failing to do proper maintenance? If compliance data is kept updated and digitally timestamped, it’s easy to prove proper maintenance was carried out.

Both these examples are actual real situations where Concerto has helped asset managers maintain the golden thread of compliance. In James’ expert opinion, success lies in the combination of both better technology and better processes.

“It all goes back to strategy. If you haven’t got a strategy for managing these processes, you don’t really know why you’re doing it all. You’re just making knee-jerk responses to stay compliant in the moment. Strategy will inform you about the technology you need long term. The golden thread of compliance sits on the spool of strategy.”

Shaping the Future of fire safety compliance

 

In an ideal future, anyone with a stake in critical compliance data will find it accessible and up to date. It’ll be easy to exchange between relevant parties, including emergency services, with clarity over who owns the master dataset. Reaching that future is still all to play for. Huge opportunities exist for leaders like Concerto to proactively shape what fire safety looks like in the 2020s and beyond. James’ team spend a lot of time educating clients and clearing up misconceptions surrounding their legal obligations.

“The main misunderstanding is that some people think the golden thread only pertains to the operational stage of an asset’s life. Others think it gets formed during the design process and thrown over the fence. In reality, it’s a continuous process that runs through the entire lifecycle.”

The best way to bring all that data together safely for such a long period of time is digitally. But too often, this happens in a piecemeal way. An organisation might identify one compliance requirement and set up one system to satisfy that need. Then, when another requirement pops up, they get a different system to handle that one.