The Golden Thread: Innovation for Fire Safety

The Golden Thread concept created from the Hackitt Report in response to the Grenfell Tower fire will, now and in the future, affect the way products are designed. It also shapes research and development which has the overall aim of achieving the best outcomes for a company in line with its goals. When well executed, the Golden Thread sees teams aligning themselves with the goals and passing information through every team member to create a company-wide vision.

This is especially true of the fire safety process. When a whole company is aligned with designing, building and installing effective fire safe buildings and products, everyone benefits.

When problems arise

In her report, Dame Hackitt emphasised the transient nature of the workforce and the risk that information is not passed on from those who leave to those who join a company. This can also be true of the workforce who have been with the company for a number of years. So, it is crucial to create a golden thread of information available to everyone. The key is that a transient workforce shouldn’t affect the information you capture or the outcome of the work you do, if you have a solid process in place.

When problems do arise, businesses need to look at how to solve them through a stage-gate process. At each stage, problems are reflected upon, analysed and improved and the bigger the problem the more companies will pay to solve it. So, by the time you have got to the last stage gate there has been clarity with all stakeholders and the outcome is the best possible one.

Part of the Golden Thread concept at Sapphire is that when a product is sent to the market, a “lessons learned” meeting is convened with key stakeholders. They can then feed those lessons back into the company to improve the product and stop problems reoccurring.

Responsibility and ownership

One of the important things to know is what the problem is, why it needs to be fixed and how. Taking responsibility of this ensures you end up with well-developed product. An example of this is a fire StubGuard®. The problem is that there are so many installations around a stub where the arm comes through from the floor edge to support the balcony and these are often poorly sealed which creates a fire risk. The solution has been to develop a StubGuard® that anyone with training can fit.

It’s a positive move for the industry to embrace the Hackitt report principles. There will, of course, be an interim period where older buildings have yet to be brought in line with the new regulations, which can leave residents in a difficult position. Changing an unsafe façade on a building is a huge undertaking, not-withstanding financial constraints. And yet, who would want to remain in a building which does not have the most up to date, fire-safe façade?

Detect, Inform, Suppress

An answer to this is for owners of buildings and residents to install fire watch systems which detect a fire, inform relevant services and suppress the fire early (in short, detect, inform, suppress). This will create balance between the challenge of early replacement of façades and residents’ safety.

The Fire Hero is one such product. Skize is developing a system for balconies with detect, inform, suppress at the heart of its design. The objective of it is to ultimately give residents and owners of properties peace of mind. Once a fire has been detected, Fire Hero then contacts the customer that there is a fire and proceeds to suppress by soaking the area with water to keep damage to a minimum. This simple three-step system comes in the form of a planter, so is a nice additional feature to a balcony. It will be available by part-purchase and an ongoing subscription which offers support, maintenance and upgrade.

The Golden Thread is well-matched with good fire safety practice for companies who want to innovate for the better health and safety of residents. Residents and companies alike can improve safety even further by making lists of problems and researching solutions.

Improving products for a company is a challenge, but if money is invested in training and products, the process of improvement will really drive change in the construction industry.

This article is based on an interview with Tim Hill, Research and Development Manager at Sapphire at the Resibuild event, Fire and the Golden Thread. Access the recording on-demand, here.