The Hackitt Report and Digital Golden Thread

The ‘golden thread’ is a term used for an up-to-date live record of data used on a project. It is a concept identified in the Hackitt Report as being particularly important in residential construction. But what does that mean?

There is a gulf between the design and construction companies on a building project and the operations managers who take over the end-product. This can occur when information isn’t properly defined at the outset because designers, contractors and manufacturers don’t have a specific brief as to what’s required of them.

Creating the building blocks to bridge the gap

Seeking to bridge that gap starts with standard data templates. These define what information is needed from product manufacturers. They then create the right type of data from the product information passed on to them. All this is brought to the people involved by digital tools which communicate what is needed from the outset.

Because the information is in a computer-readable form, it can automatically be tested to make sure what was requested is being provided. You then have the right data to produce the asset information model, which in turn is given to the client.

BIM’s part in the process

There is a lot of information you can put into a BIM model. The challenge is where to obtain it.  In most cases, BIM is used up to stage 4, but then the construction teams may choose to use spreadsheets, PDFs and drawings to record the information that goes into the building. This results in a pause in digital data at the construction stage and the possibility of paperwork getting lost, being rewritten or overwritten.

As a result of these information gaps, retrospective surveys then have to be carried out to find out what has gone into a newly constructed building, so the asset management team can maintain it.

The way to address these issues is to create standard digital libraries of information to make it easier to provide what is needed. Standard data templates for requirements, products used, solutions and procedures can be created and stored for everyone to access. This provides the base of information that feeds into the applications being used during construction.

The foundations of the golden thread

There are seven stages of the golden thread:

  1. Preparation and brief
  2. Concept design
  3. Special configuration,
  4. Technical design,
  5. Manufacturing and construction
  6. Handover
  7. Use

A successful process starts with the core information about the specification. The information is then digitised so it can be used during the CDM (construction design and management) process which can be co-ordinated and checked throughout every stage.

By having standard libraries, we can automatically test to make sure the information requested and required has been provided. All this eradicates duplication and possible loss of information.

The golden thread flows through balcony design in the same way

Key information is fed into BIM right at the start of balcony design, in the form of a specification tool (often NBS). If kept up to date, it lives through the life of the process and becomes the measure against everything to be tracked. When this is done in the digital form, it can be fed into the different design, manufacturing and construction applications. This creates a library of information that all fits together. It extends to scheduling and delivery of information at the handover stage and into the final part of the golden thread in asset management applications.

It means that, whether BIM is part of the construction of balcony components or the balcony design and construction as a whole, the process cuts waste in both time and resources.

To ensure that the golden thread is adhered to, each stakeholder in a project needs to define the information they need, how to ask for it and communicate the consequences if they don’t receive it.

This article is based on an interview with George Stevenson, Chair of BIM4Housing and Managing Director of Active Plan.