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is BIM Required for the Golden Thread?

The Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017 was one of the worst disasters of recent years, as fire spread from one flat to quickly engulf the whole building due to flammable cladding on the building’s exterior. From the subsequent enquiry, Dame Judith Hackitt’s ‘Building a Safer Future’ report recommended there should be a ‘golden thread of information’ running through the lifecycle of high-risk residential buildings – from design all the way through to demolition. This allows the right people to have the right information, at the right time. The recommendation is now embedded in the draft Building Safety Bill, likely to be mandated in the UK in 2021 for buildings over six stories to improve high rise safety; but the golden thread will also be valuable for other large residential premises like universities and hotels.

How will the golden thread improve safety?

Currently fire safety regulation is divided into pre-construction regulation, covering the approval of building design, and post-construction regulation for the period of the building’s occupation and use. This two-stage approach can lead to a disconnect at handover and complicates decision making, causing a lack of information which hampers, for example, carrying out fire risk assessments. At Grenfell, the policy of asking residents to stay put while the fire is contained, rather than evacuate the tower block, might have been different had there been more information about the cladding.

Often a building undergoes structural changes after the initial design and this is not documented in an accessible way. The golden thread proposes all information should be digitised, including the size and height of building; full material and manufacturer product information; escape and fire compartmentation information; a record of inspections / reviews / consultations; and records of maintenance and testing, with evidence of competence of those who undertook buildings works.

With this information stored digitally and centrally, it becomes easy to access for those who need it – including residents – so all decisions are based on accurate and up-to-date information. Furthermore, accountability will be increased as decisions and sign offs will also be recorded.

Is building information modelling (BIM) required for the golden thread?

BIM is a recommendation to achieve a golden thread, as it is already a widely established method of sharing building lifecycle data across design, construction and operation. Older buildings not designed with BIM can be scanned with a laser and combined with digitised information to create an accurate 3D model. This will provide access to measurements, space classification, even tenant details for each room. Connected to a CAFM system, the model can then show asset and material details, as well as maintenance history, information on parts, and warranty details.

While this data could of course be captured on spreadsheets; as FMs using CAFM systems well know, working with centralised, secure data makes a huge difference in terms of accuracy, reporting and accessibility. Keeping a spreadsheet maintained with such critical information is risky and inadvisable.

How can an FM or property owner have time to learn a BIM system?

Any new software implementation will take up a portion of time from the FM team, but the results of which will reap dividends in terms of future time and money savings. Our FM Tech Survey 2020 in partnership with FM magazine (Australia) and FMJ (UK) found that the majority were using CAFM systems on a daily basis with just 23% (UK) and 15% (APAC) of FM professionals only using Excel to manage their operations. Technology adoption is on the rise as the industry becomes more reliant on data for accurate decision making to boost efficient, competitive service delivery. Around a third also felt that BIM would have a strong impact on the industry over the next 12 months, and interest is growing year on year.

Service Works Global’s BIM software and QFM CAFM system can be fully integrated. Two-way integration means that FMs and property owners can access asset data either through QFM or the 3D model, using simple point and click controls. Users can zoom into areas of interest, and easily access required information using filters and search terms. Should the site undergo structural changes, SWG can update the model to reflect the new building – meaning no CAD technician is required on the FM team. Therefore, once BIM is adopted by an organisation, it is straightforward to use the data, as well as keep it up to date.

Contact SWG to discuss creating a BIM model of your site, including fire safety information to meet the requirements of the golden thread initiative.

To learn more about the laser scanning process, watch our recent 30 minute webinar from our digitisation series.