The proposal for a ‘golden thread’ should be extended to all buildings, argues Hannah Mycock-Overell.
The Hackitt report is not what many hoped it would be. There is no ban on combustible cladding, nor specific recommendations for fire systems in high-rise residential buildings (HRRBs).
But arguably, it does something far more important. It pins down and highlights the failings which pervade the culture of construction and sets out recommendations for a major shakeup of the current regulatory framework governing building control and fire safety in HRRBs.
Hackitt noted the system is beset with complex compliance processes which crumble in the face of poor record keeping and change control.
The new framework she proposed included a new regulator, the Joint Competent Authority (JCA), combining the roles and expertise of building control, the fire and rescue service, and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), and a change control process requiring robust record keeping of all changes to plans previously approved, with permission required for more significant changes.
This proposed change control process, and associated record-keeping requirements, link to a recommendation for a digital record for every building: a ‘golden thread’ of information about each HRRB.
But why not for all buildings? A single repository of information, from design through construction and all subsequent changes throughout occupation, would benefit all end users of buildings. Software developers maintain design and change logs, detailing changes made and why.
Shouldn’t we have the equivalent for the buildings we live in, to ensure that they are safe and fit for purpose? Such a record would help ensure accountability and disincentivise corner-cutting.
One build-to-rent developer in north London has exactly this goal in mind. Quintain takes responsibility for managing residential developments through their life cycle, so has insisted on full transparency on data. The information used to construct the project through an integrated model will be used to manage and maintain it in future.
It is unclear if and how the Hackitt report will be implemented. But even if the necessary legislation is not forthcoming, the industry should not ignore its recommendations, instead taking steps to embed the principles promoted by Hackitt into their organisations and working practices.
Hannah Mycock-Overell is a senior solicitor at Clarkslegal