May 12

The subtle differences between the Building Safety Case, the Safety Case Report and the Golden Thread

Nearly six years have passed since the tragic Grenfell Tower Disaster, and a whole year has elapsed since the Building Safety Act 2022 was granted Royal Ascent. While this Act created the Building Safety Regulator and established new roles and obligations, it's the forthcoming secondary legislation that will have a tangible impact on property owners. These new measures will undoubtedly have far-reaching consequences, and it's essential that all concerned parties stay informed and prepared for any upcoming changes.

As of April 12th, the first real milestone of legal responsibility on building owners and the Accountable Person came into force. To comply with the law, high-rise buildings with at least seven floors or over 18 meters tall and two or more residential units must be registered by October 1st, 2022. The designated Accountable Person should begin their application process by providing information about the building's number of floors, height, number of residential units, year of construction, and address. The application will require building owners to demonstrate the structure and safety of the building. Subsequently, the Building Safety Regulator will assess the submitted information to ensure the building is suitable for registration.

Safety Case, Safety Case Report and Golden thread

These three terms are used when referring to the requirements of the building safety act; however, it is important to understand the differences within the legislation.

The Safety Case:

The safety case is all of the information you use to manage the risk of fire spread and the structural safety of the building.

Suggested information required for the Safety Case is set out below:

  • Basic building information, including design codes and standards, plans and an overview of the wider area
  • Building Construction, including structure, stability systems, construction materials, compartmentation standards
  • Access and escape and travel distances with evidence of regulations in force at the time of construction or refurbishment
  • Resident profile
  • Refurbishment details, such as information relating to any changes
  • Fire prevention and protective measures
  • Structural safety
  • Services and utilities
  • Maintenance and inspection

The Safety Case Report:

The safety case report is a document that summarises the Safety Case.

It identifies the primary fire and structural hazards and how risks are managed. This report should not just be a list of risks but provide confidence that significant fire and structural risks are identified, and any consequences are limited. The principal Accountable Person should produce a Safety Case that demonstrates all reasonable steps to prevent safety incidents. While legislation relating to the Safety Case Report is still in development, initial guidance has been issued by the BSR. However, they won't be producing a template. The report should summarise the information gathered and how it has been used in assessing risk, and this information should be used to support the assessment forming part of the Golden Thread.

The Safety Case Report should include the following:

  • Building name and address
  • Description of the building
  • Identify and assess risks
  • Fire safety risk assessment management
  • Structural integrity
  • Maintenance
  • Change management procedures
  • Emergency arrangements
  • Occurrence reporting
  • Complaints management
  • Resident engagement strategy
  • Continuous improvement  

The Golden Thread:

The Golden Thread outlines the management of building information. The Golden Thread Policy was developed and summarised by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee in a report. A working group was formed to define the Golden Thread, which is described as "the information that enables comprehension of a building and the actions required to ensure ongoing safety."

It sets out that building information must be:

  • Kept digitally and securely
  • Deliver a single source of truth
  • Be functional and proportional for the people who need to review it 
  • Be accessible and available when required

To summarise, the Building Safety Case, the Safety Case Report and the Golden Thread all aim to retain and manage building information to allow the assessment, mitigation and management of risks to those occupying the building.

While many will have presumed this was already the case for residents living in these buildings. Those of us who have worked in the sector for many years will not be surprised, and it is a shame that it takes a tragedy and legislation to make a meaningful change.

It is six years since 72 people lost their lives, and the lack of up-to-date information and regular risk assessment of high-rise buildings still exists. Most involved in these buildings, including designers, constructors, and product manufacturers, have not begun to address the impact of the legislation.

As the implementation of the Building Safety Act and the secondary legislation approach, property owners must keep in mind the subtle difference between a Building Safety Case, a Safety Case Report and a Golden Thread. Understanding these concepts will allow them to fully prepare to register their properties with the Building Safety Regulator and meet the October 1st 2023 deadline. All three components must be carefully considered and virtually 'woven together' to provide full coverage and protection from fire and structural risks and provide a manageable information-gathering strategy for monitoring safety in high-rise buildings. Understanding this difference can help prevent immense losses in cases of emergencies or disasters within these tall units. It is important to identify what needs to be done by October 1st 2023, and to have your building information at the ready.

Building owners have until September 2023 to register their buildings. It will be interesting to see what percentage do over the next six months and how many still need to be made aware of their obligations.