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What is the Golden Thread and why does it matter in AEC?

Updated: Feb 2

At the recent London Build Expo, one the hottest topics on the agenda was The Golden Thread. But what is it and why does it matter for decision makers in AEC?

Let’s take a look!

Golden thread on a black screen

The Origins of The Golden Thread

The Golden Thread has actually been around for a while and performs a hugely important part in how buildings are now developed. It was originally a part of the Building a Safer Future report commissioned following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower when AEC businesses fell under greater scrutiny to ensure that structures and homes were safe throughout their entire lifecycle. The Building Safety Bill would include new measures to drive cultural change within the AEC industries to ensure that nothing like Grenfell could ever happen again.

Since the Building a Safer Future report was published in 2018, The Golden Thread has taken on new life and become a concept which underpins how information is stored, managed and shared throughout the lifecycle of a building. The Golden Thread is a digital chain of information which has scope far outside of just AEC.

The Roadblocks for The Golden Thread

When Dame Judith Hackitt carried out her report following the Grenfell Tower fire she found that there were huge gaps in records of how the building was designed and constructed. Information which may have been present when the building was first erected was never passed on to the building’s owners or managers. The tower was completed in 1974, way before digital records existed so this wasn’t a blame game, it highlighted an urgent need for change and the adoption of new working practices.

A follow-up report was released in 2020 by the CIOB and i3PT Certification which went out to AEC industries to find out what the barriers were to achieving The Golden Thread and hopefully come up with some solutions. The report found that 75% believed industry culture was the biggest roadblock and that there was a lack of ownership when it came to who was really responsible for driving change because no one really knew who owned the data. So, three years on from the deadliest residential fire since World War II and meaningful change was still looking unlikely.

Grenfell Tower
Grenfell Tower: Reuters / Hannah Mckay

Managing The Golden Thread of Information

Organisations in AEC are adept at collaboration. They have to be. Effective communication throughout a project’s design and construction phase is all part of the process. But the Building Safety Bill has stakeholders outside of this process and there’s now a requirement to ensure that a building’s key information is stored and made available to anyone who needs it throughout its entire lifecycle – from design all the way through to demolition. That presents a headache.

When a building is first created it will involve architects, engineers and construction specialists. But what happens after? How does information pass over to a building’s management and maintenance teams? Currently there’s no set industry-standard process for this.

Ideally, The Golden Thread will encompass all information held about a building. Architectural plans, schematics, structural calculations, materials lists - millions of measurements and numbers. It will also then include maintenance records, resident lists, inspection data, asset ownership information - that’s a lot of data. Over half of the respondents in the Golden Thread Report didn’t believe that their organization had the ‘appropriate technology infrastructure and processes in place’ to make this data available to other stakeholders in a secure format.

So, what can AEC businesses and property owners do to comply with government and legislative targets for a Golden Thread?

digital twin

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Joining the Dots

It’s not expected that the Golden Thread will be accomplished overnight. That said, there are already many tools available which are helping AEC businesses to start joining the dots. BIM plays a big part. As an already established method of collecting and sharing information about a structure’s lifecycle BIM professionals are well placed to help with the data conundrum. But for the most part BIM doesn’t address the issue of older structures. BIM was already an established practice at the time of the Grenfell fire but only for newer buildings. To make the Golden Thread meaningful it will need to look retrospectively as well as to the future.

Digital twins are just one of the solutions. A digital twin can be created at any stage of development. In new constructions, the digital twin or model can be fed by multiple data streams and encompass everything from architectural plans through to 3D imagery as a project develops. Another stakeholder can then add utility information or other assets. Digital twins can also be developed for existing structures, even without perfect records.

But how do you even create digital twins of outdoor spaces? Enter drones. Drones are a fundamental tool that you can use to gain powerful insights into the build environment. Their remote sensing and photography abilities mean that data can be captured in real time, and depending on your digital infrastructure, the data can then be fed into a new or existing model or ‘twin’.

Read our recent article about creating digital twins using drones.

4D Digital Twins, enabling the Golden Thread
4D Digital Twins, enabling the Golden Thread


The concept of a Golden Thread is a good one. It stands to improve standards, collaboration and safety for everyone involved in AEC and beyond. But it’s going to take more cross-sector collaboration and some big changes to make it a working reality.

Digital transformation often starts with working smarter not harder and data collection and management will be key to building a safer future and securing the buildings we’ve got. Digital twins are a great place to start.

We’ll look at using digital twins to achieve the Golden Thread in the second part of our series next week. Subscribe to our newsletter below to stay in the know!

About Us

Hammer Missions is a software platform that helps drone (UAV) teams work with versatile & high-quality drone data for site surveys and asset inspections. Our goal is to help businesses cut costs and increase ROI by building operational efficiency in their drone programs.

Hammer Hub is a cloud-based platform where drone data can be processed and visualized in a full 3D environment. This data can also be annotated using AI to accelerate the annotation process, and it can then be shared with other team members or stakeholders within the organization for further review – a great benefit when working with a digital twin.

If you haven't got a Hammer account yet and would like to try Hammer Missions you can get started with our free trial.

To find out more about using drone data for BIM and digital twins, please contact our team or visit our learning resources or take a look at our project examples.

- Team at Hammer Missions


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