Digital construction consultancy takes key role in industry alliance to implement Building Safety Bill

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An innovative digital construction consultancy is working with some of the country’s leading social housing organisations, architects and developers in a government-led initiative to ensure there is never a repeat of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Operance, based at Hull’s C4DI digital hub, is providing both practical expertise and software to the Golden Thread Initiative (GTI), a collaboration of industry professionals launched to trial government proposals on the “golden thread”.

The golden thread is a digital way of working to enable a systematic, controlled approach to the management of building safety information throughout the design, construction, refurbishment and management of occupied buildings.

It was one of the key recommendations of the Hackitt Report into the failures that led to 72 people losing their lives in the Grenfell tragedy.

The process will produce an audit trail of information about a building, the decisions made about it and who made them. In doing so, it will provide increased accountability and ownership of decision-making through the design, build and occupation phases.

Sponsored by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the purpose of the GTI is to bring together industry professionals to trial methods of producing a standardised digital golden thread for building safety information that will satisfy the requirements of the future Building Safety Bill.

The eight-month initiative, led by housing association L&Q on behalf of the MHCLG, launched in November and is split into specific working groups.

Participants from the GTI will produce a report for the Government later this year revealing the findings of its work, sharing lessons learned, and potential options on implementing a digital golden thread.

As a leading digital estates software developer and consultancy practice, Operance was invited to join the GTI and is represented across several of the working groups.

The company is developing its own pioneering software to define, coordinate and audit building operations and maintenance (O&M) information.

Scott Pilgrim, chief product officer at Operance, is a member of the GTI’s Information Management Platform working group.

He said: “It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to share our knowledge and expertise with the GTI to help transform the construction industry, making buildings safer and protecting lives.

“Our vision to create a digital golden thread is completely aligned to that of the GTI. A disaster like Grenfell must never be allowed to happen again and for that to happen, it’s imperative leading industry professionals come together in this way to drive fundamental and lasting change.

“As well as being able to provide our own insights through this forum, Operance’s participation in the project means we can listen and learn from all of those involved to understand fully what the industry needs.

“This will be a huge benefit to the development of our platform, ensuring it is truly revolutionary.”

Operance’s new information management platform, Operance O&M, is a purpose-built desktop application to define, curate, audit and maintain information about a building from design to occupation.

Accurate and easy to understand building and asset information will be shared with owners, operators and occupiers via the pioneering Operance FM mobile-application, providing users with crucial detail in real-time.

With this building information in the palm of their hand, users can easily search, share, update and utilise their data to operate and maintain their facilities, while managing risks and continuously developing the golden thread.

Both the Operance O&M and Operance FM applications are currently in beta-testing with a full release planned for the summer.

Operance is offering a limited number of social housing associations and other organisations the opportunity to test the software and help shape features to suit their needs.

To help social housing associations get ready for the new legislation and begin digitalising their portfolio, Operance is also providing strategic digital transformation and Building Information Modelling (BIM) consultancy services to enable them to define and articulate their digital estate ambitions.

Operance’s digital transformation lead, Tom Oulton, one of the country’s leading BIM professionals, is a member of the GTI Project Management working group.

He said: “We’re on the cusp of revolutionary change to the design, construction and management of our built environment.

“Following Grenfell, we must take this opportunity to work collectively to ensure it’s never repeated. This is a chance to affect change that we must not let pass us by.”

The Hackitt Review was published in May 2018 following an independent review of building regulations and fire safety at Grenfell, led by Dame Judith Hackitt. It included 50 recommendations on how to improve the design, build and operation of buildings and facilities to make them safer and more efficient.

A public inquiry into the Grenfell disaster is ongoing. The first phase focused on the factual narrative of the events on the night of June 14, 2017.  The second phase of the inquiry is examining the causes of these events, including how Grenfell Tower came to be in a condition that allowed the fire to spread the way it did.

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