Digitising The Golden Thread to ensure fire safety standards

Rear view of engineers standing on construction site, holding tablet.

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Robert Norton, UK Team Leader at PlanRadar talks the digitisation of The Golden Thread

The UK government has set out plans to introduce a stringent regulatory regime to create and maintain a ‘Golden Thread’ of information. The Golden Thread is the information about a building that allows someone to understand it. Therefore, keeping the building and its residents safe, as well as ensuring the building information is accurate, easily understandable, can be accessed by those who need it and is up to date.

Implementation of the Golden Thread will require individuals and organisations responsible for a building to have good information management systems and a clear understanding of how information management supports building safety. Going forward this will need to be embedded across the sector to ensure greater levels of safety. PlanRadar, a platform first established in 2013 as a means for the construction industry to digitise all onsite procedures, has positioned itself as the digital solution for The Golden Thread.

At its most basic, PlanRadar is a means to capture evidence on the go and create a tamper-proof audit trail, as well as acting as a communication platform for fire-safety measures across digital plans and Building Information Models.

It is designed to immediately capture and resolve risks on-site by: easily documenting facts during fire risk assessments, retrieving fire protection documents at any time, completing fire risk assessment forms, capturing evidence on the go, communicating fire safety measures, documenting passive fire prevention, creating fire safety documents at the touch of a button and ensuring compliance and accountability above all else.

“Since Dame Judith Hackitt recommended the introduction of a ‘Golden Thread’ as a tool to manage buildings, clients approached us for support, as they realised, we had many of the features ready and available on our platform. We support clients in digitising their fire safety procedures, providing total compliance and peace of mind,” explains Robert Norton, UK Team Leader at PlanRadar.

“If we are looking at fire doors, as an example, clients use PlanRadar across the whole lifecycle of the door, from the manufacturing process through to installation and continued door maintenance. Photographs and videos can be taken at each stage, creating a record of who has done what and when. Furthermore, the tool is used for ongoing checks and maintenance of each door. Every time the system is touched it creates a full, tamper-proof audit history so you know who is accountable for actions taken, and when they were completed.”

Fire Door Inspections

NFC tags are quickly gaining popularity in the construction and real estate industries for their ability to improve on-site information and data capture. These tags use near field communication (NFC) technology, a communication technology which allows the transfer of information between two chips, derived from RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). In simple terms, when you bring your mobile device near an NFC tag, information stored on the tag is easily accessible right on your device. PlanRadar integrates with this technology, installed on or built into fire doors, enabling the tag to be scanned by an individual to bring up the door´s full audit history. This connects to a ticket in the platform showing the exact location and audit details on the building plan.

Norton says fire door surveyors use the platform to document passive fire prevention and complete fire risk assessment forms. On the benefits of NFC tags, he says: “If the door has an NFC tag, fantastic, you can upload that inspection back to the NFC tag and create the audit trail. If they don’t have the NFC tag, then this could be a great chance to create a digital record.” He adds that some fire consultancy specialists are installing NFC tags into hospitals and schools to ensure there is an up-to-date digital record on a system.

“PlanRadar enables fire inspection teams to gather building information quickly and efficiently, whilst significantly reducing the time required to process and present this data. A typical fire door inspection takes 5-10 minutes per door. We’ve streamlined that process to 1-2 minutes per door inspection to record the data.”

Quality Assurance

Clients who are in need of an External Wall System Fire Review certificate (EWS1) are using PlanRadar to conduct Quality Assurance (QA) processes on site. Users can put a pin directly onto the plans of the drawings at the exact location that the EWS1 inspection is going to take place. They can then do a QA form, based on each individual location.  

“Every time a ticket is received by a sub-contractor to carry out work, they can upload all the corresponding photographs of work completed, and then the site manager can come in and approve it,” says Norton. “You then have a specific sign-off field for an external inspector. Only they are allowed to sign off this line to say that the work has been done to the necessary standard.”

This, he says, is where organisations like Kiwa come in to see all the historic data related to each pin on the plan, they will then note down any additional site observations, certify it and close off the certificate or issue a report. “A Fire Assessment Report (FRA) in our system, once they go back to the home office, takes 20 seconds to generate,” says Norton. “Normally an FRA report takes a couple of days for someone to send off.”

Fire Risk Assessments

Someone going to do a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) can carry out the full inspection using PlanRadar, uploading paper forms to PlanRadar, reducing time spent on paperwork, with the ability to highlight pins on plans where applicable. Forms can be custom built, enabling teams to complete them in the field. If there are actions that need to be carried out, they can be made via ‘live recommended actions’ on the platform which can be sent back to the client or main contractor. They can then close these actions out within the system and upload return photographs as a proof of completion that can either be inspected electronically or alternatively a further site visit can take place.

The platform has automatic read receipts so if, for example, a contractor tries to say they have not read something PlanRadar shows that not only have they read it, but they have signed it off to say they have read it, ensuring accountability for these actions. Communication is automatically logged for a secure, tamper proof audit trail.

The PlanRadar platform is free of charge to customise. Norton points out that this is going to be a huge requirement because the system needs to be adaptive and agile at any point, so if there is a new piece of legislation, users can customise the system free of charge, with no hinderance or any major downtime.

A universal platform

At this stage, Norton says that PlanRadar works with clients to support their own needs and requirements to meet the obligations of the Golden Thread. PlanRadar is flexible enough to recognise that each client needs a tailored approach to how information is collected, collated, and stored and each needs different processes. 

PlanRadar has reached out to influential figures within the fire industry as well as building safety regulators to understand how the platform can be designed and updated to be totally fit for purpose and relevant to the needs of the end user. Another one of the questions he says people are talking about a lot is competence: “It has become a key cornerstone of all the fire safety regulations. You still need competent people to deliver even with the very best systems in place.”

“We want to make the system as simple as possible so that anyone with the right qualifications and therefore the right so-called competence (possibly the Responsible Person, as laid out in the Building Safety Act) can then work through the system, record the information they need and take out the relevant information in report format.”

This article was originally published in the August edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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