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The Digital O&M, Golden Thread.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) has revolutionized the construction industry by digitizing the entire building process. It has allowed architects, engineers, contractors, and other stakeholders to collaborate digitally and create digital models that represent every aspect of a building. However, what makes BIM truly powerful is the information that is embedded within these digital models.

The building information model for a single-building or facility will typically comprise of many files, digital models, the Operation and Maintenance Manuals (O&M’s), and the Computer Aided Facilities Management system (CAFM).

Here we consider how the golden thread applies to BIM and Digital O&M’s.

What is BIM's Golden Thread?

The concept of the "Golden Thread" in BIM refers to the digital thread of data that connects every element and aspect of a building model. This includes all design, construction, and operational data associated with the project. The term "Golden Thread" became prominent due to the UK government’s use of it in their Building Safety Reform document, which emphasized the importance of digital information in ensuring building safety and accountability.

The UK government states that “The purpose of the golden thread is to have the right information in order to understand the building and the steps needed to keep both the building and the people living in it safe.

The golden thread comprises of two parts: building work, and maintenance. Importantly … those who are responsible for the building, need to know, where up-to-date information is and can give access to the people who need it! Having a golden thread means that those people responsible for a building or facility, will have easily accessible, reliable, up to date and accurate information.

What is O&M’s Golden Thread?

The Digital Operation and Maintenance Manuals (O&M) contain a wealth of useful information that may not exist within the 3D models. The O&M’s can be thought of as additional information to the BIM models, and the data within the digital O&M can be treated in a similar way to the data within the BIM models.

The digital O&M’s golden thread is generally understood as the transaction log of changes to the information, but importantly, logging who was responsible for the changes. This combined with the BIM models golden thread provides a more complete picture.

For the golden thread to be effective, the data within the Digital O&M needs to be precisely connected to elements within the many 3D models associated with the project or facility. To do this the Digital O&M needs to hold information in a very granular manner so data such as assets, equipment and materials can be associated from the 3D models to the O&M and vice versa.

Therefore, one solution is to combine O&M and the 3D model delivery, where the O&M is the glue that connects many 3D models by linking all the information including the assets, elements, and attributes.

Golden Thread across multiple software platforms

The golden thread is simple to manage within a single digital platform, but when files are moved between Common Data Environments (CDE’s) the golden thread can easily get broken or lost as files are moved. There are two main methods that have been used to solve this:

  1. the golden thread needs to travel with each file, alternatively.
  2. the golden thread is de-centralized and is therefore accessible by multiple digital platforms (for example a blockchain digital ledger).

Ultimately the golden thread needs to remain accessible and stay intact.

How does data play a role in the Digital O&M?

Data is at the heart of a Digital O&M. This data can range from basic asset operation and maintenance information to more complex data such as performance and sustainability metrics, including data sheets warrantees, guarantees, manufacturers literature. This data is not only important during the design and construction phases, but also for the ongoing maintenance and management of the building.

In an ideal situation every component within a 3D model can be associated and linked to relevant data within the Digital O&M.

The Benefits of the Digital O&M - Golden Thread

Having a well-defined golden thread of data within the 3D models and the connected Digital O&M offers numerous benefits throughout a building's lifecycle. These include:

  • Improved Collaboration: By having all project stakeholders working on a single data set and potentially a single digital platform, communication and coordination are greatly improved. This leads to better decision-making and fewer errors during the construction process.
  • Enhanced Visualization: 3D models provide a visual representation of the building, allowing stakeholders to see how every element fits together and functions within the overall design. This not only improves understanding but also helps identify potential clashes or conflicts. Connecting the Digital O&M record / as-built information greatly increases the usefulness of both data sets, and provides the foundations for a digital twin.
  • Better Data Management: Digital O&M’s connected to 3D models allow for the integration and management of various types of data, making it easier to access and analyse information. This can lead to more informed decision-making during the building's lifecycle.
  • Increased Efficiency: With all information connected through a digital thread, tasks such as updating and reviewing the Digital O&M’s in parallel with reviewing the 3D models becomes much quicker and easier. This leads to increased productivity and efficiency in the overall building process.
  • Improved Safety: The golden thread of data in Digital O&M’s allows for better tracking and monitoring of building safety measures, ensuring compliance with regulations and improving overall safety for occupants.

The Challenges with Implementing the Golden Thread

While the concept of a digital golden thread may seem straightforward, there are challenges that come with implementing it in both the 3D models and the connected Digital O&M. These include:

  • Standardization: In order for the golden thread to be truly effective, there needs to be a standardized format for data across All models. This can be challenging as different software platforms and stakeholders may have their own methods of organizing and presenting information. Uniclass and COBie are common choices, but the mapping of attributes between systems can be complex and lead to potential errors.
  • Data Quality: The accuracy and completeness of the data within a Digital O&M linked to 3D models is crucial for its success. If there are errors or missing information, it can lead to costly mistakes and delays during the building process and the data and documentation review cycles. A combination of data validation and technical reviews are essential to ensure information is as accurate as possible.
  • Data Sharing: In order for all stakeholders to have access to the golden thread of data, there needs to be a way to securely share information between different parties. This can be challenging due to the sensitive nature of certain data and the need for strict privacy measures.

The Future of Data and the Golden Thread

As BIM technology continues to advance, so does the potential for a more refined golden thread of data within building models. With the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), BIM models can become even more intelligent by analysing vast amounts of data and providing insights for improved decision-making. The ability to connect BIM models with other systems, such as the Digital O&M’s and facility management software, also holds great potential for the continuous use of data throughout a building's entire lifecycle.

In conclusion, The Digital O&M should not be thought of as a dumb document store. Data is an essential component within the Digital O&M and plays a critical role in the concept of the golden thread. As technology continues to evolve and more efficient methods for gathering, managing, and sharing data are developed, the golden thread will become even more valuable in the construction industry. BIM and the golden thread of data have set the way for a more efficient and collaborative future in building design, construction, and management.

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  • “Understanding the golden thread“ by UK government (
  • “The Golden Thread in Construction” by NBS (
  • “Understanding the Golden Thread of BIM” by Autodesk (

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