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Ensure vital information on buildings and the materials used in their construction is captured to prevent future safety scandals

London 11 September 2023 – The unique identity of every product, material and location involved in the construction of public buildings should be captured and shared using a global data language to prevent safety blunders, experts say.  

GS1 UK is today calling for the mass digitalisation of the construction industry, underpinned by interoperable data standards to improve safety, transparency and traceability throughout the supply chain.

Identifying building products and capturing consistent data allows vital information related to a building's design, construction, and ongoing management to be seamlessly shared, enabling prompt action when risks emerge.

In the absence of this information, engineers are now combing schools and colleges across the UK looking for reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in a similar way to the physical checks required to identify all instances of hazardous cladding following the Grenfell fire. Despite these efforts, the construction industry still faces significant challenges in improving the safety and maintenance of high-risk buildings.

It doesn’t need to be this way. Going forward, consistent data standards such as the GS1 Global Trade Item Number (or GTIN) - the number that powers each barcode - and Global Location Numbers (GLN) should be used to uniquely identify, capture and share vital information on products, assets and locations to prevent similar scandals from occurring in the future.

In the case of concrete, this information could be fitted within structures using Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID), allowing building information to be captured by engineers, contractors, facility managers and even emergency responders rapidly, consistently and with confidence.

The government has recognised the need for digitalisation and introduced a ‘golden thread of data’ in the Building Safety Act which came into force earlier this year. But a lot of collaboration is needed between government and industry to translate this ambition into reality across the construction sector.

As the finer details of regulators’ expectations become clearer, there is no doubt trusted, shared data to identify building assets and components is essential.

Iain Walker, director of industry and engagement at GS1 UK, said: “the challenges facing both the government and industry in responding to RAAC school closures is avoidable and cannot be repeated. Accurate building information – consistently captured and shared – would directly address this risk and avert future crises.

“This is an unfortunate reminder that the construction industry and government need to work together to accelerate digitalisation. The widespread adoption of global, interoperable data standards will not only improve the safety and maintenance of high-risk buildings, it will also enable rapid, informed responses to any current and future safety risks. There cannot be delayed any longer: we must act now."


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Notes to editors

For further information or requests for interviews, contact Katie Rispin at E: or M: 07885 473221. 


About GS1 UK

Whether online, in store or in a hospital, the common language of GS1 global standards is helping our community of more than 58,000 organisations across the UK to uniquely identify, describe and track anything, creating greater trust in data for everyone.

From product barcodes to patient wristbands, GS1 standards have been transforming the way we work and live for 50 years.

GS1 UK is one of 116 neutral and independent GS1 organisations operating worldwide. / @gs1uk