Scaffolding outside cladding remediation project in Bristol. Evolution5 Principal Designer: Building Safety Act

Principal Designer: Building Safety Act

17th April 2024   |   Jamie Barrett   |   Reading Time: 3 minutes

Principal Designer: CDM 2015 v Building Safety Act

Confusing terminology in construction is nothing new and is something we have covered in previous articles 

When you consider that clear communication is at the core of any successful business, it’s disappointing to find that recent regulatory changes have resulted in yet more opportunity for confusion. This time, surrounding the role of Principal Designer.  

With the introduction of the Building Safety Act and its subsequent regulations, professionals across the construction industry are encountering the term ‘Principal Designer’ in varying contexts.  

Specifically, the requirements of the principal designer role as defined under the latest updates to the Building Safety Regime, differ from those defined for the same role within CDM Regulations 2015.  

This article looks at the differences and similarities between the principal designer role under the two sets of legislation. 

Principal Designer: CDM Regulations 2015 

According to HSE, a principal designer is the designer (as defined in the CDM Regulations) with control over the pre-construction phase who has the relevant skills, knowledge, and experience and where they are an organisation, the organisational capability to carry out all the functions of the role. However, they do not have to carry out actual design work on the project.  

The principal designer is appointed by the client to discharge the legal duties required for planning, managing, and coordinating H&S activities during the pre-construction phase of any project that will, or is likely to, involve more than one contractor. This applies to both commercial and domestic projects.  

Principal Designer Role: Building Safety Act 

The Building Safety Act introduced a number of new duty holders, one of which is Principal Designer. As with the role under CDM Regulations, the client must appoint a principal designer in any project that will, or may, involve more than one contractor.  

The Building Control Overview of the changes, under this legislation, sets out that the duties of the principal designer are to: 

  • Plan, manage and monitor the design work during the design phase. 
  • Take all reasonable steps to ensure the design work carried out by them and anyone under their control is planned, managed, and monitored so that the design is such that, if built, it would comply with all relevant requirements of the building regulations. 
  • Ensure that they, and all those working on the project, co-operate, communicate, and coordinate their work with the client, the Principal Contractor, and other designers and contractors. 
  • Liaise with the Principal Contractor and share information relevant to the building work. 
  • Assist the client in providing information to others. 

Summary of Key Differences 

If you think the two roles sound similar, you are quite right. However, the duties under the Building Safety Act extend significantly beyond the CDM role. Below we have summarised, at a high level, the differences between the duties and responsibilities of the two principal designer roles. 

CDM Principal Designer 

Role focuses primarily on planning, managing, monitoring, and coordinating health and safety in the project’s pre-construction phase.  

This role is about ensuring that the construction work minimises health and safety risks for everyone throughout the lifecycle of the building. 

BSA Principal Designer 

While also involved in planning, managing, monitoring, and coordinating, this role specifically targets compliance with building regulations throughout the design work. The BSA principal designer must ensure the project adheres to building regulations, including understanding the building regulation application and approval process, the gateway process, and the golden thread requirements. 

In this role, the principal designer must possess a broader understanding of compliance, safety, and regulatory frameworks, including the ability to manage and integrate contributions from various specialists, such as those focusing on fire and structural safety. This role is more encompassing and requires a comprehensive grasp of building regulations, safety standards, and the coordination of complex design processes to ensure regulatory compliance. 

Can One Principal Designer Fulfil Both Roles?

Neither primary nor secondary legislation set out that a single principal designer cannot fulfil both roles. However, the increased responsibility on the duty holder may mean that some current providers of CDM principal designer services will not meet the requirements of the BSA principal designer role.  

Principal Designer Services by Evolution5

At the time of writing, the BSA principal designer role is still very new to the industry and is certain to develop further over time. Companies will need to review the skills and competencies of their team and, where necessary, take steps to recruit new team members or upskill existing staff. 

To discuss the specific requirements of principal designer services for your project, contact the team by calling 023 8040 5073 or click the button below.