principal designer or design manager

What’s the difference between a Principal Designer and a Design Manager?

30th August 2021   |   Jamie Barrett   |   Reading Time: 3 minutes

The terms ‘principal designer’ and ‘design manager’ are often misunderstood by those outside the construction industry. However, they are two very different roles each with distinct responsibilities. 

One role is the responsibility of the client and focuses on safe design and building use. The other sits with the contractor and is responsible for design coordination and building regulations compliance and that the end project meets the client’s brief. 

This article explains what the roles of principal designer and design manager are and what they are responsible for. Ensuring both of these roles are well appointed will contribute to the smooth running of the project from pre construction to final handover.

Principal Designer 

On construction projects with more than one trade contractor, the client has a duty to appoint a principal designer in line with CDM 2015 Regulations. The client is required to ensure that the principal designer has the relevant skills, knowledge, training, qualifications, capability, and capacity for the role.

The role of the principal designer is to advise and lead on health and safety during the pre-construction phase of a project, with a focus on safe design for construction and building use. As such, the principal designer should be appointed at the earliest opportunity and will ensure the health and safety of those working on the project throughout its duration.

A reliable and reassuring way to meet the position of the principal designer is by appointing a specialised consultant to fulfil the role. By appointing an Association for Project Safety (APS), Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) or Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) regulated firm, you will have the assurance that you are engaging a reputable company that you can trust and rely on.

The role of the Principal Designer 

  • Planning, managing, monitoring, and coordinating health and safety in the pre-construction phase to ensure that risks are managed throughout the design process
  • Identifying and eliminating any foreseeable health and safety risks affecting the construction and use of the building
  • Supporting and advising the client with health and safety related requirements
  • Working with the principal contractor to inform any health and safety elements to be planned for and considered during the construction phase
  • Providing the project team, including the designers and contractors, with the pre-construction health and safety information 

Design Manager

A design manager acts as the intermediary between construction and design teams. Good design management ensures that the plans of the project are compatible with the construction in practice; a role which coordinates the relationship between design teams and contractors, smoothing the transition from plan to build.

A good design manager will understand technical building design and use their construction knowledge to ensure the feasibility of implementing those designs on a practical level whilst applying experience in other factors including planning processes, building regulations, and contractual knowledge.

The role of the Design Manager

  • Managing and coordinating the design team which may include architects, structural engineers, contractors and subcontractors
  • Managing the design process factoring in timescales and feasibility of design elements in practice
  • Supporting and advising the client regarding design elements
  • Cost management of design elements
  • Ensuring the design process meets any relevant legislation and regulations
  • Ensuring design information supports project timescales

How Evolution5 can help you?

Evolution5 has a technically qualified and skilled team that includes highly experienced principal designers and CDM advisors, plus project managers for the management and coordination of designs.

With extensive construction experience, Evolution5 is perfectly positioned to work collaboratively with your design team from the early stages of your project to ensure the build phase runs smoothly and regulatory compliance.

Evolution5 is a professional consultancy offering principal designer, CDM advisor, project management, quantity surveying, employer’s agent, and contract administration services for projects across London and the South East.

If you have a construction project and would like to explore how the team can help you, click the button below or call 023 8040 5073.