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Written by

Josh Waterman

As the industry starts to get to grips with the incoming Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA) and the new building safety regime, we are being asked lots of questions about the principal designer role. We have put together this guide on how the principal designer and contractor roles are impacted by the BSA 2022 coming into force.

What are the CDM 2015 and BSA 2022 principal designer and contractor roles?

Yes, confusingly there are now two sets of regulations which are the construction, design, and management regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) and the building safety act 2022 (BSA) which refer to the requirement for a principal designer and contractor to be appointed.

Despite having the same names, they are two very distinctly different roles and have completely separate requirements. The CDM 2015 principal designer and contractor roles cover the management of health and safety during construction and design, as has been in place since 2015. In contrast, the building regulations principal designer and contractor roles under the BSA 2022 is concerned with managing compliance of the design and construction works with the building regulations.

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Where do higher-risk buildings (HRB) fit in to principal designer and contractor roles?

A reminder that the criteria for a building to be an HRB is for it to be at least 18m in height or 7 storeys, containing at least two residential units.

Firstly, CDM 2015 applies to all construction works including domestic projects, so regardless of whether a project is classified as an HRB or not, you need to appoint a CDM principal designer and contractor. Similarly, whilst there is a misconception that the building regulations principal designer and contractor roles required under the BSA 2022 only applies to HRBs, it actually applies to all projects.

Whilst it is required on all projects, the subtle difference is that on projects that are classified as HRBs, there is a requirement to specify a separate building regulations principal designer whereas works to buildings which are not HRBs require the role of principal designer to be identified, but this role may be carried out by the sole contractor, principal contractor, lead designer, or in default the client (except for domestic clients).

It should be noted that if the client fails to appoint a principal designer or contractor, the responsibilities will be retained by the client and will default to them. On an HRB project, this means the client must appoint another competent individual or organisation to carry out the building regulations principal designer role.

The building regulations principal designer and contractor can be the same organisation if they have the competence to deliver both distinct roles. They may also be the same entity who delivers the CDM principal designer and contractor roles, again if they have the correct competencies to do so. Whilst these roles can be carried out by the same entity, they require a completely different set of competencies to deliver them.

Principal designer and contractor competence

The client now has an obligation to make sure that they take reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that any entity appointed into duty holder roles such as the principal designer and contractor are competent. Building safety competence means the entity has the necessary building safety skills, knowledge, experience, and behaviours and ethics.

A British standard has been produced to help guide principal designers, contractors, and clients to understand the building safety competencies required to perform the principal designer and contractor roles. PAS 8671:2022 sets out a competency framework for principal designers and PAS 8672:2022 sets out a framework for principal contractors.

What is the difference between the CDM 2015 and BSA or Building Regulations principal designer and contractor roles?

As above, in the most basic terms, the CDM 2015 roles require the management of health and safety during design and construction, whereas under the BSA 2022 the building regulation roles are about managing the compliance of the design and construction works with the building regulations.

The below outlines the role and competency framework for the CDM 2015 and BSA 2022 principal designer and contractor roles in turn.

As defined by the HSE, principal designers under CDM 2015 must:

  • plan, manage, monitor, and coordinate health and safety in the pre-construction phase. In doing so they must take account of relevant information (such as an existing health and safety file) that might affect design work carried out both before and after the construction phase has started
  • help and advise the client in bringing together pre-construction information, and provide the information designers and contractors need to carry out their duties
  • work with any other designers on the project to eliminate foreseeable health and safety risks to anyone affected by the work and, where that is not possible, take steps to reduce or control those risks
  • ensure that everyone involved in the pre-construction phase communicates and cooperates, coordinating their work wherever required
  • liaise with the principal contractor, keeping them informed of any risks that need to be controlled during the construction phase

In contrast under the BSA 2022, the building regulations principal designer must:

  • plan, manage monitor design work, and cooperate, coordinate, and communicate to ensure the design work, if built, complies with building regulations
  • understand the law (role and competency requirements set out in the Building Regulations) as this will enable the principal designer to understand their role
  • Be able to manage other designers and reach consensus that design work is compliant with building regulations. Monitor identified compliance risks and assess gaps in other designers’ competences
  • set the plan for achieving design work compliance
  • control changes to the plan and monitor risks to design work compliance
  • coordinate designers’ work related to achieving the plan
  • liaise with principal contractors about design work compliance
  • monitoring progress against the plan through to the end of the design phase
  • understand technical guidance, codes of practice and standards so that they can assess, challenge, and build design team consensus on design compliance

For the principal contractor, under CDM 2015, the principal contractor must:

  • plan, manage, monitor, and coordinate the entire construction phase
  • take account of the health and safety risks to everyone affected by the work (including members of the public), in planning and managing the measures needed to control them
  • liaise with the client and principal designer for the duration of the project to ensure that all risks are effectively managed
  • prepare a written construction phase plan (PDF) before the construction phase begins, implement, and then regularly review and revise it to make sure it remains fit for purpose
  • have ongoing arrangements in place for managing health and safety throughout the construction phase
  • consult and engage with workers about their health, safety, and welfare
  • ensure suitable welfare facilities are provided from the start and maintained throughout the construction phase
  • check that anyone they appoint has the skills, knowledge, experience and, where relevant, the organisational capability to carry out their work safely and without risk to health
  • ensure all workers have site-specific inductions, and any further information and training they need
  • take steps to prevent unauthorised access to the site
  • liaise with the principal designer to share any information relevant to the planning, management, monitoring, and coordination of the pre-construction phase

Again, in contrast the under the BSA 2022 the building regulations principal contractor must:

  • plan, manage and monitor the building work, cooperate, coordinate, and communicate to ensure the building work complies with building regulations
  • work with designers and other contractors to make sure all building work complies with relevant building regulations
  • monitor building work (and record this) to make sure it complies with the law and to liaise with the principal designer to agree any changes
  • understand applicable legislation and recognise obligations regarding building safety
  • manage building work including knowledge of risks (fire and structural safety) and how to mitigate these
  • competence to select competent contractors and suppliers. Competence to procure quality materials, products and building systems
  • coordinate and monitor contractors, suppliers, and service providers specifically in relation to identify, assess, inspect, and test safety critical materials, components and building systems and ensure any time or budgetary pressures do not impact building safety
  • lead a building project using learning, experiences, and knowledge of standards and best practice. A principal contractor needs to be able to take control of a build and manage change control but also delegate and empower others
  • effectively manage build quality through communicating with and monitoring contractor’s work
  • retain accurate and reliable documented information. In most cases, this will necessitate the competency to develop digital systems for the build information management

An alternative approach to the building regulations principal designer role

At Building Safety Act Consult, we offer and can deliver the building regulations principal designer service. We have a slightly alternative approach to many in the market and whilst some just see it as an extension of the CDM responsibilities, we believe it is a distinctively and wholly different role which requires a much more collaborative and proactive approach and a different technical skillset backed up with experience delivering a vast range of project types.

As the building regulations principal designer, we take the lead on the design to offer clear and accurate advice to produce a design that is compliant with building regulations for projects, including HRBs.

As a team comprised of building control officers, fire safety experts, health and safety and project leaders with design management experience, we believe that we are well placed to provide a competent building regulations principal designer service on projects.

Our team has a combined total of over 200 years of experience, particularly delivering some of London’s largest HRBs. We follow the competency framework set out in PAS 8671:2022 for principal designers to deliver our services.

Get in touch with us at Building Safety Act Consult for more information about our principal designer services or to receive a proposal.