Skip to main content

New Principal Designer responsibilities introduced under the Building Safety Act

Secondary legislation has recently clarified how the Principal Designer will operate under the Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA), a role that is new and distinct from the role of a principal designer under the CDM Regulations. 

When must a Principal Designer be appointed?

A Principal Designer must be appointed by the client in writing where there is more than one contractor working on a project, where the building work started after 1 October 2023 and the building regulations apply. 

The Principal Designer can take on a dual role and act as the Principal Designer for the purposes of the BSA and the CDM Regulations, provided they are competent to take on these responsibilities. 

What are the new responsibilities? 

The BSA has introduced general duties for all duty holders (the client, designers, Principal Designers, contractors and Principal Contractors) during the design and construction phase which include:

  • ensuring their work is planned, managed and monitored to ensure compliance with the building regulations; and
  • co-operating with other duty holders, sharing information, communicating effectively and supporting each other to ensure their work is in compliance with the building regulations.

If the project is a higher-risk building (HRB) (as defined under the BSA), all duty holders must:

  • identify and share information about the nature of the HRB project; and
  • work together to provide the Gateway 2 information to the Building Safety Regulator.

Additional duties of the Principal Designers include:

  • planning, managing and monitoring the design work during the design stage; 
  • taking all reasonable steps so that the design work carried out by the Principal Designer and those under its control is planned, managed and monitored to ensure, if built, that design complies with the building regulations; and 
  • liaising and sharing information with the Principal Contractor. 

For a HRB, the Principal Designer must put in place processes to support a mandatory occurrence reporting system.  

If a Principal Designer is replaced, the replacement Principal Designer must check the work of the previous Principal Designer and report any issues to the client. 

The intention of these new responsibilities is to ensure building safety and compliance with the building regulations becomes a central focus of the procurement process.

What are the new competency requirements?

The Principal Designer must have the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours (and, if an organisation, the organisational capability) necessary to fulfil the new responsibilities.

The Principal Designer must provide a signed compliance declaration within five days of completion of the work confirming it has fulfilled its responsibilities. Liability for non-compliance will be a criminal offence. 

What can Principal Designers do now? 

Principal Designers must be able to demonstrate the new competency requirements and update any internal processes and guidance they maintain. There is no substitution for reading the legislation to familiarize themselves with what is required. Where they do not have the competence to deliver the works, they must refuse to accept an appointment. 

Principal Designers should now be checking their contractual terms given the additional risks, ensure their PI insurance is adequate and price for the additional scope and risk. 

Principal Designers will need to advise their clients to factor in additional time to their projects so that duties can be discharged and accommodated within the programme.

How we can help

Irwin Mitchell's Construction and Engineering team can advise you on all the legal aspects which surround construction and engineering work, whether you are a funder, developer, employer, contractor or consultant.

This article first appeared in the Dec/Jan edition of Architecture Magazine