Everything You Need To Know About Appointing A Principal Designer

The introduction of CDM 2015 gave birth to this new role, and as such even now, 3 years on there is still a lot of question around their role.

In this blog, we’ll answer all you need to know about appointing a principal designer.

First off, it’s important to note that a Principal Designer needs to be appointed on ALL construction projects with more than one contractor. That now also includes domestic projects and non-notifiable projects. If you have only one contractor involved on your project for its duration (and they will not use any subcontractors), you don’t need to appoint a Principal Designer.

You also need to take into account the future of your project. For example, if in the foreseeable future you know another contractor or sub-contractors will come on board it’s best to get your principal designer in place before this happens.

For a construction project to run as smoothly as possible the principal designer needs to one of the first appointments made. They have a lot of duties throughout the pre-construction phase that needs to be managed effectively to ensure health and safety.

When should a client appoint a principal designer?

Under the CDM 2015 regulations it states:

5.-(2) The appointments must be made as soon as is practicable, and, in any event, before the construction phase begins.

In doing so the principal designer early they can provide the client with help in matters such as pulling together the preconstruction information. It will also give the principal designer enough time to carry out their duties.

CDM 2015: Everything You Need To Know About Preconstruction Clients Duties

The principal designer must be appointed in writing and it is important you keep a record of this appointment.

Can the client be the Principal Designer?

The simple answer. Yes, you can.

However, the client must have the skills, knowledge, experience and (if an organisation) organisational capability, to carry out all the functions and responsibilities of the PD.

On commercial projects (construction projects in connection with any business), if the client does not make the appointment, they are automatically the Principal Designer, and responsible for the all the duties and requirements of that role.

How long do I need a principal designer?

The principal designer should be in place for as long as there is a need for their role to be performed. One your project reaches the construction phase they may no longer be needed, however, if they are still required it’s best to keep same person or organisation rather than appointment someone new.

If the principal designer's appointment finishes before the end of the project, the clients needs to make sure that the principal contractor is aware and fully briefed on any matters arising from design relating to ensuing construction work.

The client should also make sure that the principal designer passes the health and safety file to the principal contractor so it can be revised during the remainder of the project if necessary

What does a principal designer do?

The principal Designer has one of the most important roles under CDM 2015. Hence why it’s best to appoint them early on. It is their duty to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety in the pre-construction phase of a project.

They also play a key role in influencing how risks to health and safety are managed throughout a project. Any design decisions made during the pre-construction phase will be made in the interest of securing health and safety for everyone affected by the projects work.

It is also within their duties to:

  • Identify, eliminate or control foreseeable risks;
  • Ensure designers carry out their duties.
  • Prepare and provide relevant information to other dutyholders.
  • The principal designer will also work with you (the client) to agree a format for the pre-construction and health and safety file CDM documents for the project.
  • Provide relevant information to the principal contractor to help them plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety in the construction phase.

If you want to know more about roles and duties under CDM 2015 you can read our guide.

CDM 2015: Everything You Need To Know About Roles & Duties

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