New mandatory role

Patrick Inglis explains the new mandatory role of Building Regulations Principal Designer

A key part of the Building Safety Act 2022 came into effect on 1 October 2023. From this date a new mandatory role of Building Regulations Principal Designer (not to be confused with the separate role of principal designer under the CDM regulations), will be required for any construction projects which are subject to building regulations approval.!A new regime for higher risk buildings (HRBs) will also come into effect. The legislation also creates additional roles for Principal Contractors and Clients and imposes new duties on designers in general. This means that almost all construction projects involving an architect will require a Building Regulations Principal Designer.

The role should be carried out by the designer in control of the design phase of the project and is therefore inherently suited for architects to perform. The role has a competency test that restricts the role to suitably qualified people or businesses, which means that generally the role can only be performed by regulated professionals such as architects, engineers or surveyors. The competency test for acting as Principal Design is set out in PAS 8671:2022 Built environment – Framework for competence of individual Principal Designers.

Building Regulations Principal Designer role
The main duties of Principal Designers are to plan, manage and oversee design work during the design stage and to co-ordinate design work to ensure that the designs if built would comply with the building regulations. There are also duties in regards to co-ordination and communication with the client and Principal Contractor.

The role was defined in government legislation that was published in August and it is recommended that members read the actual legislation to ensure they fully understand the role: 2023/911/regulation/6/ made

Principal Designers must be appointed at the point that a application for Building Regulations approval is made, but it would be sensible in most cases to try and make this appointment well in advance of this point in order to ensure that the designs are compliant.

Opportunities and Pitfalls
The overall intention of the new regulations is to improve the quality of construction and to do this by making key stakeholders in the process more accountable. This should be welcomed by the profession and in the ACA’s view the role of Principal Designer (BSA) presents an opportunity for architects to earn additional fees and regain more control over construction projects.

Many architects will already be preforming many of these functions in the course of their existing roles as architect and lead designer. However, the new role will potentially require new systems and processes to demonstrate compliance. Principal Designers will also be required to sign a compliance statement before a building regulations final certificate will be issued. For non- HRBs this will only relate to the project as designed rather than as built but for HRB projects this will be a joint statement with the Client and Principal Contractor confirming the project as constructed complies with Building Regulations.

Increased potential liability
The role therefore does increase architects’ potential liability and this increased risk should be reflected in fees agreements. Architects should therefore be careful to make sure that it is clear who is acting as Principal Designer and if it is them that they are properly appointed. Architects are advised to check that they’re PI cover includes assuming this role. In the event that an architect only provides partial services or stops work part way through a project, it is essential to make sure that your appointment is correctly terminated. Architects should be particularly wary of accidentally assuming the role as HSE advice states that “If a domestic client does not appoint either a Principal Designer or Principal Contractor, then the designer in control of the design phase of the project is the principal designer.”

Many thanks to the The Association of Consultant Architects for permission to reproduce this article.

The Association of Consultant Architects (ACA) is the national professional body representing architects in private practice – consultant architects – in the UK.



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