This role might still have more changes to come with the publication of the ‘Building a Safer Future’ (BSF) review. The BSF independent review cited the CDM2015 regulations as particularly relevant as they oversee all key aspects of construction site health and safety for workers and the general public1. The BSF review suggests that duty holders should have clearer responsibilities throughout the entire lifecycle of a building to avoid tasks without owners.
It would be in the best interests of the project to have the Designers also offer the role of Principal Designer because they are perfectly positioned to perform the role given their skills, knowledge, and experience.
However, a recent RIBA benchmarking report shows that only 60% of Chartered Practices are offering Principal Designer services2. Further research with Architects and Engineers has shown there is genuine reluctance to add legal duties to their current responsibilities as a project designer. The role of the Principal Designer is not seen as a design function and many Designers have confirmed their preference to outsource the role to a 3rd party.
So, why are 40% of Architectural practices not offering Principal Designer CDM services?
Supporting Principal Designers
It’s my opinion that there is a lack of understanding of the role of Principal Designer, coupled with the fact that there are no tools or standard methodologies to deliver the role leading Designers to shy away from being a Principal Designer. Training is obviously part of the solution but technology will also play a part.
What is needed is a technology built for the role of Principal Designer. This system should provide a template for any competent Designer to provide the role of Principal Designer on their projects through guided processes. An extremely useful feature would be to give project members the information they need and prompt them to provide information in the correct format. This tool would then act as a single location where documents can be stored, viewed, signed off, and recovered by anyone who needs them.
Alongside all the functionality this proposed system must be able to store information in a way that it can be downloaded and verified for refurbishment projects happening many years after construction has finished and all parties have moved on.
With a technology like this in place, Designers would feel supported to perform the legal duties of the Principal Designers and Clients would feel safe in the knowledge that their built asset would come with all the documentation stored securely and accessible in one place.