The Principal Designer under the CDM Regulations and the Building Safety Act

What’s the Difference?

Now that the new Building Safety Act 2022 is being implemented this will have an impact on the Principal Designer role with a different approach and some additional responsibilities. In some cases, there may even need to be two Principal Designers on a project.

How and why? Read on ……

What is the Building Safety Act?

The Building Safety Act 2022 (referred to as ‘The Act’) was introduced following the tragic failures in building safety that led to the Grenfell Tower Fire and subsequent deaths of seventy-two people. The proposals for The Act were recommended by Dame Judith Hackitt in her 2018 review of fire safety and building regulations as the fire showed that there were serious problems with the way buildings are designed and managed in the UK.

Building Safety Act 2022

The Act created a new role of the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) which will be the HSE, who will be responsible for overseeing the safety and performance systems of all buildings. They have powers to enforce the rules and act against those that break them. For high-risk properties, they will be able to implement more stringent rules, including how they are designed, constructed, and occupied.

The Building Safety Act 2022 focuses on:

  • The safety and standards of all buildings.
  • Assuring the safety of higher-risk buildings, both in construction and occupation.
  • Improving the competence of the people responsible for overseeing, managing, and delivering works to higher-risk buildings.
  • Ensuring clearer standards and guidance.
  • Putting residents at the heart of a new system of building safety.

The requirements set out in the Act will affect building owners/managers and the built environment industry. This includes those who commission building work and who participate in the design and construction process, including clients, designers, and contractors.

High Rise Building

It is often assumed that the Building Safety Act is only focussed on certain Higher Risk Buildings (HRB’s) over 18 metres high however, recent legislation introduced has seen an extension of regulations to cover lower-rise residential buildings:

The scope of the act has been expanded to include buildings below 18 meters in height. This change aims to ensure that a wider range of residential buildings are subject to rigorous safety standards.

For Higher-Risk Buildings (HRBs) the introduction of the Higher Risk Buildings Regulations brings additional requirements for buildings with specific characteristics that pose higher safety risks. These regulations outline stringent safety measures, enhanced fire safety provisions, and a comprehensive system for risk assessment and management.

These regulatory changes are due to come into effect on 1st October 2023 in England. Wales is expected in some time during 2024/2025 and the Act does not apply in Scotland.

Additional Duties to the Principal Designer Role

Within the Building Safety Act, the focus of the Principal Designer differs from the CDM Regulations 2015 as the focus is primarily on compliance with building regulations, rather than health and safety during construction. Effectively, there could now be two Principal Designers on a project:

  • One for CDM compliance.
  • One for Building Regulations compliance.

Key to both roles is competence and competence specific to a project requirements. The competencies for a CDM Principal Designer and the Building Safety Act Principal Designer are different.

The Principal Designer under the CDM Regulations and the Building Safety Act

Can one person/organisation do both roles?

It is possible that the same individual or organisation could carry out both roles, but it seems unlikely at this stage that there will be many people with the required skills, knowledge and experience levels to carry out both the traditional health and safety-focused CDM Principal Designer and the new Building Regulations roles in a competent manner. It is likely that some upskilling will be required.

As the Building Safety Act has been based around the principles of the CDM Regulations, it is similar in having duty holders with similar but additional duties.

All duty holders will have common duties including planning, managing and monitoring their work to ensure the building work complies with building regulations. As with CDM, duty holders will have specific regulations.

This includes designers not starting the design unless they are satisfied that the client is aware of its duties; and principal designers planning, managing and monitoring all the design during the design phase.

As well as construction site safety duties, Principal Designers under the Act are now expected to plan, manage and monitor design work to ensure compliance with building regulations – and maintain a ‘golden thread’ of data on design decisions for fire and structural safety. All dutyholders now need to work together to provide Gateway 2 information to the Building Safety Regulator (BSR).


The Principal Designer will also be responsible for the preparation of the Building Safety Information Pack and Fire Safety Plan for issue to the BSR through the client.

They will also be responsible for the issuing of a conformity statement to the Regulator, which will confirm that to the best of their knowledge, the building complies with the building regulations.

Duties will become clearer as more secondary legislation is introduced. However, the BSR has indicated that it expects the Principal Designer under the Building Safety Act to have a ‘lead’ role in the design.

As stated earlier, under the new legislation, the Principal Designer needs to confirm that to the best of their knowledge, the building complies with building regulations if built by ‘coordinating the work of all designers’. This may open up a situation where the Principal Designer may indirectly become responsible for the work of other designers on the project and introduces liability for design outside of its immediate control. Equally, designers have an obligation to consider the work of other designers and report any concerns in relation to building regulation compliance to the Principal Designer, which creates the risk that the Principal Designer role includes a ‘design audit’ responsibility.


So, the Principal Designer roles under the Building Safety Act not only has extra responsibilities but may also have additional risks which makes the competency requirements regarding skills, knowledge and experience essential to those taking on the role.

There will be further articles explaining various aspects of the Building Safety act and this article will be updated as legislation changes.