Why do I need a Principal Designer when I’ve got an Architect?

If a project has more than one contractor, then it’s a legal requirement to appoint a Principal Designer. 

So, what is a Principal Designer?

The Principal Designer is in charge of the Health and Safety aspects of the project.  Under the CDM (Construction Design and Management) Regulations 2015 the Principal Designer must establish the framework of health and safety practices to be used throughout the project and is key to ensuring that the build is compliant with national standards when complete.

Contractors must ensure the project follows the practices and meets the defined health and safety standards.  Often the Principal Designer is retained to liaise with the contractors through the build phase.

Isn’t health and safety an aspect of the Architect’s role?

Up to a point, yes.

However, health and safety management of a project with multiple contractors is clearly more complex than a project where there is a single contractor.  Risk management, procedure definition, monitoring and control are significantly more demanding. 

A Principal Designer must be someone with the right skills, knowledge and experience in health and safety management. 

Many architects have these attributes.  So, very often, in a multi-contractor project, your Architect may also be the Principal Designer, and will factor-in to the fee-bid their work on devising procedures and overseeing health and safety.

If the project has particular challenges or risks that make it necessary to appoint a specialist, just as there may be other specialists such as a quantity surveyor, structural engineer, arborist, etc.  Your architect will help you appoint one.