A new era of construction regulations has arrived in England with the recent introduction of the Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA). The Act aims to improve building safety and prevent disasters like the Grenfell Tower fire through stricter oversight and assigned responsibilities.
For design firms, a critical change is the creation of a mandatory Principal Designer role for applicable projects. This replaces the optional Principal Designer role previously available under the separate Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations.
The New Principal Designer Role and Duties
Starting October 1, 2023, all projects involving more than one contractor must have an appointed Principal Designer to coordinate design work. This individual or firm will be responsible for ensuring designs comply with Building Regulations if constructed as planned.
The focus is on safety issues like fire and structural integrity rather than the health and safety emphasis of the CDM Regulations. Duties also include submitting the right applications and certificates to building control bodies.
Consequences of Non-Compliance
Failing to meet these obligations can lead to costly project delays, rejected permits, or inability to obtain completion certificates. Additionally, individual duty holders now face potential unlimited fines or even criminal prosecution for violations.
Professional Indemnity Insurance is expected to cover the Principal Designer role without added exclusions. Even so, design firms looking to take on this responsibility should verify:
- Their full understanding of the BSA and its impacts
- That current processes and procedures are adequate
- Any internal competency gaps are addressed
- Sufficient time and resources are allocated
- The role and obligations are clearly conveyed to clients
It’s also wise to review policy terms and conditions regarding criminal proceedings defense just in case.
Industry contracts are still being updated to incorporate the role. As this happens, design firms need awareness and preparation around the Act’s new obligations to avoid heightened risks.