Who better than us? – Why Architects should embrace the evolving Principal Designer role.


As the director of LTS Architects, Greg Shannon sees the evolving role of the Principal Designer as a crucial opportunity for architects to increase their relevance in the construction industry and avoid further marginalisation.

With the implementation of the new Building Safety Act 2022 and the requirement for two principal duty holders on all projects requiring a new Building Regulations application, the role of the Principal Designer has taken on a new level of importance and responsibility.

The key differences between the previous CDM regulations and the current Building Regulations emphasize the need for the Principal Designer to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to ensure that the design work on a project is coordinated to demonstrate compliance with the Building Regulations. This increased level of accountability aligns with Dame Judith Hackitt’s call for a more robust ownership of accountability in the industry.

While the new Principal Designer role presents opportunities for architects to step up and assert control over the design phase, there are also risks involved, particularly in terms of embedding this role into current PI cover. Architects must ensure they fully understand their duties and wider obligations before taking on the role of Principal Designer.

One of the major challenges architects will surely encounter will be agreeing this with their professional indemnity insurers. However, the government has recognized this challenge and is seeking to introduce alternative procurement models, such as integrated projects insurance, to encourage collaborative behaviour across project teams. It will be interesting to see how and when this is adopted.

RIBA is confident that architects can meet the competencies of PAS 8671, as well as it’s Principal Designer Register it also offers training courses to ensure architects understand the role and are crucially are adequately educated to perform it. Registrants will have demonstrated knowledge, skills, experience, and behaviours to support the duty holder role under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and the new principal designer role under the amended Building Regulations.

Overall, the evolving Principal Designer role presents architects with the opportunity to increase their relevance and control over the design process. By understanding the duties and obligations involved, architects can position themselves as leaders in the industry and take on these new responsibilities with confidence.

But the question remains: if architects are hesitant to take on these increased responsibilities, who will step up to lead the design process and ensure compliance with the Building Regulations? It is up to us, as architects, to embrace this opportunity for growth and re-assert our competence as leaders in the industry and resist the further dilution of our profession. What do you think?

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