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10th May, 2017

Can The Principal Contractor Be The Principal Designer?

A question we are often asked regarding CDM and the new CDM 2015 regulations is, can the principal contractor be the principal designer?

The principal designer should be the designer in overall control of the pre-construction phase of the project.

This is usually the lead architect, or sometimes the sole architect on the project.

But of course, some projects (especially smaller projects) might not even have an architect involved.

Not all construction project teams are the same, and with CDM 2015 applying to wide range of projects including maintenance, demolition, earthworks, and refurbishment, there are often cases where it is not clear who the principal designer should be.

What about design and build contracts, where the design and the construction work is handed over to one company?

The short answer is yes, the principal contractor can be the principal designer.

Organisations or individuals can carry out the role of more than one dutyholder, provided they have the skills, knowledge, experience and (if an organisation) the organisational capability to carry out those roles in a way that secures health and safety.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015

As long as the principal contractor has the skills, knowledge, experience and capability to carry out the role of the principal designer.

So it is possible for the principal contractor to be the principal designer.

Whether or not they should be will depend on the particular project.

In a design and build project, or maintenance work where the contractor is responsible for the design of the system or project, this can be a suitable choice.

In a traditional tendering process, where much of the design work is carried out before a contractor is selected, it would not be practical.

When the design work is being carried, the principal designer needs to be in charge of health and safety and ensuring CDM is complied with at this stage.

The principal designer has a wide range of duties to carry out at the pre-construction phase, so during the planning and design stages of the project, if a principal contractor has not yet been appointed, one of the design team will need to appointed as the principal designer.

It is important to remember that CDM applies during all stages of the project, and if the client does not appoint a principal designer, they themselves are automatically responsible for the principal designer duties.

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