Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 - Time to appoint a Principal Designer

4 minute read
28 September 2015

The last day of the six-month transition period under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 is 5 October 2015. In our latest alert, we highlight the issues you need to consider to ensure you are compliant with the new provisions.


The role of CDM co-ordinator (CDMC) under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) is about to disappear. Going forward, in general terms, the duties and responsibilities of the CDMC will be carried out by the Principal Designer (PD). The PD has an important role in influencing how risks to health and safety are managed throughout a project.  CDM Clients should consider whether they need to appoint a PD in advance of 6 October 2015.

What should CDM Clients be doing?

The last day of the six-month transition period under CDM is 5 October 2015. CDM Clients who have continued to employ a CDMC to work on a project should appoint a PD no later than 6 October 2015 if the following criteria apply:

  • The project involves more than one contractor (or is likely to involve more than one contractor);
  • The project will end after 6 October; and
  • A PD has not already formally been appointed.   

A construction project covered by CDM can include anything from a new build, a demolition to maintenance and repair work.

If the PD is not appointed, the duties and responsibilities of the PD under CDM will revert to the CDM Client.

Failure to comply with CDM is a criminal offence. New guidelines expected to be effective from November 2015 will mean those breaches will be punished more severely than in the past, particularly if the convicted business has a turnover in excess of £50m.

Who can be appointed as PD?

Once in place, the PD should be in control of the pre-construction phase and of the design team in terms of the relative obligations under CDM.

An architect, structural engineer or a quantity surveyor who has sat within the CDM Client's design team from the pre-construction phase is likely to be able to fill the PD role. Equally, a project manager who prepares bills of quantities may satisfy the requirements.

A design and build contractor may be appropriate as PD, if they are involved in the project from an early stage, or if they take over the role of PD at the point of contract and novation of the design team (note that the PD does not have to be the same person/entity throughout the project). By contrast, a contractor who has not been involved in the pre-construction phase is less likely to fulfil the requirements.

Can the CDMC carry out the role? 

There is no black and white answer to this question. The key point is that a CDM Client has the specific responsibility where relevant to appoint a PD and must be satisfied that this PD will be a designer:

  • with control over the pre-construction phase; and
  • the skills, knowledge and experience (and if they are an organisation, the organisational capability) necessary to fulfil the role that they are appointed to undertake in a manner that secures the health and safety of any person affected by the project.

Any entity or person being considered for the role of PD (CDMC or otherwise) by the CDM Client must fulfil these requirements.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.