If the proposed changes to the Construction Design and Management (CDM) regs come into force as planned on April 6th, what is it going to mean in practice for self-builders? On the CITB website there are draft guidance documents describing each of the roles under CDM2015, but one that doesn’t seem to be there yet is the one for domestic Clients, which is referred to in the main Client guidance, aimed at commercial clients.
I understand that the domestic Client can pass on his or her duties to the Principal Designer, but I’m not sure at the moment who that typically would be. We’re just about to start a project, and have been speaking to a couple of architects who are pretty sure it isn’t them!
I can understand that once contractors start being appointed, the roles could be part of their contracts, but in the time before that, the Pre-Construction Phase, who will do the key Principal Designer role, which looks like will be mandatory.
So in summary – for self-builders, two main areas of questions:
1. Will Homebuilding and Renovation do a handy guide to it all please?
2. Specifically who would be the Principal Designer, when would they be appointed, where do I find one and how do I ensure I’m not being overcharged?!

  • Jim Warner


    the basic rules under the new regs are that all projects must have Pre-Construction Information developed and passed to the contractor(s) and that the contractor must develop a Construction Phase Plan before starting work and must keep it updated as work progresses. The CDM Regs are all about health and safety on site, so the PCI needs to focus on the hazards on site and the risks in the construction which haven’t been designed out and the CPP will include the method statements/ risk assessments by the contractor to ensure he can work safely.

    If there will be, or is likely to be, more than one contractor involved in the work the client must appoint a Principal Designer and a Principal Contractor. At the end of the work, the PD must produce the H&S File, which is a record of drawings, details etc – basically a user manual for the house so that people planning work in the future can do so safely.

    The CDM Regs were introduced in 1994, but have always excluded domestic clients. This was not entirely legal under EU law, so government has had to change them to avoid a fine from Brussels. However, mindful of public opinion just before an election, the new Regs have been watered down to say, in effect, the client for domestic work has duties, but those duties are all passed to others.

    Specifically Reg 7 says that the domestic client’s duties must be carried out by the contractor (where there is only one) or the PC (where there’s more than one contractor) or the PD if there is written agreement that the PD will do so. Appointing the PC and PD must be done by the client. However if the client fails to appoint the default is that the designer in charge of the pre-construction phase is the PD and the contractor in charge of construction is the PC. This has two major impacts for self builders that I can see. Firstly the statement the client duties MUST be carried out by others. I’m intending to project manage my build myself. As I will be hiring the subbies that makes me the PC as well as the client. As a Chartered Civil Engineer and Chartered Construction Surveyor with over 20 years in the business, I consider I’m quite capable of writing PCIs, CPPs etc. However, the word MUST suggests that I can’t be client and PC – I MUST hire a contractor and, in doing so, put up the cost of my build by 20% or so. Does the government mean to prevent self builders doing their own project management, because that’s how I read this clause?

    Secondly, the default that the designer in charge will be the PD. In your situation, assuming that you have an architect who then deals with the structural engineers, the building control team etc, that architect is in charge and therefore will be the PD, unless you (the client) appoint someone else. You cannot pass on the duty to appoint and you must ensure that the person appointed has the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job. The designer have a duty to accept an appointment only if they have the skills etc required. Therefore the only way your architect can get out of being the PD is to refuse to do the job because he considers himself insufficiently skilled etc.

    One possible solution – under the 2007 CDM Regs a lot of the work of the PD was done by a person called the CDM Co-ordinator, a role now abolished. It strikes me that a lot of CDM-Cs will now be rather underemployed and it may be possible to use them to fulfill the PD duties. However, they would need to be employed by your architect. CDM-Cs on the major engineering projects that I run professionally generally charged about £1 to £1.5k, even on big schemes, so you shouldn’t be charged much more than that. They need to be appointed at the same time as your architect, so they can input their knowledge on how to safely build and maintain into the design as early as possible. There are plenty of safety consultants around that your architect could use.

    As far as project management goes, I shall continue to do it myself, making sure I comply with the Regs in every other way and see if any HSE inspector has the spine to challenge me.

  • Lynden Potter

    Thanks Jim – useful thoughts. I read on the CITB website CDM 2015 summary page that the Client’s duties would "normally" be transferred, which does appear to be slightly different to the wording in the draft regulations… From talking to the architects it does seem that they’re thinking similarily to you with regards to employing someone to specifically do the work required of the PD, and since the PD can be an organisation rather than just an individual, that is fine. I’ll also be talking to a CDM-C in the next could of weeks so it will be interesting to hear their opinion too.
    I guess naming a Princpal Designer rather than a CDM-C goes some way to reinforce that CDM regs aren’t just about H&S on site – they’re also about ensuring that you’re planning a building that is safe to operate and maintain too.

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