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The Principal Designer Function: reflecting on Pan-Industry 2

10/07/2017 - 10:13AM

Principal Designers (PD) play a fundamental role in improving the lives and life-chances of construction workers and others who can be affected by construction design decisions.

Earlier this year, APS brought together an unprecedented range of professional bodies and design practices to discuss the PD role and the skills, knowledge and experience (SKE) associated with effective delivery. 

Understandably, given the breadth of the construction industry, the event aired a wide range of views and perspectives.  Most importantly, these discussions reaffirmed areas of mutual interest and our shared common goal: safe and healthy outcomes for anyone who can affected by the construction sector’s work.

Reflecting on the event and subsequent discussions with APS members representing the full range of design disciplines, we draw the following broad conclusions.  The following principles can apply to all sectors within construction:

1 - CDM2015 has strength in its flexibility

‘Design’ is a broad church and project teams can focus on WHAT WORKS.  There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution and project teams should take a pragmatic, proportionate approach to any particular situation.

2 - The focus is on function (impact on health and safety by design)

The PD plans, manages, monitors and coordinates health and safety associated with design decisions, linking various construction disciplines and the client.  Designers naturally have strengths associated with particular disciplines, but the PD must have a broad range of SKE to provide a sensible challenge function. 

The PD must be able to coordinate a flow of useful information between multiple disciplines.  The capacity for this lies in both the SKE of the organisation acting as PD and the management arrangements agreed by the client.

3 - Skills, Knowledge and Experience

The appropriate level of SKE will depend entirely on the complexity of the project.  However, in all cases PDs require:

  • Practical understanding of the principles of prevention
  • Practical understanding of the range of technical challenges posed by the project at hand
  • The “soft skills” and information management skills to engage and liaise with all parties
  • The organisational capacity to handle the scale / complexity of the project at hand

APS Fact Sheets

Two of our forthcoming “Fact Sheets” will address the PD function and APS will continue to build on these principles in the way we shape guidance, training and CPD events and other services for the sector.  

Source: APS

Fact sheet 2: "What is the Principal Designer?"

View our first of 2 fact sheets on the topic of the role of the Principal Designer.