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New regulations should push cut-price plan-drawers out of the market

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The new CDM Regulations coming into force in six weeks’ time will affect projects of all sizes and scope, warns Geoff Wilkinson

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 are set to come into force on 6 April 2015, replacing the current 2007 version.

For smaller architectural practices in particular, the new regulations will make a significant change. But, no matter what kind of project you are working on, no matter its size or duration – these changes are likely to affect you.

So whats new in CDM 2015?

Firstly, the role of the CDM co-ordinator (CDM-C) will be replaced by a ‘principal designer’.  This means that the responsibility for co-ordination of the preconstruction phase will no longer be a separate appointment.

Secondly, domestic clients (ie people who have construction work carried out on their own home) are also now captured by the scope of CDM 2015. However, the impact on domestic clients will be eased by deeming that the contractor or designer (ie architect) – will take on the domestic client responsibilities.  Where it is foreseeable that more than one contractor will be working on a project, the domestic client will be required to appoint a principal designer (CDM-PD) and a principal contractor (CDM-PC). As domestic clients are unlikely to make separate appointments, these new duties will most likely default to the architect and main contractor.

The third major change is that the legal responsibility of designers to avoid foreseeable risk is changing. In the 2007 version, the wording is qualified as ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’. But under the new regulation the qualification is removed and a requirement is introduced for designers to have ‘skills, knowledge and experience’. In order to determine whether an organisation has these qualities, the regulations state that due weight should be given to membership of an established professional institution.

On the plus side, technical standards will remain essentially unchanged, and not all projects will need to be notified to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Notification will only be required for projects lasting more than 30 days and/or involving more than 20 workers simultaneously.

What will be the effect on architects?

Firstly, as there is no longer a requirement to appoint a separate CDM co-ordinator, clients will expect the architect to perform the role, and I doubt clients will be prepared to pay for it. Indeed the HSE justified the new rules by quoting £30 million-worth of annual savings to the industry by not appointing CDM co-ordinators!

As these duties can be very administrative, architects unfamiliar with the role should be apprehensive about what is involved without charging additional fees. Remember it is likely that you will have to prepare written construction plans on all construction projects, even the domestic ones.

And, if there is more than one contractor involved, then you will need an assessment of their competency. The construction plan will need to take into account the contractor’s competency, and it is unlikely the HSE will be happy with elements being left for contractor design without at least an outline risk assessment.

Just how this will work in reality is yet to be seen. However, the recent prosecution of an architect for failing to consider construction phase fire safety (see last month’s Regs) could be an early indication of the HSE’s expectations.

In the short term, it is likely to be confusing and put more pressure on architects’ fees and workloads, though a few early HSE prosecutions might just force the uninsured, unqualified, cut-price plan-drawers out of the market.

Geoff Wilkinson is managing director of approved inspectors Wilkinson Construction Consultants

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • Architects should be armed with the right arguments to ensure they can claim more fees for this legally required service.

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  • Architects should be armed with the right arguments to ensure they can claim more fees for this legally required service.

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  • Why is there no guidance on the implications of CDM2015 from the RIBA? At the very least, we should have a suggested standard letter which can be provided to Clients to advise them of their role under the new regulations. Significant issues which need to be immediately addressed are;
    - The PI Insurance implications of acting as Principal Designer under the Regulations, e.g. the obligations of which are absolute and not subject to reasonable skill and care, and written is such a way as to assume responsibility for the omissions of others.
    - Updating the Standard Terms and Conditions of Appointment in their various forms
    In four weeks time, the new legislation comes into force, and the Profession is not ready!

    Mark Hide

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