07 June 2024

Fundamentally, it starts with the client. The client must appoint a competent principal designer (under Building Regulations) who will then plan, manage and monitor the design work so that, when built, it will comply with all relevant Building Regulations requirements. The method of demonstrating compliance with Building Regulations is through submitting a set of ‘full plans’ with contributions from all designers. These ‘full plans’ will typically include drawings, schedules and specifications. 

With respect to specification, the principal designer role is key. This is a role that the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) believes can be undertaken by the lead designer as defined by the RIBA Plan of Work. The services performed under this role are an extension of those defined within the RIBA Professional Services Contract. So, for architects, if they are already offering their client full design and construction services, then it is not a radical change from business as usual.

However, where ‘partial services’ only are required from the party initially fulfilling the role of the principal designer, then at the point that this party is no longer needed. A document must then be provided to the client setting out how principal designer duties have been fulfilled during the period of appointment. This will allow the replacement party to continue to fulfil the necessary duties.

Through the construction stage, the responsibility for site inspections of the construction is work lies with the principal contractor. The designer should be available to support any queries that may arise regarding their design work.

For higher-risk buildings, there are further duties around documentation and record-keeping, including requirements around documenting changes throughout construction. These must be assessed by the client, principal designer and principal contractor; if they are assessed as ‘notifiable’ or ‘major’, then they must be submitted to the Building Safety Regulator by the client. It is expected that, where the plans change, any revisions to the associated drawings and/ or specifications must be clearly communicated.

Due to this extra emphasis on robust documentation and record-keeping, at NBS, we have been enhancing our platforms to assist our customers with their duties.

Specifying construction manufacturer products

At NBS, we assisted the Construction Product Association in the development of the Code for Construction Product Information (CCPI). This code is recommended to government and industry for uptake in the Morrell-Day Independent Review of the Construction Product Testing Regime

When developing NBS Source, we have tried to include relevant aspects of this code in the information we ask manufacturers to provide specifiers:

  • A declaration of information accuracy and currency from the manufacturer to reduce the risk of uncertainty when specifying – with a red/ amber/ green indication system for information currency.
  • Third-party certification, where available, to support and verify technical performance claims.
  • Clear communication methods between specifier and manufacturer for any technical support queries.
  • Guidance on intended application to assist specifiers with their understanding of a particular product’s intended use.
  • Technical characteristics for each product in plain English, using the terminology defined in the relevant standard(s) – and a standard generic format that all products of the same classification are aligned to.
  • Installation and maintenance guides to help the contractor’s team or building owner later in the project timeline.
  • A short URL linking back to the product that can be utilized as a reference in specifications and other project documentation/ data models.

This will allow:

Confidence in specification – when either selecting a manufacturer product or understanding what performance is achievable from products in the market.

The ability to more easily assess any proposed substitutions as part of the change management process.

An easy route to access technical support so that the right specification decisions are made.

Access NBS Source at: source.theNBS.com

Example specification being developed in NBS with associated information regarding solutions that are on the market.

The specification process

Within the RIBA Plan of Work and accompanying overview guide, the industry standard process for specification development is defined. From the concept design stage, outline specifications should be developed by all design disciplines within a collaborative project team, and these should reflect the responsibilities in a shared design responsibility matrix. As the project progresses and the procurement strategy is decided, then agreement must be reached on which aspects of design will be prescriptive and which will be left as descriptive for specialist subcontractor design.

This process is supported in NBS Chorus for all design disciplines. Specification templates at the level of a building element or function (e.g. wall, structure, ventilation…) are available for outline specifications where functional requirements can be recorded and elemental performance may be fixed. This is the starting point of the ‘golden thread’ for specification development. As the project continues, the specifier can then specify each system (e.g. cladding, steel frame, smoke control…) either descriptively using the NBS performance content or prescriptively using the NBS product clauses. The principal designer must monitor, plan and manage this process. As new designers join the project, including specialist subcontractors, then a full set of prescriptive solutions should be assembled. When demonstrating compliance with the Building Regulations prior to construction beginning, a complete set of specifications will form part of the full plans submitted to building control or the gateway two submission to the Building Safety Regulator for higher-risk buildings. 

NBS Chorus includes revision functionality so that, as the construction progresses, a change control process can be followed that clearly highlights any agreed changes to the design that may arise. Published specifications from NBS can be fully coordinated with drawings through plug-in software for 3D modelling software. In addition, naming conventions for the published specification should follow the BS EN ISO 19650-2 Standard.

The principal designer is not responsible for each specification that is developed. However, they must monitor, plan and manage an agreed process that each designer agrees to follow to design and document their design decisions. At NBS, we have developed NBS Chorus to include the content and the software functionality to deliver against the best practice guidelines defined in the RIBA Plan of Work and to support our customers working within the new building safety regime.

Find out more about NBS Chorus at: theNBS.com/nbs-chorus 


The new building safety regime applies to all projects in England subject to Building Regulations. Design professionals must demonstrate their competency and they must properly document key decisions. This includes having a robust change control process in place to record and explain any changes.

The enactment of the Building Safety Act is probably the biggest positive change that the construction industry has seen in terms of raising the quality of building design, construction and maintenance. This is a chance for all involved in the construction industry to examine their processes and rise to the challenge.

* Please see the website with FAQs below to find out which aspects of the Building Safety Act apply to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

 Download the Building Safety Act White Paper

Our latest white paper, driven by a comprehensive survey of hundreds of construction professionals, highlights a concerning lack of consensus and clarity among industry leaders. What’s included:

  • The views of almost 500 construction professionals about the Building Safety Act.
  • Understanding what is meant by the Golden Thread of Information.
  • Expert commentary from a legal standpoint from Fenwick and Elliott and 39 Essex Chambers.
  • An overview of the Building Safety Act from Richard Waterhouse of the British Board of Agrement (BBA).
  • Advice on how NBS can help construction professionals comply with the Building Safety Act.

 Download the White Paper


Further reading:

RIBA Plan of Work and overview guide:

Building Safety Act FAQs in general from RICS:

Building Safety Act FAQS for architects from RIBA:

Set of articles summarizing the new building safety regime from NBS: