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Building Safety Act: where can architects find new client care letter templates to use under the new regime?

Learn more about the purpose and value of client care letters for architects offering advice to clients in respect of their duties under the new Building Regulations.

12 October 2023

Writing client care letters is an important part of pre-design and project initiation processes and a way to address any significant issues or regulatory changes. They help to ensure transparency and clarity when it comes to the roles and responsibilities of both architects and clients.

However, with the new regime of Building Regulations in England now fully underway, client care letters should be issued in order to address new duties. As a designer, you have a duty to ensure that your client is aware of their duties under CDM and Building Regulations and should not commence design work until they confirm their understanding. This is the first duty all architects should address.

How do architects now inform their clients about the impact of the new duties and approval procedures under the Building Regulations?

Today, RIBA has added two new templates for client duties for both domestic and commercial clients, both exclusive to RIBA Members. These templates are to be used to advise your client of their statutory duties under the CDM Regulations and Building Regulations and should be adapted to suit the specifics of the project.

Writing client care letters is an important part of pre-design and project initiation processes. (Photo: RIBA)

Where does the Principal Designer role fit into this?

Under the CDM Regulations and the new Building Regulations, clients have a statutory duty to appoint a Principal Designer.

The Principal Designer duties are to plan, manage and monitor design work for any project involving CDM Regulations (applicable to Great Britain, but excluding Northern Ireland) and Building Regulations (applicable in England). The Building Regulations’ dutyholder role came into effect on 1 October 2023, other than for construction projects subject to the transitional arrangements that are in place until 6 April 2024.

These new duties place emphasis on competence of the Principal Designer to possess the appropriate skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours. This is why this new dutyholder role of the Principal Designer was created – to ensure a single competent party is appointed by clients to take responsibility for seeing that designers address deficiencies in regulatory compliance, poor coordination of design work and building work not in line with design work.

Architects working for domestic clients will take on the Principal Designer role automatically in the majority of projects so it is important to clarify with your client that this is new work to be undertaken on projects that you were appointed as architect for before the new duties came into force (1 October 2023).

Additional Building Regulations information

The new duties for designers and the Principal Designer are of great importance and architects are well suited to carry them out. These professional features from the RIBA Practice team should help build a little more confidence in your part of the new regulatory regime in England:

The templates provide initial guidance for clients regarding their statutory duties under the Regulations. (Photo: Pexels)

Client care letter FAQs

Dieter Bentley-Gockmann, Director at EPR Architects, and a member of RIBA’s Fire Safety Group and Principal Designer competency steering group, answers some key questions about the new client care templates.

What are the big changes in the new templates?
“These are new templates so there are no big changes as such. However, they provide initial guidance for clients regarding their statutory duties under the regulations, which both designers and clients need to understand and comply with on all their projects.”

How do you address an additional fee for an additional service?
“In the same way you would any other additional service: do not carry out the additional services until you have reviewed the time and resources (including your organisational capability and competence) required to provide the service and discussed and agreed the same with the client, including the appropriate fee and any adjustment to your design programme.”

Read more about RIBA’s fee calculator, available to chartered practices.

What is the difference between being a domestic client and a commercial client? And how does it change your approach?
“Domestic clients are unlikely to have previous construction experience and shall require additional advice and support from the design and construction team to discharge their duties.

The regulations make provision for this by automatically passing the majority of client duties to the contractor (or principal contractor if there is more than one contractor), or if appropriate and by written agreement, to the Principal Designer (or sole or lead designer) and the care letter can be used to record whether you will offer to fulfil the client’s duties as part of your Principal Designer appointment.

By contrast, a commercial client is expected to have appropriate development experience and is unable to delegate their duties under the regulations, including their duty to ensure sufficient time and resources are allocated to the project to enable all the other dutyholders, including designers and principal designers, to discharge their duties."

Can the commercial template be used for projects featuring High-Risk Buildings (HRBs)?
Yes, the letter includes provision for the additional client duties that are applicable for projects involving work on HRBs. But, it is even more important for designers working on HRBs to ensure that they follow up the issue of the letter with a conversation with the client regarding the practical implications of the new building control approval regulatory regime on their projects.

This includes considering the resource and programme implications of the gateway approval process, the prescribed change control procedures and mandatory occurrence reporting.”

Is there a scenario where a client care letter appended to an initial contract isn’t appropriate?
“Yes, always. The client care letter is not a contractual document - it is advisory and should be used as the first step to engaging with and explaining to clients their duties under the regulations.

For the vast majority of projects, it will be necessary to follow up with a conversation with the client after sending the letter to ensure they have understood the implications of their duties and agreeing with the client the practical, project-specific implications of these.

This ought to include a conversation regarding the programme and resource implications and the procedural measures that are required to ensure the client duties are discharged effectively.”

Learn more and download the new client care letter templates (exclusive to RIBA Members).

Thanks to Dieter Bentley-Gockmann, Director, EPR Architects.

Text by the RIBA Practice team. Send us your feedback and ideas.

RIBA Core Curriculum topic: Legal, regulatory and statutory compliance.

As part of the flexible RIBA CPD programme, professional features count as microlearning. See further information on the updated RIBA CPD core curriculum and on fulfilling your CPD requirements as a RIBA Chartered Member.

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