Environmental regulation and planning policy impose obligations on developers and contractors to protect and enhance biodiversity through their work on construction sites. Out of these obligations comes the need for a professional that can work on site with construction contractors to:
- Advise on protecting valued biodiversity features on construction sites.
- Provide practical, site-specific and proportionate assistance on how their clients can achieve compliance with environmental legislation.
- Avoid unexpected costs, delays to project timetables, or adverse publicity that may have future negative commercial implications; and ultimately risk of enforcement action and/or potential prosecution.
- Manage ecological operatives engaged in ecological mitigation activities – such as undertaking ecological watching briefs and translocation of protected species.
This role is often described as an Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW). A competent ECoW can effectively oversee the management of the risks on construction sites associated with managing biodiversity and can help to ensure a smooth and cost-efficient construction process. Conversely an incompetent ECoW can inadvertently cause costly delays, frustration and exposure to risk of prosecution.
Appropriately trained and qualified ECoWs are therefore an essential part of the development process. Foreseeable increases in infrastructure development in the UK and Ireland are going to create a significant skills need for sufficient capable and competent ECoWs in the near future. At the same time, there is a need to raise the profile of the role, its valuable contribution to the successful construction process and respect for the people who perform it.
To address these issues, we are developing an accreditation for Ecological Clerk of Works. Accreditation will be an assurance of quality for contractors, developers and competent authorities. It will also provide individuals with a competence-assessed qualification that they can take with them as they progress their career.
Progress so far
The development of the Accredited Ecological Clerk of Works has been split into two phases.
Phase One was generously sponsored by HS2 and SEPA and supported by an Advisory Group of ecological consultants and contractors. Together the group has:
- Identified the competencies profile of two ECoW roles (one at an operative level and one at a supervisor/inspector level) based on the CIEEM Competency Framework
- Agreed the outline of the qualification structure (modelled on an ecological version of National Occupational Standards)
- Agreed a draft outline for training manual
- Scoped the training and assessment requirements for the role.
During this period CECA commissioned consultants to undertake CITB-funded research amongst stakeholders (including CIEEM members) on Skills Shortages and Skills Gaps for Ecological Clerk of Works in the UK Construction Industry. This research provided a strong evidence base as to why accreditation would be welcomed.
Phase Two is now underway thanks to generous funding from the CITB Flexible Fund. David Plummer, Flexible Fund Manager at CITB, said:
This project will provide benefits to the wider construction industry, by raising the professional standards of ECoWs, ensuring their role has greater recognition and prominence on construction sites.
Consultants have been appointed to help develop key elements of the scheme. To date, Greenbridge Ltd, working in association with Mott MacDonald and consultation with the Project Advisory Group, has:
- Drafted the standards for the competencies identified in the accredited ECoW competency profiles. There are 16 standards ranging from Providing Advice and Guidance on Design and Implementation of Mitigation During Construction and Conforming to General Health and Safety and Welfare on Construction Sites through to Undertake Ecological Audit and Compliance Checks on Construction Sites. An example of an ecological standard, Preparing and Using EcIA as a Tool to Guide Mitigation on During Construction and Ecological Contracting, is available to download here.
- Used these standards as a basis for a qualifications framework for the roles and identified 13 course units that make up the qualification.
- Produced five training course outlines covering topics such as Introduction to Construction for ECoWs, Advanced Communication Skills, Health and Safety for ECoWs, Recording and Reporting and Risk Management for ECoWs.
Over the coming months work will continue on finalising the content of the training courses and finishing the accompanying ECoW Handbook. The accreditation methodologies and materials will be the next step before we recruit and train a pool of assessors.
We hope to run a pilot in the autumn months, in parallel with a comprehensive programme of engagement with the wider construction industry.
We are grateful for the support of the following organisations: