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 CIEEM is 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 structured (modelled on an ecological version of National Occupational Standards);
- agreed a draft outline for training manual, and
- 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 the following key elements of the scheme:
- writing the standards for the competencies identified in the accredited ECoW competency profiles;
- developing the training course and assessment methodologies;
- writing the accompanying training manual;
- developing an online learning management system for record keeping and assessment, and
- engaging more widely with the construction industry.
On the development of Phase 2 of the project, Julia Baker, Balfour Beatty’s Highways business Biodiversity Specialist said:
The work carried out to date on the Ecological Clerk of Work (ECoW) accreditation addresses a vital gap in acknowledging the skills needed to embed ecology into the construction industry. By providing a comprehensive accreditation and training schemes, the collaboration between Balfour Beatty, CIEEM and CITB will help to develop the significant contribution ECoW can bring to the industry.
It is anticipated that the scheme will be launched in 2021 following a pilot in late 2020.
We are grateful for the support of the following organisations: