Accredited ECoW

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:

  1. Advise on protecting valued biodiversity features on construction sites;
  2. Provide practical, site-specific and proportionate assistance on how their clients can achieve compliance with environmental legislation.
  3. 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;
  4. 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

Phase One has been generously sponsored by HS2 and SEPA. It has involved forming an Advisory Group of ecological consultants and contractors (Balfour Beatty, Kier, Arcadis, Morgan Sindall, Penny Anderson Associates, Protected Species Ecology Ltd, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Bear Environmental, Blackdown Environmental, Alaska Ecological Consulting) together with representatives from HS2, SEPA, SSE, AEECoW, Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA). Together the group has:

  • identified the competencies profile of two ECoW roles (one at an operative level and one at a supervisor/inspector level) base don 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

Phase Two will be underway shortly once funding is finalised. This phase of the project involves:

  • 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.

Would your company like to get involved as a co-sponsor of Phase Two of this project? To find out more contact us at enquiries@cieem.net

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