In our experience, building projects would benefit from investment in a  Clerk of Works role during construction works ! Not any acting up role from another professional but a proper independent role, with powers.

The role, to this day, is based on the impartiality of the clerk of works in ensuring that value for money for the client – rather than the contractor – is achieved through rigorous and detailed inspection of materials and workmanship throughout the building process. In many cases, the traditional title has been discarded to comply with modern trends, such as site inspector, architectural inspector and quality inspector, but the requirement for the role remains unchanged since the origins of the title.

The clerk of works is a very isolated profession on site. He/she is the person that must ensure quality of both materials and workmanship and, to this end, must be absolutely impartial and independent in decisions and judgments. He/she cannot normally, by virtue of the quality role, be employed by the contractor – only the client, normally by the architect on behalf of the client. His/her role is not to judge, but simply to report all occurrences that are relevant to the role.

Clerks of Works are either on site all the time or make regular visits. They must be vigilant in their inspections of a large range of technical aspects of the work. This involves:

  • making sure that work is carried out to the client’s standards, specification, correct materials, workmanship and schedule
  • becoming familiar with all the relevant drawings and written instructions, checking them and using them as a reference when inspecting work
  • making visual inspections
  • taking measurements and samples on site to make sure that the work and the materials meet the specifications and quality standards
  • being familiar with legal requirements and checking that the work complies with them.
  • having a working knowledge of health and safety legislation and bringing any shortfalls observed to the attention of the resident engineer.
  • advising the contractor about certain aspects of the work, particularly when something has gone wrong, but this advice should not be interpreted as an instruction

In conjunction with the QS, we can withhold retention monies etc, but the true benefit of COW was recognised many years ago, for reasons which have not changed.

With fee competition, questionable procurement practices and no single point responsibility, the original role of the COW is evidently required !