What is an ECoW?

How contractors and developers can identify the right professional for their environmental needs.

Environmental awareness in the construction sector has changed out of all recognition in recent years and best practice dictates that impact on the environment must be high on the agenda for projects large and small.

This is backed by an increasingly complex array of legislation and regulation designed to foster a climate which sees compliance as the sensible thing to do rather than as an imposition or a hindrance.

Professionals who advise the construction sector on environmental documentation and its implementation on the ground are an increasingly necessary part of the planning and building process.


Which professional is best…?

But there remains an understandable degree of confusion among site managers about which professional is most relevant to the unique characteristics of their particular development.

To help address this issue, I would like to try to outline the differences between the three most common environmental roles: Environmental Managers/Advisors; Environmental Clerks of Works; and Ecological Clerks of Works.


The Environmental Manager/Advisor

The Environmental Manager/Advisor is generally hired directly by the principal contractor and/or developer to advise the project on environmental matters. Most major enterprises will have this post as an in-house role.

The Manager/advisor will advise the project team on good practice, apply for permits, advise on design and do all the necessary work from within the company. They are required to have an extremely strong understanding of all environmental matters as well as how construction projects and contracts work.


The Environmental Clerk of Works

The Environmental Clerk of Works (EcoW) can undertake two roles – advisory and auditing, both with the goal of monitoring compliance with documentation and legislation. The role is dictated by either the planning conditions and/or the contract between the interested parties.

In the advisory role, the Environmental Clerk of Works provides direct advice to the contractor, developer and or statutory authority on whether the project is achieving compliance and, if not, how to. Often, this information will be gathered by regular inspections with reports to document the information.

In an auditing capacity, the Environmental Clerk of Works, often independently, will undertake a formal regime of audits and inspections with out offering any advice on how to mitigate any potential constraints. The aim of such audits is often to provide a level of due diligence to the client/statutory authorities that the project is being managed effectively.

The big difference between Environmental Managers and Environmental Clerk of Works is that the Clerk of Works will monitor and report to a particular person or body but they are not responsible for ensuring compliance.

They need to have a comprehensive knowledge of a huge variety of subjects, including pollution, waste, ecology, archaeology, contaminated land, materials management and the impact that materials might have on the environment. They also need to be very aware of the legislation relevant to all of the above.


The Ecological Clerks of Works

The Ecological Clerks of Works is essentially, a project ecologist who will undertake and monitor any licensable works. For instance, if Great Crested Newts are discovered on a site, the project will need an ecologist licensed and experienced in mitigating Great Crested Newts.

Similarly, if there are Schedule 1 birds on the site, the project will need to bring in an ornithologist with the relevant qualifications to survey for and offer advice on the constraint.

There are a number of ecological constraints so finding the right ecologist is paramount.

The Ecological Clerk of Works will have an understanding of particular circumstances and the experience to provide specialist advice on constraints. They can undertake activities which would be an offence if anyone else undertook them.

As with many aspects of modern construction, contractors will have to seek professional advice to ensure compliance with planning conditions and the licensing and permit systems.

The Association of Environmental and Ecological Clerks of Works (AEECoW), is a good starting point for developers and contractors needing guidance on who might best suit their compliance needs.

The organisation, which is a qualifying body aimed at raising professional standards, was formed by like-minded environmental consultants who became concerned that advice was being offered by inexperienced or ill-equipped ecologists or environmental managers.

It has a strong vision of improving the industry and working practices in the field of environmental auditing and can be depended on to guide construction professionals to the right type of person for their requirements.


-This article was written by Naturally Compliant Managing Director, Simon Knott.