What is a Clerk of works?

Brief History of Role

It is believed that the term “Clerk of Works” originated around the thirteenth century. The purpose of the clerk was to help plan and supervise work associated with the development of churches and other religious property. Over the course of time, the role developed into drawing on experienced tradesmen who had a wide knowledge and understanding of the building process. These tradesmen would be able to oversee the quality and safety of work on the construction site and ensure that building plans and specifications are followed correctly. The Institute of Clerk of Works and Construction Inspectorate is a present day institute in Great Britain where construction inspectors and Clerk of Works individuals are able to get a professional designation and membership. It has been stated that the role of the Clerk of Works is one of the most important positions in the construction industry in the prevention of poorly constructed buildings.

Role Description

Essentially the Clerk of Works (also known as a Site Inspector or Construction Inspector/Building Quality Inspector) inspects and monitors the workmanship, quality and safety of work being completed by contractors on a construction site. The main responsibility of the role is to ensure work being carried out coincides with schedules and the client’s expectations/standards. This allows the client to see value of money for quality of work. The Clerk of Works is on site at all times and helps track progress of the project through detailed routine reports that include pictures and descriptions. It is important for the Clerk of Works to have a wide knowledge base of the construction industry and technical aspects to help clearly illustrate in the reports that specifications and quality standards are met. Some technical knowledge/qualifications include:

v Ability to read relevant drawings/blueprints and interpret details of the building plan

v Experience/Education in the construction, architectural design and engineering fields

v Understand building material specifications and quality standards

v Fully certified health and safety legislation knowledge

v Working knowledge of building components and systems

v Knowledge of applicable provincial and federal building codes

v Basic knowledge of legal/contractual requirements and ensuring the work complies with those requirements

v Ability to maintain records and compile detailed written reports

v Excellent written and oral communications skills with ability to establish and maintain professional working relationships

The complexity of designs and construction specifications are steadily increasing and many new building products need to be safely stored, used and installed. Time constraints create extra pressure for contractors, and it is vital that all work being completed on site is properly monitored and thoroughly inspected for defects. The role of the Clerk of Works helps ensure compliance and completion to a standard of excellence.

Not only does the Clerk of Works inspect workmanship, quality and report progress but they help develop a culture of good relationships with the contractors and their teams. This helps ensure that any issues raised by the contractor are dealt with objectively and fairly and any disputes or disagreements are resolved amicably without delay allowing the project to proceed on schedule and to plan. To help give an independent view to the contract administrator, the Clerk of Works attends construction progress meetings to validate work is properly carried out, schedule deadlines are met and any outstanding issues that have not been resolved.

Generally the hours and working environment of the Clerk of Works is between 35-40 hours a week, Monday to Friday and spend the majority of their time outdoors or in construction buildings conducting inspections. The Clerk of Work usually works out of an on-site office/trailer but can be located in an off-site office/trailer as well if they are responsible for more than one site and need to travel between sites to carry out inspections and meet contractors.

Role Responsibilities & Duties

The following includes (but not limited to) a list of a Clerk of Works duties and responsibilities:

  • Conduct vigilant on-site inspections, observations and comprehensive checks of work in progress as a basis of determining conformance of work, material and equipment with the contract documents
  • Serve as a liaison between the Contractor, Client, and either the Architect or Project Management firm to maintain a professional relationship with the Contractor and all sub-contractors
  • Maintain orderly files for correspondence. Such as, Clerk of Works Reports (made daily), change orders, meeting minutes, requests for information, requests for quote, request for payment, additional drawings issued, and all other applicable information.
  • Reports should include detailed information on:
  • Progress of work and any delays (Site Work, Structural, Building Envelope, Interior, Observations and Comments, Attachments)
  • Number and type of workers on site (Manpower)
  • Weather conditions
  • Photos with small descriptions to help illustrate and visualize progress made
  • Additional drawings
  • Details of any significant deficiencies in health or safety performance observed on site
  • Note of any visitors on site
  • Review plans/blueprints, written instructions or contractor shop drawings and ensure work is completed correctly, safely and to specification
  • Attend all construction progress meetings and keep notes of meeting
  • Ensure that tests required by the contract documents or Government regulations are appropriately performed and observed
  • Take measurements and samples to make sure work and materials meet quality standards
  • Review schedules daily to ensure completion dates are met and be able to identify conditions that may delay the project in any way
  • Maintain required payroll information and records
  • Keep list of any items for correction, and ensure these are corrected before final turn over of project to the client
  • Comply with directives and inquiries on a routine basis of the site Superintendent and Client for the recording of the construction progress
  • Communicate on a professional level with everyone on the construction site such as, Workers/Tradesmen, the Client, Architects, Project Managers, site Superintendent and General Contractor(s)

Benefits of having a Clerk of Works

As a client having the ability to be all eyes, all ears and all knowledge of your project is not easy and nearly impossible however, very essential to its overall success. It is believed the role of the Clerk of Works is one of the most important positions in the construction industry. This statement holds a lot of merit with regards to the large market of poor builders and contractors. The industry is notorious for miscommunicated information and expectations not being met which cause disputes between the contractor and client. These situations create bad relationships, poor quality and productivity, and costly changes or re-work which are unnecessary. To provide value to the client the Clerk of Works ensures they get proper value for money invested by being their quality control, communicating updates, changes and progress, and creating transparency with contractual agreements so deliverable expectations are met or exceeded.

To free a project of discrepancies and guarantee it’s within scope, budget and time, the Clerk of Works is an essential team player between parties by having an extensive working knowledge of all trades and by having the ability to interpret/read architectural drawings and specifications to properly document that deliverables are being met. This helps validate the scope of work being performed and increases accountability between the contractor and client. Having a Clerk of Works on-site inspecting on a daily basis also allows the work being carried out meets quality standards and building code regulations along with compliance to all safety legislations. Continuous monitoring and control contribute to a project’s success as well, and a client using the services of a Clerk of Works is the perfect contingency to eliminate any potential risks or inconsistencies that may lead to future problems with the quality or completion of work. Even certain accountabilities and responsibilities may be laid out in a contract between a client and contractor but very seldom does a project go exactly to plan without any deficiencies.

So what holds true for the Clerk of Works future in other industries? The Clerk of Works can take leadership in applying knowledge and tools to help a client monitor and control project work, control their budget forecasts, improve quality assurance and control, measure performance, improve organizational communication, and improve risk management. Having an extensive list of benefits and being of high importance in the construction industry the Clerk of Works position naturally exhibits project governance which can be applied to a large spectrum of industries.  Project governance is a critical element of any project because it provides accountability, creates ownership of the project, and a coherent and supportive relationship between the overall business strategy and project expectations. Value can be created through the effective management of ongoing operations and having a Clerk of Works will enable an organization to employ reliable, established processes to meet strategic objectives and obtain greater business value from their project investments.

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