BSA welcomes developer’s use of clerk of works

The Business Sprinkler Alliance (BSA) has welcomed the news that developer Derwent London is set to make greater use of Clerks of Works following a successful trial at a major mixed used project in London.

Derwent London is one of London’s most innovative office specialist property regenerators and investors and is well known for its design-led philosophy and creative management approach to development. The Group owns and manages an investment portfolio of 5.6 million sq ft, of which 98% is located in central London.

The company recently used a Clerk of Works on its Piercy & Co’s Copyright Building. A retail and office scheme in Berners Street, Westminster, a Clerk of Works was employed in an attempt to boost the quality of construction.

The role of the Clerk of Works – once commonplace on sites across the UK – has diminished over the years, often as a result of budgets being squeezed, the blurring of the lines of those involved in the procurement process and the introduction of Design and Build (D&B) contracts in the 80s.

However, following the recent Grenfell tragedy, the role of overseeing quality and ensuring that specifications are fit for purpose has come under question with the Clerk of Work being seen as one possible solution.

Explaining why the company had made the decision to use a Clerk of Works on the project, Richard Baldwin, Head of Development at Derwent London commented, “I have been in the industry for 40 years and I’m fed up with poor workmanship. Margins in the construction industry are getting squeezed and subcontractors are suffering labour shortages. We see the Clerk of Works as another pair of eyes and ears of what’s happening on site.’

‘I am not saying we will use them on every project, but it was a success on the Copyright Building and I think it is worth it, for a relatively small fee, for us to use them in future projects.”

On the possibility of empowering the project architect to take responsibility for the role, Baldwin commented: ‘I think as long as architects have the skills sets within their business, why not? Architects do perform some overseeing as it is – they often visit the site and review construction. I know lots of architects that are extremely competent on the necessary nitty-gritty construction issues.’

Earlier this year, the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills committee backed calls for the introduction of Clerks of Works following the inquiry into a wall collapse at a school in Edinburgh. The enquiry resulted in 17 schools being forced to close over concerns about the quality of construction.

Iain Cox, Chairman of the BSA commented, “There is a clear need for the quality of construction to be more adequately supervised to ensure that the buildings we are designing and building are fit for purpose. Part of this is ensuring life safety as well as property protection through the appropriate choice of fire engineering. I for one welcome the move to bring back the role of the Clerk of Works as the person responsible for ensuring that what has being built is ‘as designed’ and delivered to a high quality to meet all current Building Regulations.”