Applies – Graduate and Consultant grade ecologists
Ecological Clerk of Works
It’s important to understand for developing ecologists that not all work in your upcoming careers will involve looking for fauna in far flung beautiful locations in the UK (or abroad), a key and developing area within the construction industry is that of the Ecological Clerk of Works or ECoW.
Over the last few years it has become clear that the ECoW is vitally important in ensuring that conditions associated with planning, EcIA, Environmental Management Plans (or similar) are undertaken within the realms of good practice and more importantly the law during the construction phase.
What’s most important is ensuring ecologists are aware of their requirements when undertaking an ECoW role and how their actions impact on the project they are working on as well as the way that ECoWs (and therefore ecologists) are viewed in other industries (e.g. construction or renewables).
It’s true that the typical ecologist is used to surveying areas not subject to heavy industry and undertaking an ECoW role can be an eye-opener when in some cases large areas of natural landscape are transformed into a development. Also, it is sometimes difficult for ecologists when projects do not put fauna or flora as a principal focus of attention.
The following outlines a brief overview of what you’ll need to consider prior to and during your role. Another blog on ‘what to expect when undertaking an ECoW role’ will follow.
Firstly, you’ll need to know what’s on your site, what is the project and where is the red line boundary by reading the existing technical reports (i.e. EIA, EcIA chapter, CEMP, EMP etc). You’ll need to know if there are protected species, habitats, what is the mitigation/approach, and when and how this fit in with the programme.
What’s your role
This is key! What has your client employed you to do, Ecological Clerk of Works or maybe Environmental Clerk of Works? Are you there to audit or to advise?
Seems obvious but you’ll need to have an understanding of the biology and legal protection of the species you have (or have the potential to support) on your site or be sufficiently experienced to undertake the work required of you, especially for mitigation work.
Planning and law
You’ll need to know what planning conditions are required on your site and ensure these are completed (i.e. reptile watching brief during access track installation) in line with the project programme.
A vital element of your role is understanding what the programme restraints of your project are and how long your ECoW work, i.e. mitigation, will take and if there is an impact on the project programme.
Communication and conflict resolution
One of the key elements of the ECoW role and how the role interacts with Project Managers is through communication. It is vital you listen to your client’s requirements on site and make decisions based on these requirements within the realms of legislation.
The wider picture
In many cases you may be asked by construction managers to advise on other environmental matters (see ‘What’s your role’) particularly surface water runoff and design influence. It is vital that you have a knowledge of the site or of the subject matter before you influence design, this understanding will only come with experience.
A well-rounded and experienced environmental professional knows when to acknowledge the limits of their understanding or experience. If you do not know the answer to a question or how to mitigate an issue be honest, and seek advice from a more experienced professional. If this means that work must stop but you make an informed decision a little later then so be it!
If you need any training, advice or information about the above, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org