Roles of a Clerk of Works in Building & Civil Engineering works

Origin of the Name Clerk of Works:-

From history we learn that the early Church in England in the 13th Century, was involved in Vast Construction and due to theft of materials and diverting materials they engaged someone to Control theft and other malpractices. The name give to this person was “The Cleric of the Church Works”. With time the name evolved and changed to CLERK OF WORKS.

Fast forward to today;

Who is a clerk of Works?

By simple definition, a Clerk of Works is the client’s representative on site working under the directions of the Architect.

The Clerk of works is engaged to ensure that the Client gets value for his money, in other words he adds value to the project. The Clerk of works will ensure the following in the pursuit of ensuring the Client gets value for his money in any project:-

  • Carry out a thorough study of the drawings and specifications. He or she will check for errors and discrepancies in the drawings and specifications and report to the Architect.
  • Carry out a thoroughly inspection of materials to be used in the works – e.g. cement specified and storage of the same; steel – type and size, Aggregates if its ballast, grading and cleanliness, sand – free from silt etc-
  •  Note: detailed inspections on each of the materials mentioned will be done as the trainings continue.
  • Carry out a thorough inspection of workmanship – Skilled labour force and knowledgeable and experienced site agent and foremen are key to good and acceptable workmanship. The Clerk of Works should be able to detect workmanship and materials that do not conform to the contract standards. Please note that details of specifics in workmanship are a study for another day.
  • Ensure that proper setting out has been done. Levels in relationship to agreed datum points are correct etc.
  • Ensure that Health and Safety regulations are observed on site. e.g. adequate and clean site toilets ,bathrooms ,safe & clean drinking water, dust masks for those handling cement, chutes for dropping down debris from heights, site cleanliness ,barrier tapes to define around excavated areas, warning signs, safety belts for those working at great heights ,Safety gear for workers  etc
  • The Clerk of works should witness tests required by the Contract. Observation made during ICWK entrance examination reveal that some of us do not pay attention to the tests specified in the Contract yet the tests have such a great impact on the projects.
  • The Clerk of works should inform the Lead Consultant/Architect of non conforming works.e.g badly honeycombed columns, deformed concrete works etc
  • The C.O.W should inform the Lead Consultant/Architect of problems arising and decision required.
  • The C.O.W should confirm oral directions to contractor in writing with a copy to Lead Consultant/ Architect
  • The C.O.W. must ensure that the Contractor fully understands the drawings.
  • Carry out Detailed reporting and recording – the Clerk of works should keep the Consultants, and Client fully informed on a regular basis. He/She should inform the lead consultant on decisions required. The Clerk of works records must be very accurate – the Consultants heavily rely on such records. E.g. measurements of works to be covered. The Clerk of Works will also keep a record of the following:-
  1. Labourforce on site
  2. Weather conditions
  3. Plant and machinery on site
  4. Visitors to site
  5. Drawings received
  6. Deliveries of materials
  7. Instructions issued
  8. Inspections by consultants
  9. Details of significant events.

The CO.W also records actual progress against the approved works programme

The C.O.W. can issue site instructions concerning the standard of workmanship but not on any financial implications or those that would modify the design.

Note: Through experience The C.O.W can identify problems in advance and sound an early warning e.g. plasters works without first fixing ‘tayas’ – asian on walls  and ceiling( for plumb and level), Sand – Cement Screed to risers of staircase without first considering the floor to floor heights or laying drainage pipes without consideration to specified gradients.

Prepared and presented by Mr.Isaac Wairegi on 20th June 2012 at the Professional Centre Nairobi.