About AECoW

AECoW is the qualifying body for Environmental Clerks of Works (ECoW). AECoW has been developed to raise professional standards amongst those providing ECoW services whilst promoting ECoWs as valuable members of site development teams.

The pages of this website provide an account of the structure and function of the Association and sets out the process by which prospective members can apply

How the Association came about

The Association was formed by a group of like minded environmental consultants who, after dealing with a particular enquiry from a client, noticed that ECoW services were often being provided by inexperienced and ill-equipped ecologists or environmental managers. Following discussions with organisations such as CIEEM and IEMA the group decided to form a new professional body which aimed to ensure those practising as ECoWs were sufficiently trained and experienced. Having developed an initial set of policies and membership criteria, a period of consultation was undertaken with a wide range of organisations including: CIEEM, SNH and academic departments including: Stirling and Heriot Watt Universities.

AECoW is a not for profit organisation and all membership fees are used to further the Association’s aims of establishing professional standards in ECoW across construction and environmental professionals.

There is a strong vision to improve the industry and integrate the working practice of a range of professionals working in the field of environmental auditing.

The Association works to our Vision and Mission Statements:

“Our vision is for the ECoW role to become standard practice on construction and engineering projects where significant risks to the environment exist.”

“Our mission is to develop and promote the role of Environmental Clerks of Works (ECoW) through the establishment of good practice and knowledge sharing for the benefit of the environment.”

Within this context, our core objectives are to:

  • Act as a qualifying body which seeks to raise professional standards through peer review of members;
  • Promote the role of ECoW
  • Provide training to industry professionals to undertake the ECoW role;
  • Develop a programme of continuous professional development (CPD) and support to promote good practice;
  • Create a network to facilitate the exchange of good practice and develop research into the roles; and
  • Provide a forum for providing feedback to national and local government, regulators and NGO’s on ECoW issues.

As the Association has grown over the last 10 years, we’ve focused our efforts by developing a three year strategy, which is under constant review to monitor it’s progress. The Strategy contains the four following priorities:

  • Promoting the ECoW role;
  • Developing quality in the ECoW role;
  • Delivering training and skills development; and
  • Providing a role for the ECoW community.

Our priorities are delivered through 'Actions Plans', which are outlined in Appendix 1. Please review our Strategy and get in touch should you have any comments, or are interested in supporting the Association by helping deliver it.

AECoW recognises that there are inconsistencies, and ambiguity, in the development, and construction, industries regarding the responsibilities of different environmental roles and their definitions. That is reflected in the scope, briefs and contracts of the environmental roles, which are highly variable between projects, organisations and planning conditions across the UK. To try and improve consistency, drive up environmental standards, and compliance, AECoW broadly separates site environmental roles into two broad categories and highlights the clear need for distinction between them to support achievement of compliance:

  1. Working for the developer / contractor to provide site specific advice:
    • Environmental Managers / Advisors / Engineers / Project Ecologists
    • Ecological Clerk of Works (EcCoW), according to CIEEM’s definition
  2. Independently commissioned third party compliance monitoring of the Developer / Contractor
    • Environmental Clerk of Works (EnCoW), according to AECoW’s definition (outlined below).

The Environmental Manager/Advisor/Engineer/Project Ecologist is usually hired by contractors and/or developers to manage, and / or advise on, environmental matters to ‘ensure’ compliance. CIEEM also similarly defines EcCoWs, whereby they will advise the project team on good practice, provide / implement detailed site-specific ecological designs.

AECoW believes that EnCoWs should carry out independent, third party compliance monitoring in either an advisory, or auditing, capacity, in line with project documentation, legislation and standards, as outlined by the Institute of Clerks of Works and Construction Professionals. AECoW is striving to embed this position in legislation and guidance, however, it recognises that this is often not the case, and many aspects of different environmental roles (design / implementation) are included in the EnCoW role, in addition to compliance monitoring, particularly as EnCoW (and EcCoWs) are often required by planning conditions and environmental managers/advisors/ engineers are not.  AECoW believes that this has created a market demand for EnCoW and often results in the squeezing of different environmental responsibilities into the one role, which has an adverse impact on environmental standards and compliance.

Research demonstrates that blending design / implementation with compliance monitoring, creates a conflict, and compromises the delivery of the compliance monitoring, therefore, AECoW believes, that the two types of EnCoWs, should be independently commissioned from the works:

  • In the advisory EnCoW role, none site-specific adviceshould be provided to the contractor, developer and / or statutory authority on project compliance. If compliance is not being achieved, the EnCoW directs the project team to good practice documents, guidance and techniques. This information should be gathered by regular audit / site inspections and compliance reports. It should not be required to offer site specific design / implementation advice, which could compromise its compliance monitoring.
  • In an auditing EnCoW role, compliance monitoring should be undertaken without offering any advice.The aim of the audits is usually to provide a level of due diligence to the client/statutory authorities, with whom it usually directly reports to.

An EnCoW is normally involved in the following activities:

  • Auditing of site management plans/method statements and works for compliance;
  • Providing none site-specific advice to contractors/developers on the delivery of agreed mitigation measures;
  • Liaising with stakeholders such as statutory regulators, planning officials and members of the public;
  • Regular surveying to monitor environmental sensitivities at the site. These may be sensitive receptors such as a protected watercourse.

An EnCoW needs to have comprehensive knowledge of a variety of environmental legislation, including pollution, waste, ecology, archaeology, contaminated land, materials management and the impact that materials might have on the environment.

An ECoW is responsible for ensuring site contractors and management are equipped with the correct knowledge to protect environmental features on site. This can often require decisions to be made quickly, sometimes in highly pressured circumstances.

Only certain individuals have the correct combination of qualifications, skills and confidence to undertake such a role. An experienced ECoW will hold Chartered status with an appropriate Institute and have a good working understanding of the construction process. Less experienced ECoWs will have a relevant degree (either environmental or construction related) and experience of construction sites. In some instances the most appropriate person to fulfil the ECoW role may not hold formal qualifications but will have substantial experience.

The skills needed by an ECoW include:

  • Knowledge and experience of typical construction practices;
  • Assertiveness and strong communication skills, in particular an ability to relay environmental information at both a technical and layman level;
  • Robust understanding of relevant scientific principles; and
  • A sound understanding of environmental legislation (and licensing) and how it applies to construction/development sites.

The Association of Environmental Clerks of Works will be governed by its Articles of Association, a not for profit company registered at Companies House, Company Registration No: 380596.