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

Derwent London recently used a clerk of works on Piercy & Co’s Copyright Building, a retail and office scheme in Berners Street, Westminster, in an attempt to boost the overall 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.

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

Last week the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI) called for the reintroduction of the clerk of works role on construction projects.

Explaining why the company had made the decision to use a clerk of works on the Copyright Building, 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 inquiry resulted in 17 schools being forced to close over concerns about the quality of construction.

Iain Cox, chairman of the BSA, said: “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.”

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