‘Super clerk of works’ to monitor golden thread

CIOB-led competence working group says new ‘independent construction assessor’ would help facilitate Hackitt’s proposal for managing project information. By Neil Gerrard

A working group led by the CIOB has recommended creation of a potentially critical new role: the independent construction assessor (ICA), effectively an enhanced clerk of works.

The suggestion was made to the Competence Steering Group (CSG) which published its report, Setting the Bar, on 5 October as an update to its interim report, Raising the Bar, from August 2019.

Eleven working groups fed into the report and Working Group 9, led by the CIOB, was tasked with examining and defining the competencies for site supervisors on higher-risk residential buildings above 18m.

CIOB board trustee Pete Dawber, who chaired the group, said the ICA role would facilitate adoption of the ‘golden thread’ of information, which Dame Judith Hackitt recommended should run through projects following her independent review of Building Regulations and fire safety.

The working group agreed that third-party verification was needed to drive this industry change, Dawber said. 

“The ICA would identify the information required and check that project elements have been satisfactorily installed and the relevant information captured, using digital technology,” he explained. 

“For example, photographic or video evidence would be captured after one work element, then further evidence recorded after a follow-on trade has gone through to confirm the work is still intact and not damaged. This way, the ICA would maintain the integrity of the golden thread.

“This provides a safety net for the client, so they know that the design has been properly designed and the construction has been executed correctly, including any agreed changes.”

Dawber stressed the role would not diminish the responsibility of designer, contractor or site supervisor for ensuring work meets the required standard. 

“The ICA is not personally going to sign off the work; they are specifying and collating the data, and confirming they have all the necessary information,” he said. “That will include sign-off certificates, offsite and onsite inspection approvals for installed materials and components, detailed records of what has been installed and by whom, and evidence of their competence.”

The working group also set out competencies for two roles related to site supervision: construction project manager and site supervisor.

“The construction project manager works with clients, designers, suppliers and subcontractors, overseeing all work from instruction through to handover,” Dawber explained. “The site supervisor makes sure individual workers are competent, materials are installed correctly, and that follow-on trades do not cause any damage.”

He suggested members of bodies like the CIOB would be able to use their chartered membership along with enhanced development to attain whatever competence standard was required. Industry professionals who are not chartered members would need to find a route to say they had self-assessed before obtaining third-party accreditation, Dawber added.

The CSG is recommending that all individuals whose work on higher-risk buildings is likely to affect safety outcomes, or who work unsupervised on these buildings, should meet the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours set out in the competence frameworks developed by the industry.

The four key elements in the CSG’s proposed overarching system of competence:

  1. A new competence committee sitting within the Building Safety Regulator
  2. A national suite of competence standards – including new sector-specific frameworks developed by 12 working groups
  3. Arrangements for independent assessment and reassessment against the competence standards
  4. A mechanism to ensure that those assessing and certifying people against the standards have appropriate levels of oversight

The CSG’s overarching competency framework is now
out for consultation.

PAS for competencies of principal contractors

CIOB trustee Pete Dawber is leading the working group writing the publicly available specification (PAS) for the competencies of principal contractors. 

He urged CIOB members and the wider construction industry to contribute thoughts and ideas on what the detailed competencies ought to be, how they could be implemented and assessed, the challenges, and whether competencies should be rolled out for other types of building. 

“This is going to happen but we need to think about how we make it happen as speedily as possible and bring about the necessary cultural change,” he said.

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  1. Recently I was involved in the cladding removal on a hotel project for a tier 1 contractor, there was a possibility of legal proceedings.
    The exsisting cladding was removed and the faults were photographically recorded, then each stage of the re-instatement works were recorded that included reinstatement of fire breaks, compartmentalisation, insulation and prior to the cladding, over eight stories. I have always been an avid photographer on my jobs. 2500pictures were taken.
    I have always believed that Construction and Site Managers have a duty to record there projects.

  2. That is excellent the proposal of a golden thread to track and trace construction details on site.Well done to all involved.
    Regards Robert M Foley MCIOB

  3. It seems to me that there is already a body in place to do this, and as a member of the Institute of Clerk of Works & Construction Inspectorate.
    Why is there a need to have an Independent Construction Assessor, why not just enhance what is already in place.
    I find it insulting that the CIOB think they know best.

  4. This is a very important move and given the construction issues that I have had the dubious honour of investigating, essential.
    The person(s) appointed have to be very robust, have above the norm construction knowledge and a people person with patience. Quite a requirement although huge reliance on IT will be the posts making.
    This way we will avoid so many poorly constructed buildings and lift the quality to where it should be and give investors and clients alike confidence that they are getting what has been envisaged.

  5. Sounds as if this role would be a great outcome from Hackett but how will it actually work while cost and margins continue to dominate construction projects?
    Are there enough clients willing to put ethics before costs?
    Legislation may ensure that it happens but people will need to fully embrace it and implement new practices for it to succeed.

  6. well done CSG and CIOB.

  7. To introduce myself I was in the late 1980’s early 90’s the EU Consultant to CIOB.

    CURRENTLY I am a self builder and involved in a Court case with a contractor that undertook the ground work – foundations – service drive – laying utility services, electricity, gas, water, surface water. The contractor put in a service road not fit for purpose and then not the utility services

    The Court requires a QS to provide a report. Not an easy quest. If this new position was operable we would get assistance

    Can CIOB recommend any of their members to undertake this report. ( Photographs and statements all available
    [email protected] ( 07872953922

  8. I’ve been around for quite some time and have been saying this for quite some time. We now have a generation of inadequately trained operatives who don’t know how to do the job properly and their work is supervised by a generation of managers who don’t know what a good job looks like. It doesn’t matter how much regulation you put in place the fundamental issue is what I’ve described above.
    When I started out in the 80’s the directly employed labour force was easy to supervise, in the main you provided them with the materials and they did a good job.I learned from them about quality. In those days we had Clerks of Works on most jobs, usually failed tradesmen. They would snag things like no paint on tops & bottoms of doors & slot head screws on hinges not lining up. All they did is slow the job down & in general make nuisance.
    This all sounds a bit like when CDM came along & all the failed managers became Planning Supervisors? That didn’t improve health & safety, it just created an additional expense on the project to pay for those fools. Several iterations of CDM later, no planning supervisor, just like on most jobs no Clerk of Works?
    If we want to improve quality we need to begin by training the workforce and making trade apprenticeship’s a more attractive proposition rather than sending everyone to University. We can then show the managers what a good job looks like. The good tradesmen/women will become the next generation of managers and they will know how to do the job properly and will know what a good job looks like.
    Don’t further strangle the industry with a bureaucratic obstacle course.
    Training 1st, education 2nd.
    Put your effort into improving the image of the industry so that we attract the right people and it will naturally sort itself out.
    If we don’t address the chronic skills gap any amount of red tape will not resolve the fundamental problem with the industry.
    Yes we need good quality processes & procedures I get that, but they don’t fix the main issue.
    This issue has developed & got steadily worse since the late 80’s early 90’s & is the elephant in the room.
    More than happy to share my views further. If I could be the catalyst for change I would leave quite a legacy behind me and retire a happy man.

  9. The approach being taken appears quite narrow. At CQI we have been looking at problems post handover and it is quite clear that inspection represents only a fraction of the issues needing to be addressed. If we solely look at failures of infrastructure it is clear that Clients attempt to offload risks down the supply chain to designers,contractors and suppliers without fully understanding that at the end of the day the consequences are felt by them.
    I concur that the lack of resident engineers/clerk of works has lead to lowering standards but if we look at the significant failures in the industry, they occur due to 2 or more problems be it in communication,change control, design and client specification. The lack of quality management in client organisations is a major contributory factor
    Dan Keeling 19 November 2020

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