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Assessing the “clerk of works” role in delivering quality affordable housing: a UK case study

Bradley Hughes (Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK )
David J. Edwards (School of Engineering and the Built Environment, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)
Igor Martek (Faculty of Science Engineering and Built Environment, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia)
Nicholas Chileshe (UniSA STEM, Sacrce Resources and Circular Economy (ScaRCE), University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Wellington Didibhuku Thwala (Construction Management and Quantity Surveying, University of Johannesburg Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Smart and Sustainable Built Environment

ISSN: 2046-6099

Article publication date: 4 June 2021




A mixed philosophies epistemological design with inductive reasoning was adopted to develop new theoretical insights into the phenomena under investigation. First, interpretivism was employed to contextualise the prevailing body of knowledge and source questions (and prompts) to be posed to practitioners. Second, a case study strategy (augmented by participant action research) was adopted to measure construction industry professionals' perceptions of the clerk of work's role and their impact upon both quality and safety of construction.


This research conducts a case study investigation of affordable and/or social home construction and examine industry's perception of the clerk of works (CoW) and their powers and responsibilities within existing legislation to impact quality of construction.


The findings illustrate that while the clerk of work's role positively impacts quality and safety of construction, it is hindered by cost and time constraints that are often prioritised. An analogy to “yield points” in materials science is then adapted to develop new theory to conceptualise the pivotal position that the CoW has in upholding quality construction. The research concludes with pragmatic recommendations (such as industry centric codes of practice) to mitigate quality and safety issues arising and signpost future academic research in this area.


UK construction has been criticised for prioritising costs and profits vis-à-vis quality and safety issues, as exemplified by the Grenfell fire. This study demonstrates the need for reinstatement of the CoW role in mitigating residential housing quality decline.



Hughes, B., Edwards, D.J., Martek, I., Chileshe, N. and Thwala, W.D. (2021), "Assessing the “clerk of works” role in delivering quality affordable housing: a UK case study", Smart and Sustainable Built Environment, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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