‘All you need to become a contractor is a digger and a company’
The Chamber of Architects has called for the registration of contractors and suppliers and the training of everyone involved in the construction industry in light of the latest collapse of a wall in Ħamrun.
“As it stands, all you need is a digger and a company to become a contractor; there’s no training or registration involved,” Chamber President Simone Vella Lenicker told Lovin Malta. “The only operatives who are registered are the builders, whose training is in traditional methods, such as masonry and stone arches, even though we are now also building in steel, concrete and bricks. I’m not saying there aren’t experienced builders out there but they don’t have the technical training for today’s industry.”
Vella Lenicker said the Chamber is extremely concerned at the situation and will convene an extraordinary general meeting to discuss it among its members.
She said it is too early to tell whether the reasons behind the recent collapses in Mellieħa, Gwardamangia and Ħamrun, all of which were located right next to construction sites, are all the same.
“It could be that the buildings had defects in their construction, or more likely in their foundation, but there could also be problems in the method of excavation, such as whether there was enough propping of the adjacent properties in place,” she said. “I think it’s prudent to wait and see what the outcomes of the inquiries will be and I hope we will have access to them.”
The law already requires developers to engage an architect to conduct a condition report of all the neighbouring properties before commencing excavation. However, Vella Lenicker warned the condition report cannot assess everything, such as the condition of the foundations of the adjacent properties
“I think it’s becoming more evident that there are foundation issues, especially in older buildings,” she said. “When those buildings were built, we didn’t have the type of construction development we have today.”
She advised people concerned that their house could be next to engage a perit to ascertain whether there’s visual evidence, such as cracks in the wall. People concerned that there are problems in the foundation can commission a geological and geotechnical survey.
Asked to comment, architect and government planning consultant Robert Musumeci referred Lovin Malta to regulations within the Building Regulation Act, which list the responsibilities of architects, site managers and contractors.
“We already have laws and they’re very clear,” he said.