Malta's Architects Call For 'Major Overhaul' Of 'Inadequate' Building And Construction Rules

Among other criticisms is the fact that site managers are not even required to be literate

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Construction site managers do not need to be literate, and developers are legally allowed to become site managers in a clear 'conflict of interest', Malta's Chamber of Architects (the Kamra tal-Periti) has criticised following the horrific sudden collapse of an inhabited block of apartments in Gwardamanġa.

The architect organisation has hit out at inadequate construction policies that are leading to "unacceptable" damage, injury and even death in a statement where the chamber called for an overhaul of the entire system.

"The rate of construction accidents in Malta, whether resulting in damage to neighbouring properties, injury or even death, is unacceptable," they said in a statement. "The ever-increasing complexity of today’s buildings, compounded by the current frenzy of the industry to turn around projects as quickly as possible, urgently requires an immediate and major overhaul of the country’s building and construction regulatory processes."

"Following the two incidents in construction sites in Swieqi and Gwardamanġa that occurred yesterday, and several others over the course of the past months, the Kamra tal-Periti feels compelled, yet again, to point out the grave inadequacies of our building and construction regulations," they continued.

The Maltese architects pointed out the lack of basic training for site managers... including the fact that they do not even need to know how to read

"Once again, the regulations do not establish minimum basic training or competences for site managers, not even as basic a requirement as literacy," they said. "The regulations even allow the developer to take on the role of site manager, in what is clearly a blatant conflict of interest sanctioned by the law. Indeed, if the developer fails to appoint a site manager, the regulations presume that the developer is ipso facto carrying the responsibilities of a site manager."

They called for an overhaul to the system, saying Malta needs to bring its policies in line with other European countries.

"The Kamra’s calls for an overhaul of the regulatory framework were finally heeded by Government last October when it launched the White Paper for the setting up of a new Building and Construction Authority," they said. "Just two weeks ago, the Kamra held talks with Government on its detailed proposals for the regulation of the industry to bring it in line with other European countries. The Kamra will be making its proposals public in the coming days."

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The block of apartments fell, with a Maltese family making it out with what they could grab - though a number of their pets had to be left behind

“My brother and his wife are homeless and all their possessions, including their wedding rings, our parents’ memorable things, precious possessions, even gold and money have been buried,” a sister of one of the residents told Lovin Malta. “They managed to grab the dog, but had to leave other pets inside.”

You can find the Kamra tal-Periti's full statement below

Following the two incidents in construction sites in Swieqi and Guardamangia that occurred yesterday, and several others over the course of the past months, the Kamra tal-Periti feels compelled, yet again, to point out the grave inadequacies of our building and construction regulations

The Kamra tal-Periti has been exhorting Government to regulate the industry for many years, both through widely reported press statements, and at various meetings held with successive Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries responsible for the industry.

The rate of construction accidents in Malta, whether resulting in damage to neighbouring properties, injury or even death, is unacceptable. The ever-increasing complexity of today’s buildings, compounded by the current frenzy of the industry to turn around projects as quickly as possible, urgently requires an immediate and major overhaul of the country’s building and construction regulatory processes.

The current legislation in Malta is characterised by excessive fragmentation of responsibilities.

Article 1638 of the Civil Code states that [i]f a building or other considerable stone work erected under a building contract shall, in the course of fifteen years from the day on which the construction of the same was completed, wholly or in part, or be in manifest danger of falling to ruin, owing to a defect in the construction, or even owing to some defect in the ground, the architect and the contractor shall be responsible therefor.

This article in the Civil Code does not establish clear lines of responsibility, which are generally decided by the Courts when similar incidents occur, depending on the particular circumstances of each case. Moreover, whereas Periti carry a professional warrant and are subject to a Code of Professional Conduct, contractors are not regulated at all. This is especially worrying when it comes to demolition and excavation contractors. The absence of a registration system means that anyone with demolition or excavation plant can carry out such works, without any basic training, technical knowledge, or insurance cover.

The Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations (L.N. 72 of 2013) place the onus of enforcing the implementation of a works method statement drawn up by a Perit outlining the method of construction on a site manager purposely appointed by the developer, and on the contractor executing the works. Regulation 10 states [p]rofessional responsibility for the method statement remains with the perit who prepares it, whilst ultimate responsibility for adhering to the method statement rests with the site manager and the contractor.

Once again, the regulations do not establish minimum basic training or competences for site managers, not even as basic a requirement as literacy. The regulations even allow the developer to take on the role of site manager, in what is clearly a blatant conflict of interest sanctioned by the law. Indeed, if the developer fails to appoint a site manager, the regulations presume that the developer is ipso facto carrying the responsibilities of a site manager.

When two key players in the industry are not required to possess basic competence and are wholly unregulated, the public is exposed to unacceptably high and unnecessary risks.

The Kamra’s calls for an overhaul of the regulatory framework were finally heeded by Government last October when it launched the White Paper for the setting up of a new Building and Construction Authority. Just two weeks ago, the Kamra held talks with Government on its detailed proposals for the regulation of the industry to bring it in line with other European countries. The Kamra will be making its proposals public in the coming days.

The Kamra tal-Periti will not be commenting on these or other specific cases until investigations are concluded so as not to prejudice any potential proceedings.

Cover photo: TVM

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READ NEXT: Gwardamanġa Residents Left Homeless And Distraught: 'They Couldn’t Even Take Their Pets And Wedding Rings With Them'

Written By

Johnathan Cilia

Johnathan is interested in the weird, dark, and wonderful contradictions our late-capitalist society forces upon us. He also likes music and food. Contact him at [email protected]

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