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PR 10/20 | No time for further delay

Verżjoni bil-Malti

This morning, yet another worker lost his life on a construction site following the collapse of a wall within the site. While the details of the incident are still emerging, one thing is amply clear: the construction industry is rife with systemic and fundamental deficiencies that must be addressed without further delay.

While the Kamra tal-Periti is fully cognisant of Government’s efforts in the past months to draft legislation that will bring about the much needed changes, it is evident that the lack of focus and resources is severely hampering progress in this respect. The outcome of the recommendations by the Committee appointed by the Prime Minister have still to be made public, and despite several lengthy meetings with the various stakeholders in the industry we are still far off from seeing significant results.

This situation is no longer tenable. Further delay is not an option.

On its part, after urging successive governments to bring about significant changes to the industry since 2007, the Kamra tal-Periti had published its draft proposals for A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework in May 2019. These were presented to all industry stakeholders, including the Chamber of Engineers, the Chamber of Commerce, the Building Industry Consultative Council, the Building Regulation Board, the Building Regulation Office, the Building and Construction Agency, the Planning Authority, the Malta Developers Association, and the Malta Insurers Association. All these entities and organisations endorsed the Kamra’s proposals and there is therefore industry-wide consensus that such proposals are both necessary and desirable.

The proposals were also presented to the European Commission and the Opposition, as well as to Government which, through a Letter of Commitment issued in August 2019, finally recognised the need for a comprehensive reform of the building and construction industry, and committed itself to implement the Kamra’s proposals.

After having taken on board all the feedback received, the Kamra tal-Periti published the final version of its proposals in June, and were positively received by the industry.

The Kamra tal-Periti urges the Prime Minister and the Ministers responsible for the industry in all its aspects to fulfil Government’s commitments of last August without further delay. It is unacceptable that a country which aspires to portray itself as “the best in Europe” remains complacent to these tragedies which have become all too common. The country deserves better.

 

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PR 09/20 | Kamra tal-Periti celebrates its centenary

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Today the Kamra tal-Periti celebrates a century of service to the profession and to society.

The foundations of the Kamra were laid amid the Sette Giugno uprisings of 1919 when, despite the turmoil brought about by the riots and the end of the Spanish flu pandemic, the new Governor, Field Marshall Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer brought into force the Architects’ Ordinance on the 25th July 1919. Less than a year later, on the 12th June 1920, he enacted Government Notice 202, which established the Chamber of Architects, now known as the Kamra tal-Periti.

As the sole recognised professional body representing architects and civil engineers in Malta, the Kamra’s  mission is to support members of the profession in achieving excellence in their practice of architecture and engineering in the interest of the community. It is also delegated with the duty of enquiring into any charge of professional misconduct or abuse made against any periti in connection with the exercise of their profession or with professional matters.

Over the years, the Kamra tal-Periti has established itself as the voice of the profession, and has taken on the role of promoting values of economic, social, cultural and environmental sustainability amongst its members, as well as promoting beauty in architecture and the built environment.

General Meeting of the Camera degli Architetti

As it traces its roots over the past century, the Kamra tal-Periti is now looking towards a future which is founded on a key set of principles: Quality, design, community, progress, identity, innovation, culture, sustainability. These are the elements that must shape our built environment, forging the very essence of the spaces we inhabit in the present, and for generations to come.

 

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PR 08/20 | A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework

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In May 2019, the Kamra tal-Periti had published its draft proposals for A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework. These were presented to all industry stakeholders, including the Chamber of Engineers, the Chamber of Commerce, the Building Industry Consultative Council, the Building Regulation Board, the Building Regulation Office, the Building and Construction Agency, the Planning Authority, the Malta Developers Association, and the Malta Insurers Association. All these entities and organisations endorsed the Kamra’s proposals and there is therefore industry-wide consensus that such proposals are both necessary and desirable.

The proposals were also presented to the European Commission and the Opposition, as well as to Government which, through a Letter of Commitment issued in August 2019, finally recognised the need for a comprehensive reform of the building and construction industry, and committed itself to implement the Kamra’s proposals.

After having taken on board all the feedback received over the past 12 months, the Kamra tal-Periti has now published the final version of its proposals. These are focused around ten main principles, namely:

  1. The separation of planning permit and building permit processes;
  2. Clear well-organised regulatory processes designed to promote public safety and quality, in the interest of the consumer, rather than being focused on ascribing blame post-accident;
  3. Clear distinction between the regulations governing building (the permanent works) and those governing construction processes and temporary works;
  4. The proposed Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is to take on the consolidated role of the assessment of buildings, building authorisations, enforcement, and monitoring of the construction processes, with the 22 public entities hitherto entrusted with the different areas of interest, becoming key stakeholders in the drafting of regulations and guidance documents;
  5. Major projects and public buildings to be subjected to an independent review, particularly in terms of structural design and fire engineering through the introduction of a new professional figure (Engineering Auditor);
  6. Contractors are to have the specific skills required, and to be classified and licensed according to such skills – they will be solely responsible for the process of construction, including temporary works, and would therefore have full possession of construction sites for the duration of the works;
  7. The enforcement of construction regulations to be delegated to private service providers – referred to as Building and Construction Inspectors (BCIs) – licensed by the BCA;
  8. Contractors to be required to certify that the executed works comply with the design instructions, and with the requirements of the Construction Products Directive;
  9. The construction phase will be concluded by the issuance by the BCA of a Compliance Certificate, which, inter alia, authorises that the building can be brought into use; and
  10. Post-occupancy checks and audits to be undertaken as predetermined by the BCA to ensure the continued compliance of the structure with building regulations.

The launch of these proposals is not the end of a process. It is the beginning of a new era in the building and construction industry. COVID-19 has highlighted the lack of sustainability of our previous ways – now is the perfect opportunity to look to the future with a new vision … a vision that is more sustainable, that still focuses on economic progress but that places more emphasis on safety and quality.

 

The Kamra tal-Periti is fully committed to ensure that these proposals are implemented and assures Government of its full cooperation in achieving this leap forward, bringing the industry firmly and squarely into the 21st century.

 

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PR 07/20 | Earth Day is every day, and anywhere you are

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Today, the entire planet is marking Earth Day 2020, which this year is focussed on climate action.

Climate change is currently the biggest challenge being faced by humanity, as it also struggles with the severe impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Any challenge, however, is also an opportunity for positive change in ensuring a more sustainable future.

At the end of 2020, Malta, along with all other signatory nations, is expected to increase its national commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. Just two days ago, Minister Aaron Farrugia announced that Malta had joined 16 other EU countries in backing a call to put the “European Green Deal” at the heart of a post-coronavirus recovery. The respective ministers are urging Europe to remember the challenges of climate change when putting forward long-term strategies for a resilient recovery from the current crisis, and stated that while all efforts should be focussed on fighting the pandemic, we must “begin to prepare ourselves to rebuild our economy and to introduce the necessary recovery plans to bring renewed, sustainable progress and prosperity back to Europe and its citizens. While doing so, we must not lose sight of the persisting climate and ecological crisis. Building momentum to fight this battle has to stay high on the political agenda.

This is indeed a very welcome step. Malta has, for many years, failed to meet its obligations on various matters ranging from waste management to emissions, and from over extraction of resources to uncontrolled energy use. We simply cannot afford to carry on with our past attitude to these matters – the Kamra tal-Periti therefore fully backs Malta’s renewed commitment to ensure that things will change, and remains hopeful that this is not just an exercise in paying lip service to these ideals.

On its part, the Kamra tal-Periti is committed to collaborate with Government in achieving these goals. For many years it has been lobbying for significant changes in the building and construction industry, which is known to be one of the biggest contributors to climate change. In May 2019, it published a comprehensive proposal for an overhaul of the building and construction regulation framework, which proposal has the support of all the main players in the industry, and which is aimed at ensuring that our building stock is more safe and efficient, and that it is focussed on quality rather than on quantity. These proposals were recently presented to the Committee established by Prime Minister Robert Abela, and the Kamra looks forward to the outcome of the consultation process being undertaken by said Committee.

Last October, the Kamra tal-Periti took the important step of signing up to the Davos Declaration titled “Towards a high-quality Baukultur for Europe”, and to date remains the only Maltese organisation to have done so. The Declaration, which was endorsed by the European Ministers for Culture in January 2018, calls for quality, joint responsibility and cultural sustainability to be at the core of our policies relating to the built environment, and stated that “We urgently need a new, adaptive approach to shaping our built environment; one that is rooted in culture, actively builds social cohesion, ensures environmental sustainability, and contributes to the health and well-being of all.” They also acknowledged the importance of adding “economic value by creating higher-quality and more durable assets and favourable conditions for economic prosperity within society (by using) resourced sustainably, thus ensuring that future generations will also be able to benefit from positive social and economic development.

The Kamra tal-Periti will continue to strive to ensure that its members place sustainability at the core of their practices and professional responsibilities, to promote and improve standards with the aim of ensuring better quality buildings and open spaces, and to acknowledge the important role that we play in ensuring a better quality of life for our citizens. However we cannot do this alone. Government must become the champion for a better built environment, not only by investing in good design but also by being acutely aware of the consequences of its policy making and decision-taking in all fields.

The challenges faced by our built environment will not be easy to overcome but they can be with concerted action, shared responsibility and commitment to the development of a vision which catalyses all stakeholders to work for better quality places that bring dignity, pride and real delight to their users. Earth Day 2020 can be an important moment for our citizens to rise up, with millions of people around the world, to demand the “creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery that we need to meet our climate crisis and seize the enormous opportunities of a zero-carbon future.

 

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PR 06/20 | Shared Cultures, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility

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The 18th April marks the International Day for Monuments and Sites. The theme chosen for this year’s celebration is “Shared Cultures, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility”, recognising that heritage – whether places, landscapes, practices, or collections – are frequently connected with and valued by multiple and diverse groups and communities. This year, as the world goes through the current crisis caused by COVID-19, we are called to celebrate and think about the relationships between cultures or cultural groups and their collective responsibility for the care and safeguarding of the significant attributes, meanings, and values of heritage.

It was, in fact, exactly two years ago that 22 organisations active in the field of cultural heritiage came together to express their shared concern for the manner in which the indiscriminate demolition of our built and other cultural assets was resulting in a general impoverishment of our urban areas.

These entities jointly signed a Declaration titled “Our Legacy – Wirtna”, which had one fundamental message: that the way we treat our heritage is the legacy we leave for future generations.

Two years ago we reminded Government of the Declaration of Principles of the Constitution of Malta which stipulates that “the State shall safeguard the landscape and the historical and artistic patrimony of the Nation”, and put forward 11 demands for Government to implement. To date, none of these demands have been met.

Last September, hundreds of people crowded the streets of Valletta chanting “Enough is Enough!” Enough to planning policies that do not respect citizens. Enough to authorities that do not plan properly and do not respect the environment. Enough to large-scale construction projects, road construction works and lack of transportation planning. Enough to low air quality and lack of preservation of biodiversity. Enough to a construction industry which is allowed to operate in an unregulated manner.

These calls were not dissimilar to those made by the 22 organisations two years ago. The concern is, in fact, a shared concern – that our culture and our heritage are being disregarded, and that economic interests are far too often given the upper hand.

We have a shared responsibility to safeguard our culture and our heritage. The Kamra tal-Periti and its fellow signatories of “Our Legacy – Wirtna” are fully committed to make sure this happens. Is Government equally committed?

Declaration

Read the Declaration signed by 22 organisations

 

 

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PR 05/20 | Arraignments indicative of confused and overlapping responsibilities

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Last month’s incident, which claimed the life of Miriam Pace, was a stark reminder that the crisis faced by the building industry is far from over, and has not been resolved through the hastily drafted regulations that were brought into force in July 2019. While commending the swift manner in which the authorities have proceeded in this case, the Kamra tal-Periti cannot but reiterate its position, which has consistently remained strongly opposed to the afore-mentioned regulations because they do not guarantee public safety, as clearly evidenced by the Hamrun tragedy. All these regulations were designed to do is apportion blame after an accident takes place, while concurrently shifting it away from developers and contractors, who remain unregulated to this day. Instead they should have been focused on preventing such accidents from happening in the first place.

Yesterday’s arraignments are a clear demonstration of how increasingly complicated and confused the lines of responsibility have become with the coming into force of the new regulations. Indeed, the Court will now have to establish the responsibilities of four different roles, including the STO role which did not exist before. Inevitably, defence lawyers will thrive in this weak regulatory framework.

The Kamra tal-Periti is perplexed by the statement issued yesterday by the Malta Developers’ Association that the new regulations introduced last summer provided “clear parameters to determine who was responsible for such incidents”. It appears that this was the primary focus of the MDA, rather than ensuring public safety, which has always been the paramount concern of the Kamra.

Indeed, the Kamra fully agrees with the statement which Marthese Portelli, now director-general of MDA, had made at the time the regulations were published, wherein she characterised them as “rushed decision-making [which] has set nobody’s mind at ease”.

The Kamra looks forward to the implementation of its building and construction regulation framework which Government had committed to start implementing as from October 2019. This framework was meanwhile endorsed by all the relevant stakeholders and presented to the Committee of Experts appointed recently by the Prime Minister. Its implementation will ensure that the construction industry will finally modernise itself and be brought in line with practices adopted in developed countries.

The Kamra tal-Periti is fully committed to make sure this happens without further delay. Delays in introducing the appropriate legislation will only prolong the public’s exposure to health and safety risks.

 

 

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PR 04/20 | Quality of life and public safety should under pin future of construction industry

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The Kamra tal-Periti met with Prime Minister Robert Abela, Minister Aaron Farrugia, Minister Ian Borg and Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius yesterday afternoon to discuss the two public safety crises that have engulfed our country: the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of adequate regulation in the construction industry, which recently led to the premature demise of Miriam Pace.

 

Construction industry crisis

On the construction industry crisis, Kamra tal-Periti President, Simone Vella Lenicker, acknowledged the role of some members of the profession. She also acknowledged the fact that Government had recognised the need for change, which it committed to implementing in the Letter of Commitment signed in August 2019. This outlined a number of reforms which the Kamra has been striving for, including:

  • The licensing and classification of contractors by the State to ensure they are qualified to shoulder their responsibilities, and give the public and consumers peace of mind;
  • The consolidation of laws and regulations whose remit is scattered in 22 different public entities;
  • The introduction of regulations covering the design of permanent works which would fall under the responsibility of periti and engineers, and the execution of temporary works which would fall under the responsibility of contractors, thereby providing simplicity and clarity of the roles within the industry;
  • The enactment of the long-overdue amendments to the Periti Act.

Vella Lenicker welcomed the Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament that responsibilities on site should follow the Civil Code, which underscores the symmetric responsibilities of periti and contractors. To this end, she called on Government to revise LN 136 of 2019 to eliminate the ambiguities about site responsibilities that it brought about.

Government must also look at the issues besetting the industry in a holistic and comprehensive manner, as the Kamra tal-Periti has been calling for since 2007. Among these issues was the ill-advised obsession of the Planning Authority to insist on the indiscriminate provision of underground carparking, which is leading to the dangerous practice of excavating between party walls in narrow sites, as well as causing wider problems of waste management, traffic, air pollution and a rapid deterioration of the quality of life of Malta’s citizens.

Prime Minister Abela welcomed the Kamra’s contributions and detailed recommendations and looked forward to collaborating further with the Kamra in introducing the necessary reforms in the industry.

 

COVID-19 Pandemic

Vella Lenicker outlined the profession’s concerns about the risks to public safety should a national lockdown be announced suddenly. She explained that it is not advisable to abruptly shut down all construction sites, as some may present a greater risk to public safety if they are abandoned without the necessary precautions being put in place to ensure structural stability. She also stated that there may also be instances where properties may require urgent maintenance or repairs during the lockdown period, and provisions should be made for such situations.

It was agreed that, although there is no indication as yet from the public health authorities that a lockdown is imminent, separate discussions would be held with the relevant Ministries to prepare for such an eventuality should it arise.

 

 

 

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PR 03/20 | Reforming the building industry

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Prime Minister Dr Robert Abela yesterday announced the setting up of a panel of experts tasked with reviewing the current suite of building and construction regulations, and to make its recommendations directly to him on the changes that are required to ensure that the construction industry is better regulated in the interest of public safety.

The Kamra’s proposals for A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework for Malta, which were published in May 2019 after two years of research, already present an in-depth analysis of the grossly inadequate building and construction regime currently in place in its first three chapters, including the absence of registration, licensing and training of contractors and labourers.

The document, which was formulated by a team of experts in the field appointed by the Kamra, constitutes a comprehensive and thorough review of the current situation, analyses the problems, and provides solutions which are also informed by research on systems which have been tried and tested in other countries. The Kamra’s proposals were unanimously approved by the profession at an Extraordinary General Meeting held in June 2019.

This document was subsequently presented to the key stakeholders, namely the Chamber of Engineers, the Chamber of Commerce, the Building Industry Consultative Council, the Building Regulation Board, the Building Regulation Office, the Building and Construction Agency, the Planning Authority, the Malta Developers’ Association, and the Malta Insurers Association. All these entities and organisations endorsed the Kamra’s proposals. There is industry-wide consensus that such proposals are both necessary and desirable.

The proposals were also presented to the European Commission and the Opposition, as well as to Government which, through a Letter of Commitment issued in August 2019, recognised the need for a comprehensive reform of the building and construction industry, and committed itself to implement the Kamra’s proposals.

The Kamra tal-Periti therefore invites the panel to review its document to ensure that no time is wasted in proceeding with the necessary reforms.