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PR 02/20 | Crisis is far from over

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The Kamra tal-Periti is deeply saddened by Monday’s tragedy which prematurely claimed the life of Miriam Pace, forever shattering her family’s serenity as a result of yet another serious construction incident. The Kamra tal-Periti expresses its heartfelt condolences to the victim’s family.

It is painfully clear that the crisis that befell the building and construction industry last year has not been resolved through the hastily drafted regulations that were brought into force in July 2019.

The calls which the Kamra has been making since 2007 for a comprehensive reform of the construction industry have regrettably not been heeded. It took the three collapses that occurred in quick succession in 2019 for the Kamra tal-Periti to eventually secure a written commitment from Government to implement its three main demands for reform in the interest of public safety.

The first reform consists in the setting up of the Building and Construction Authority, that will be tasked with implementing the proposed building and construction regulation framework “A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework for Malta published by the Kamra tal-Periti in May 2019. This framework focussed on a number of principles including:

  • The consolidation under the new Authority of the regulatory functions currently dispersed in at least 24 government departments and authorities;
  • The issuance of a comprehensive set of building and construction regulations in line with those in force in other European countries;
  • The obligatory registration, licensing and classification of contractors and skilled labourers, coupled with rigorous training and education.

The second reform is the promulgation of a revised law to regulate periti to ensure that the profession can modernise itself, that the Kamra’s role to hold warrant holders accountable is strengthened, and that mandatory professional indemnity insurance and continuous professional development are introduced, among other important measures.

The third demand consisted in the repeal of LN 136 of 2019 as part of the overhaul of the regulatory framework. The Kamra has consistently maintained that the regulations brought into force last year did not adequately address the crisis, but rather made the situation worse by adding further confusion on the roles and responsibilities on construction sites.

Despite Government’s commitment in writing to take on the necessary measures, the much-needed reforms have not as yet been implemented. Some initial progress has been registered through the setting up of the Building and Construction Agency, which remains however severely under-resourced and incapable of tackling the complexities of the building industry. There has been little progress in all other areas.

Various sectors such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and gaming have received Government’s deserved attention over recent years, yet the construction industry, which is one of the main contributors to the country’s GDP, remains the most unregulated one, claiming the lives of innocent persons on an all too regular basis.

Government is called upon to demonstrate firm resolve to urgently but diligently bring about the necessary reforms.

The Kamra remains committed to ensure that the profession acts with utmost diligence and to assist Government in implementing the overdue reforms, and to offer its support and technical resources to Government to ensure that its reform proposals, which received strong support from all industry stakeholders, are brought into force as quickly as possible in the interest of public safety.

 

 

 

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PR 01/20 | High expectations of new Administration

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On the occasion of his recent election as Leader of the Partit Laburista, and his subsequent appointment as Prime Minister, the Council of the Kamra tal-Periti has written to the Honourable Robert Abela to congratulate him and commend him for his readiness to serve the nation at this most delicate moment in its history. The Council encouraged Dr Abela to tackle the major challenges of rebuilding the State’s institutions and the country’s good reputation, and of reuniting a sorely divided nation.

All sectors of society expect much of the incoming Prime Minister and the new Administration, including that they will not shirk from introducing the necessary modernising reforms in the State’s institutions, with procedures and regulations that are appropriate for a civilised, developed and respected nation.

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti shares the high expectations from all professional bodies, constituted bodies and others that Dr Abela’s tenure will ensure a tangibly honest way of doing politics in Malta, at all levels, with people of integrity being entrusted with responsibility for our institutions. It is only in this way that all sectors of society can benefit equally.

The Kamra tal-Periti notes with satisfaction some potentially significant administrative changes announced last week, that appear to herald a very welcome departure from the indifference towards our environment, and a more sensitive approach to the several environmental and social issues which require urgent attention today and over the coming years.

Foremost amongst the new measures is the decision to place planning, environment and climate change within one portfolio under the responsibility of Minister Aaron Farrugia, in a bid to strengthen synergies and realign the balance between the oftentimes opposing priorities of the construction industry and the quality of our environment. The appointment of Minister Carmelo Abela within the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for sustainable development is also noteworthy, and hopefully announces a genuine commitment by the Prime Minister himself to place social and environmental sustainability high on the national agenda, at par with economic growth.

The clear separation between construction and planning is also an important step in the right direction. The Kamra tal-Periti has lobbied hard for several years for the two processes to be distinct and separate. Detailed discussions on this topic have been held over the past two years with Minister Ian Borg and Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius. The convergence of views on this matter is therefore noted with satisfaction, and the Kamra augurs further and speedy progress on this matter.

For the last 100 years, the Kamra tal-Periti has been entrusted by the State with ensuring the progress and good standing of the profession. The Council is committed to ensure that high ethical standards are upheld by its members, and that its principles are promoted throughout the whole of the construction sector. It looks forward to a close collaboration with the new Administration to ensure the sustainability of the sector in tandem with the natural and cultural environment and to promote higher standards of quality and design in all matters related to the construction industry.

 

 

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PR 35/19 | Mediocrity and greed must be overcome

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The Kamra tal-Periti held its Annual General Meeting on the 6th December 2019 at the Catholic Institute in Floriana.

Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, President of the Kamra tal-Periti, described the past twelve months as “extraordinary”. The Council had set itself an ambitious set of targets for 2019, which it worked hard to achieve despite the crisis suffered by the profession and the industry over the summer months following the collapse of a number of buildings, the subsequent halt of all demolition and excavation works, and the ensuing hasty introduction of new regulations which did not address the core problems that characterise the industry.

She outlined that substantial progress had been made on the draft amendments to the Periti Act, and that the Kamra’s proposals for a new Building and Construction Regulation Framework had been positively received by all the industry stakeholders. She also referred to the various changes in the industry that the Kamra insisted upon over the past year, and which Government has committed to effect through a Letter of Commitment presented to the Kamra tal-Periti in August. The Council will continue to work on these aspects over the coming months with a view towards achieving the much needed legislative changes in the shortest time possible.

Perit Vella Lenicker acknowledged that the challenges of the past year had a serious impact on the profession. “The current political situation and the serious challenges which our industry will be facing in the coming months have thrown an even heavier shadow over us as individuals, as a profession and as an industry.” The Council is nevertheless committed, with the support of the profession, to strive “to achieve higher levels of service, and to pull the industry out of the throes of the mediocrity and greed which have engulfed it.

 

 

Scroll through gallery of AGM 2019

 

 

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PR 34/19 | Democratic expression and public space

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The Barcelona Declaration on Public Spaces for Habitat III (2016 – United Nations), of which Malta is a signatory, stresses people’s right to “stake a claim on the city” which implies the need to “respect and protect a number of rights and freedoms, such as the right to freedom of expression and assembly, the right to information, consultation and participation in decision-making processes.

Politics and public space have an intimate relationship – both deal with public life, the relationships we have with others, how we live and interact with each other. Public spaces are the stage of public life; they are the places where we congregate to celebrate, to protest, to meet, to trade, to seek inspiration and tranquillity. We must ensure that our public spaces sustain our quality of life and our culture, and that they express what our society considers to be important.

Although the Kamra tal-Periti appreciates the need to ensure the security and safety of all citizens, it is disturbed by the grossly impeded use of public space and the wholly disproportionate occupation of Freedom Square.

Renzo Piano’s Parliament Building and the surrounding urban space were designed to promote transparency of the democratic processes. The multiple layers of barriers that are being erected around this building emphasise the gap between the elected and the electorate: a gap which the architectural and urban design sought to eradicate.

The protests taking place in Freedom Square are an expression of public sentiment and should not be unduly restricted.

“When public space is eroded, our civic culture suffers, even our democracy” – Richard Rogers

 

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PR 33/19 | National interest must prevail

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Malta is in the midst of a deep political crisis.

Several of those allegedly implicated, even if just by association, in precipitating the current situation have sworn an oath of allegiance to the Republic of Malta and its Constitution, and to perform their duties to the best of their knowledge and ability.

The Kamra reiterates its statement of November 2017 warning about the “dire future our society faces if it fails to uphold the rule of law and ethical standards”, and reminded all professionals of their:

  • duty to uphold ethical behaviour;
  • right to exercise their profession without fear of reprisal;
  • duty to hold institutions to account;
  • obligation to speak out when institutions fail;
  • duty to ensure equality and equity in their respective industries; and
  • responsibility to seek the common good.

We therefore call on all professional chambers and associations to uphold their duty to investigate professional misconduct and hold their members to account without fear or favour. We also call on them to insist upon the development of institutions and processes that guarantee equality among citizens, and that seek the common good rather than the vested interests of the few.

The Kamra tal-Periti has consistently spoken out on the need for reform. Its main focus has, of course, been the building and construction industry. The failures of our planning system, the complete lack of adequate building regulation, and the wanton disregard for our cultural and natural heritage are indicative of a country overcome by speculation and corruption for the past decades, to the grave detriment of the public good.

Similar failures are also present in other industries. It is clear that our society is in the throes of a deep-set and chronic malady that has pervaded its very foundations. It is the obligation of each of us to combat this scourge and eradicate it from our industries, our society and our country.

In our 2017 statement we had quoted the words of Jane Jacobs, American journalist, author and activist on urban design and planning: “There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.

The time for dishonest masks pretending that all is in order is now over. It is now time for those in authority to recognise the precipitous situation that has led to the current social unrest, and to urgently take all necessary decisions to safeguard the national interest.

 

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PR 32/19 | ODZ is a misnomer

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Just three weeks ago, the Planning Authority embarked on a ‘consultation’ process wherein it invited members of the public to comment on whether the scope of the current Rural Policy Design Guidance (RPDG 14) has had its intended effect. An effective consultation would require, as a basic premise, an understanding of the intent of those who drafted the original policy, and a thorough assessment of the actual effects of the current policy prepared by the Authority itself. In the absence of publicly available data and statistics this current consultation process is inherently flawed.

The three-week consultation period allowed makes a mockery of the term “public consultation”, especially when considering the vast implications that this policy has on our quality of life, and on the sensitivity of our natural environment. It is also unclear what this current consultation is attempting to achieve, since it appears to be more focussed on asking the public’s opinion on whether the RPDG has worked or not, and whether it should be aligned with the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED) and the National Rural Development Programme, as though this were an option up for debate. It is therefore important that Phase 2 of the review process consists of the establishment of the overarching Objectives and Scope, and a consultation process undertaken on such Objectives and Scope, prior to delving into the detail of the Policy itself.

Nevertheless, a review of the RPDG (2014) is clearly urgent and needed; however, more benefit would be derived if the amended policy is aligned with an updated SPED, which is itself up for review within the next 12 months. The two processes must run in parallel, while maintaining the current premise of the SPED that the “Maltese landscape is a cultural landscape, and the surviving structures show its continued use, and are testimony of the country’s past”. A revised policy for our rural areas should base its principles on the realisation that our rural environment has an intrinsic value which exceeds its monetary worth at any one moment.

The term “Outside Development Zone” is a misnomer and should be abolished. It implies that no development activity may be carried out in such Zones, however it is a fact that legitimate development is necessary to maintain the character of our rural areas, and to accommodate uses that cannot be located within built-up areas. The construction of a rubble wall is development; the construction of a farm is development; the quarrying of rock is development; the dumping of waste is development.

Thus, rather than defining our territory in terms of “Development Zones” and “Outside Development Zones”, it is recommended to adopt two broad categories, namely Urban Areas and Rural Areas, in addition to the Coastal and Marine Areas. These should in turn be further classified to hone into more specific urban and rural typologies, allowing the formulation of more focussed policies which would recognise the distinctive characters, identities, and the activities taking place within such classifications (such as Countryside, Rural Conservation Areas, Agricultural Areas and Green Belts).

Villages and hamlets have for decades been designated as Urban Areas. This is incorrect. Villages form an integral part of rural landscape and identity. The urbanisation of rural settlements has brought about an exasperating urban sprawl, the effects of which can be witnessed through the out-of-control air pollution and exponentially problematic traffic generation.

Any type of development in the Rural Area should be of a design, quality and scale that respects the rural setting. The RPDG already requires that any “proposed development is of high quality rural design and must respect the rural context.” High quality contemporary architecture by its very nature should be responsive to its context, be it urban or rural. It would not otherwise be of high quality. Many of civilisation’s highest architectural achievements are found in natural contexts. The interplay between built and natural forms and materials provides for far more exhilarating cultural expression than false vernacular architecture. It is pertinent to point out that vernacular buildings were built at a time when rural construction was crafted by artisans making best use of locally available materials and tools to address the most basic needs of shelter and utility. They are indeed an important part of our cultural heritage and are best respected by not being mocked or falsified.

Furthermore, the Maltese Islands are in dire need of a Landscape Strategy for the Rural Area, which is site specific and which is studied to the extent that it takes a holistic view of this important asset which our country has, rather than adopting the all too common piecemeal approach which is entirely dependent on the whims of certain developers.

The positive effects that the natural environment has on addressing climate change, air and water quality, biodiversity, social well-being, and to national and local identity must be translated into effective planning policy. Our rural areas need to be safeguarded to ensure a sustainable future for our islands. The rural setting is as important, culturally, economically and socially as are our urban centres, our built cultural heritage, and our natural resources, and must be recognised and treated as such.

 

 

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PR 31/19 | Partial Review of the Ta’ Qali Action Plan does not consider the national and public interest

In September, the Planning Authority published its proposals for a Partial Review of the Ta’ Qali Action Plan.

The review concerns an area of approximately 60,000 square metres located adjacent to the Embassy of the United States, and proposes to designate such land as a Commercial Area, with an overall building height of 17.5 metres.

The Kamra noted that “across the developed world, out-of-town commercial centres are largely being abandoned in favour of rehabilitated inner-city or urban facilities. These reinforce the desirability of city living and cut down on the vehicular traffic and the attendant pollution and traffic congestion that are inevitably caused by large regional commercial developments located outside the urban area.”

The Kamra tal-Periti further noted that “one of the justifications presented in favour of the proposals is that the site has outlived its usefulness in the industrial context. Whilst recognising that it would, perhaps, be unrealistic to hope for the area to be returned to its undeveloped state, it is pointed out that the general area is earmarked as a Rural Area and the Ta’ Qali National Recreation Centre, which includes no commercial hubs but only enterprise hubs (i.e. the existing industrial areas). It is therefore felt that the area should be re-developed into uses that are complementary to the sports facilities around the National Stadium, and to the adjacent Park tal-Familja. The emphasis on commercial development is therefore questioned in this regard, as is the extent to which the public interest and that of the environment in general were considered.

The proposed revision is premature and lacking in proper studies that would normally arise in a serious and well-considered approach. The Kamra pointed out that allowing intensification is not the solution to the Authority’s claim that the existing industrial use is redundant, and that the proposals appear to be directed more towards appeasing a major private landowner and facilitating their interests than achieving any planning gains or safeguarding the national interest and that of the public at large.

 

 

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PR 30/19 | Malta Chamber and Kamra tal-Periti agree to collaborate further

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and the Kamra tal-Periti have signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday, with the aim to enhance collaboration between the two organisations.

By virtue of this agreement, the Malta Chamber and the Kamra tal-Periti have agreed to co-operate actively on matters of national economic policy of common interest to the business community and the architecture and civil engineering profession.  To this end, the parties may assist and provide each other with expertise in relevant areas.

Moreover the parties shall engage in a meaningful dialogue with a view to support each other on a policy level.

“The Memorandum of Understanding being signed with the Kamra tal-Periti, is the latest in a series of collaboration agreements the Malta Chamber has entered with strategic organisations, in a bid to provide members with a stronger network of support” said Malta Chamber President Perit Xuereb ahead of the signing.  “The agreement shall provide a formal environment within which the two organisations will be able to forge a strong relationship for the benefit of members from both sides.  I am keen to see the fruit of such a relationship”

Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, President of the Kamra tal-Periti, stated that this Agreement marks an important milestone in the history of the Kamra, which will be celebrating its centenary next June. She remarked that “The Kamra and the Malta Chamber are aligned on a number of levels, most importantly in terms of ethical standards and the drive to promote economic growth – in this sense we will be working closely to ensure that the industry in general, and specifically the profession, contribute towards the Maltese economy in a sustainable manner that is respectful of the nation’s social, economic and environmental needs.”

The agreement was signed by President Perit David Xuereb and Deputy President Ms Marisa Xuereb on behalf of the Malta Chamber and President Simone Vella Lenicker and Vice President & Treasurer Andre Pizzuto on behalf of the Kamra tal-Periti.

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry is the independent voice of the private sector in Malta. Its principal mission is to actively represent companies from all economic sectors and ensure that entrepreneurs enjoy the best competitive environment and regulatory conditions possible for the conduct of business. The Chamber was set up in 1848, and is the longest established Social Partner in Malta. It is the only Employer organisation that is recognised by the Laws of Malta (Commercial Code Cap 13).

The Kamra tal-Periti traces its roots to the former Chamber of Architects which was established in 1920 to serve as a body for the self-regulation of one of the oldest established professions. The Kamra is somewhat unique amongst similar professional organisations in Malta since its regulatory remit and functions arise from specific Legislation (Subsidiary Legislation 390.01). 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.

 

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PR 29/19 | Sustainable Communities – Winners of design competition announced

The winners of the first design competition organised by the Kamra tal-Periti were announced on Monday 7th October 2019. The competition was organised as part of the policy “Sustainable Communities: Housing for Tomorrow”, spearheaded by the Housing Authority and the Parliamentary Secretariat for Social Accommodation.

Following a call for applications, two NGOs were selected by the Specialised Housing Board to take forward their proposals. Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl proposed a project which focuses on the provision of supportive housing and therapeutic services to prisoners and their families, with an aim to create a homely domestic and child-friendly environment which supports integration and which emulates real life scenarios. The Richmond Foundation’s project aims to offer support to homeless mothers with mental health problems and their children, through an integrative approach towards housing and service provision which will enable them to achieve independent living.

The NGOs were then allocated a dilapidated property each, one in Birgu and one in Bormla, and the Kamra tal-Periti launched the design competition, inviting professionals to put forward their proposals for the rehabilitation of these two buildings in line with the briefs of the two NGOs. Seven proposals were submitted for consideration by the jury, which was composed of Dr Rachael Marie Scicluna representing the Specialised Housing Programme Board, Ms Mariella Mendez Cutajar representing the Specialised Housing Programme Board, Perit Jacques Borg Barthet and Perit Edward Said representing the Kamra tal-Periti, Prof Alex Torpiano representing the Faculty for the Built Environment, Dr Andrea Dibben representing the Faculty for Social Wellbeing and Mr Caldon Mercieca representing Valletta Design Cluster.

The jury was very impressed with the high calibre and attention to detail that each project was given by all submissions which, in one way or another, engaged seriously with the core criteria of the competition in terms of innovation, conceptual strength and response to the brief. This made the selection process more laborious but also exciting.

The winning proposal for the Richmond Foundation project was titles “Home: An Active Threshold for Belonging” and was submitted by Local Office. The jury selected this project for the sense of home embedded in the overall design. Motherhood, daily domestic rituals, and children’s needs informed the core design. The depth of research and awareness to mental health considerations, the regard for process pre- and post-occupancy and the overall attention to social, functional and budgetary aspects were exemplary. The user-centred design was brought out through a sensitive interplay between the self and domestic daily rhythms, with architectural specificity. Overall, the design proposal demonstrated a strong social research basis, and a careful balance between the private individual spaces and those fulfilling the needs of the community was handled sensitively. The provision of sanitary facilities, the texture of materials and colour schemes within the separate apartments was also considered important, as was the emphasis on the collaborative workshop both during the design stage as well as during use.

Birgu: The Ordinary House” by openworkstudio was the winner for the project to be led by Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl. The jury selected this project in view of how it transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary through architectural innovation, contemplation and in-depth research. Structural constraints were transformed into a creative and conceptually stimulating design, which breaks away from the traditional setting of supported accommodation. The domestic dimension was carefully choreographed along lines of visibility which maximise space but also offer a sense of privacy and homeliness. Additionally, the use of participatory parity was embedded in the process of building this home, where prisoners will have the possibility to construct their own furniture – a process which in itself instils hope and aspiration to a brighter future. By keeping the retrofitting of the building to a minimum, this project was able to focus on the intimate by opening up spaces that have the potential to heal.

During the award ceremony, Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, President of the Kamra tal-Periti, stressed the importance of design competitions as a means to select projects that are to be executed through public funds, since this process ensures the best quality of design. This first competition organised by the Kamra tal-Periti was particularly important because it will ensure that two vulerable groups within society will be able to benefit from dignified, safe and qualitative accommodation in the coming years, in line with the Kamra’s mission to ensure a quality built environment for the betterment of society.

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PR 28/19 | Kamra tal-Periti celebrates three important dates in its calendar

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The Kamra tal-Periti joins its European and global counterparts in celebrating three important days which remind us of the important role the profession has in ensuring a better environment for all mankind.

 

World Habitat Day 2019

World Habitat Day was established in 1985 by the United Nations General Assembly, and was first celebrated in 1986. The United Nations designated the first Monday of October of every year as World Habitat Day to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It also reminds us that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns.

Building on last year’s theme (Municipal Solid Waste Management), the theme for 2019 is: Frontier Technologies as an innovative tool to transform waste to wealth. Technology has great potential to improve how people work and live, to significantly accelerate efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and address climate change. Frontier technologies, such as automation, robotics, electric vehicles, renewable energy technologies, biotechnologies, and artificial intelligence can transform the social, economic and environmental spheres. They can offer better, cheaper, faster, scalable and easy to use solutions for every-day problems, including waste management. The task ahead is to harness frontier technologies to achieve sustainable waste management while mitigating their possible adverse economic, social and political consequences.

 

World Architecture Day 2019

In 1986, the International Union of Architects (UIA) established World Architecture Day to coincide with World Habitat Day, with the aim to draw the attention of professionals and the public to issues concerning cities and housing. The theme chosen for 2019 is “Architecture … housing for all”.

More than one billion of the 7.5 billion human beings on our planet live in places they build for themselves, using whatever materials they can scavenge, on whatever land they can claim, often tenuously. Millions lack permanent shelter altogether, as refugees and persons displaced by conflict and calamity. Architects around the world will be considering how design has an essential role in alleviating human suffering, reducing planetary burdens, and enhancing the quality of life for everyone.

 

European Engineers Day 2019

Every 5th October, the European engineering organisations ECEC (European Council of Engineers Chambers), FEANI (European Federation of National Engineering Associations), ECCE (European Council of Civil Engineers), together with ENAEE (European Network for Accreditation of Engineering Education) celebrate European Engineers Day to draw attention to the importance of securing the availability of excellent engineering solutions in Europe. The impact of engineering is visible in every aspect of human life, through increasingly more sophisticated inventions, techniques and equipment, and this Day is a good opportunity to remind the profession of the importance of achieving excellence in their respective fields.

 

For further information visit:

https://www.un.org/en/events/habitatday/

http://zvin.mjt.lu/nl2/zvin/l6wv2.html?hl=fr