PR 12/17 | Kamra tal-Periti celebrates World Architecture Day, World Habitat Day and European Engineers Day

World Architecture Day is celebrated on the first Monday of October each year. The theme chosen by the International Union of Architects for this year is “Climate Change Action!” The threat of climate change is real. Rapid urbanisation and building developments are increasing our fuel energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Architects have an important role to play in combating the impact of climate change on the environment and humanity, and are called to mobilise efforts to respond to the initiatives of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

 

The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October as World Habitat Day, and this year’s theme is “Housing Policies: Affordable Homes”. A worldwide analysis of accommodation affordability over the last 20 years reveals that despite increasing demand, residential properties for sale and for rent have been largely unaffordable for the majority of the world population. Ensuring affordability of residential accommodation is a complex issue of strategic importance for development, social peace and equality. Promoting sound housing policies is also crucial for climate change, resilience, mobility and energy consumption.

 

European Engineers Day will be commemorated on the 5th October, and will focus on the theme “Concerns about Engineering Excellence”. The impact of engineers is visible in every aspect of human life, and engineers have the ability to enhance and change society. Many of the challenges faced by society today depend on the availability of excellent engineering solutions, and thus engineers are called to acknowledge this role and to deliver their services and innovative solutions with excellence.

 

All three commemorations have two common threads: the need for architects and engineers to recognise their particular role in society and the influence they have on combating some of the world’s most difficult problems, and the need for quality housing, affordable housing and engineered solutions that improve people’s quality of life and combat climate change.

In order to commemorate these three important dates, the Council of the Kamra tal-Periti, in collaboration with the Society of Architecture and Civil Engineering Students (SACES) will be launching Awards for the graduates of the Faculty for the Built Environment. This is the first time that these Awards are being held, and judging of final year projects and dissertations will take place this week. The students’ work will be exhibited to the public during Notte Bianca on the 7th October through to the 15th October, at the University of Malta Valletta Campus. The winners will be announced during an Awards ceremony to be held in January 2018.

The Kamra tal-Periti is establishing this Awards scheme to celebrate good quality, sustainable, and ethical design in architecture and civil engineering, particularly at a time when the rush to build is not accompanied by sufficient thought and care about what we are leaving behind for future generations.

PR 11/17 | Kamra tal-Periti comments on the proposed amendments to the DNO Classes

Reference is made to the proposed amendments to the Development Notification Order (DNO) and specifically regarding the introduction of two new Classes of development.

Once again, the Kamra tal-Periti notes with deep regret that the Planning Authority persists in failing to consult directly with the primary stake-holders on these proposed amendments to the DNO Class Order. The obligation for consultation with the Kamra and with the Chamber of Planners has been entrenched in planning legislation for decades, and has been reiterated in the recent Development Planning Act. The Kamra fails to understand why the Planning Authority persists in ignoring its obligations at law, in a manner which is, to say the least, unacceptable. This lack of correct procedure in pushing forward these amendments leaves no option but to speculate that these are being presented in order to facilitate some yet to be announced development which would not normally have been permitted without the checks and balances afforded by the Full Development Process.

The very concept, that whole classes of development are so important that they should be allowed without due process and oversight, betrays a worrying and persisting ignorance of the purpose of development planning and planning control. The ultimate objective of the planning process is the creation of an urban and rural environment of higher quality. The ultimate beneficiary of an environment of higher quality is the citizen; and the citizen has the right to an environment of a high quality whether he works in, or lives adjacent to, any class of development, be it industrial, health-related, military, and now police and correctional facilities.

It is important to ask why it is necessary for development carried out by the Director of the Corradino Correctional Facility and by the Malta Police Force to be undertaken through the DNO process rather than through a Full Development Application process or the Summary Application process, which is generally the norm for most types of new development. It is noted, furthermore, that should the Minister responsible for the Prisons or the Police deem the development to be “urgently required for national security reasons”, the development may proceed without even going through the DNO process. Had the proposed changes referred exclusively to internal alterations within either police or correctional facilities, one could understand the reference to “urgency” and DNO; but how could development, which is funded by public funds that have to be approved in Parliament, and procured via normal procurement regulations be so urgent as to make it impossible to allow time for planning scrutiny and oversight?

Although the proposed amendments include an obligation for obtaining prior clearance from the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the Environment and Resources Authority in certain locations, these proposed amendments unnecessarily create scope for abuse. We are all painfully aware of the scar on the Valletta seafront created by the Armed Forces base at Hay Wharf, which circumvented all checks and balances because it was required “for national security reasons” – this development was allowed to take place under the same regulation regime that is being proposed for the Prisons and the Police Force. The complete disregard of the surrounding context manifested by the Authorities and the Minister responsible for the AFM with regard to the Hay Wharf building are a clear warning sign of what can happen when the floodgates are opened for unchecked development which takes place in our historic and natural landscapes.

The disastrous AFM coastal base in Floriana

Moreover, it is to be noted that the DNO process is the only planning application process which does not involve public consultation, and therefore members of the public will have no opportunity to participate in the planning process and to submit their views, objections, and suggestions. These amendments, which do not set any sort of limitation on the size or type of development that may be undertaken through this process, open the door for serious abuse if additional safeguards are not included.

PR 10/17 | KTP congratulates Perit Vincent Cassar on being awarded RIBA President’s Medal

Former KTP president Perit Vincent Cassar has just been awarded the RIBA President’s Medal this evening. This tribute acknowledges the important role that Presidents of Architects’ Institutes across the world make to their professional and social communities, and to their outstanding contribution in driving excellence in architecture both domestically and internationally.

Perit Cassar is well known at both the national and international level. He is a past President of the Kamra tal-Periti, past Council Member, Treasurer and Co-ordinator of a Thematic Area of the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE), and representative of the KTP to the European Council of Civil Engineers (ECCE).

His main achievement at an international level is his current role as President of the Commonwealth Association of Architects (CAA), which position he will hold until 2019.

Perit Cassar receiving the RIBA President’s Medal

Perit Cassar, a graduate in Architecture and Civil Engineering from the University of Malta, joined the Public Service in 1973 as a Junior Architect and Civil Engineer with the then Public Works Department and was assigned to the Schools and Hospital Section. Since then he has worked within other sections of the Public Works organisation and was responsible for various projects including those for housing, healthcare and hospitals, and other major projects of a civil engineering nature such as roads and marine works. Such large scale projects included the design and construction of the Karen Grech Paediatric Hospital and its adjoining Maternity complex, and the construction of Terminal I at the Malta Freeport Container Terminal and the Luqa Air Terminal.

Perit Cassar is currently also Chairman of the Planning Board in Malta.

In a statement to the Kamra tal-Periti, Perit Cassar said, “I dedicate this honour to all my colleagues on the KTP Council and indeed to all periti in Malta and also to all architects around the Commonwealth”.

The Kamra tal-Periti warmly congratulates Perit Cassar on this distinguished award and professional achievement.

PR 09/17 | Periti elected to Maltese Parliament in 2017

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti congratulates Perit Clint Camilleri and Perit Toni Bezzina, who were elected to Parliament during the recent General Election. Perit Clint Camilleri has been appointed as Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights, while Perit Toni Bezzina is the Opposition Spokesperson for Agriculture and Fisheries. The number of Periti MPs has been reduced from five in the previous legislature, by more than half. Nevertheless, the Kamra believes that the two Periti will still have a significant role in promoting the interests of the profession, the quality of life and the environment, and generally in ensuring that Malta achieves its targets of sustainable development.

The Council also extends its acknowledgement to all those Periti who contested the General Election but were unsuccessful in securing a seat in Parliament, namely Periti Carmel Cacopardo, Censu Galea, Graziella Galea, Edric Micallef, George Pullicino, Giorgio Schembri, and David Vassallo. The participation of these members of the profession in the General Election shows that the profession is engaged in the political scene, and that it can contribute to the betterment of Maltese society.

In addition, the Kamra tal-Periti wishes to extend its thanks to Minister Joe Mizzi, with whom it had an excellent relationship during the last legislature particularly regarding discussions on the pending amendments to the Periti Act, and to Dr Deborah Schembri who served as Parliamentary Secretary for Planning during the previous legislature and with whom the Council had several occasions to discuss matters relating to planning policy and regulations.

Finally, the Council of the Kamra tal-Periti wishes to congratulate the Minister Ian Borg and the Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius, who have been entrusted with many of the aspects that directly affect the profession, and with whom the Kamra augurs to enjoy a productive relationship over the coming years.

PR 08/17 | Urgent Call for Building Regulations

The Kamra tal-Periti refers to the front-page article carried on the Times of Malta on 21st June, 2017 reporting the views of the President of the Chamber of Engineers on fire safety in Malta in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The Kamra tal-Periti would like to fully endorse and support the call for proper Building Regulations. The KTP has, over the last years, incessantly made public calls and lobbied successive governments, for the Building Regulation Office to be strengthened and given the resources it needs, so that Malta can finally have modern and appropriate building regulations, covering the full range of health and safety risks faced by building users. Politicians have, unfortunately, found it difficult to understand that Building Regulations, and Building Control, are different to, and separate from, Planning Permit conditions. This failure to understand the industry has resulted in a situation where the need for Building Regulations is treated with indifference – until something happens, and then there is a knee-jerk reaction for the industry to do something.

This lack of awareness has resulted in a piecemeal approach, where various regulations fall under disparate pieces of legislation, weakly attempting at regulating the building industry through the planning process. Sanitary regulations (covering light and ventilation) – conceptually dating from the 19th century – fall, under one law, within the remit of the Planning Authority, and under another law, under that of the Health Department; Fire Safety guidelines fall under the indirect remit of the Civil Protection Department; Lifts Regulations fall under MCCAA; electricity regulations fall under a privatised Enemalta; drainage regulations fall under the Health Department, but also under the Water Services Corporation; accessibility issues are regulated by the KNPD; excavation, demolition and general construction regulations fall under the BRO; while health and safety on construction sites falls under the OHSA.

These organisations have all relied on the planning process to enforce their own regulations to some degree. And the KTP reiterates that this is wrong.

The use, or abuse, of the planning process in this way has brought about three adverse consequences:

  1. The planning regulatory body is heavily focused on development control, to the detriment of its primarily role of vision, strategic planning, drawing up of master and local plans, and promotion of sustainable development;
  2. There is weak statutory focus, oversight and enforcement of building regulations;
  3. In the absence of state support for proper and modern Building Regulations, the professionals must fall back to the identification of foreign standards to apply to local construction, often arbitrarily, and without being sure that they are appropriate for Malta.

With specific reference to fire safety, the Kamra tal-Periti is aware that the Civil Protection Department has reached an advanced stage in the drafting of new regulations, particularly in response to the increased high-rise development. The Kamra tal-Periti would like to, yet again, appeal that such regulations are placed within a holistic and consistent system of Building Regulations, administered by the Building Regulation Office.

The Kamra tal-Periti reiterates its offer to place all its resources, both local and international, at the disposal of Government, to assist in the formulation of such Building Regulations, that would fall under the exclusive remit of the Building Regulation Office, and removed from the planning permit approval processes. It has already requested a meeting with the Minister, newly-appointed to assume political responsibility for this sector and looks forward to meeting him to discuss these important issues.