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

Verżjoni bil-Malti

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.

 

 

 

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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 10/18 | Feedback on White Paper – Renting as a Housing Alternative

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti congratulates the Hon. Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes and his research team on the quality and thoroughness of the consultation process carried out regarding the White Paper titled: Renting as a Housing Alternative. This commendable effort should be set as a benchmark and a best-practice example for public consultation processes undertaken by other public entities in the future.

The White Paper is a well-researched and well-founded document. It properly identifies the problems with the rental market in Malta, and sets out a strategy to tackle these problems whilst keeping a balance between the interests of landlords and tenants. The impact of the current rental/housing crisis is clearly and frankly outlined. The White Paper argues that the causes for the rental crisis lie both in the “burgeoning economy” but also in changing household composition.

The White Paper quotes an increase in “family breakdowns” and “single individuals”, as one of the primary causes. However, the analysis of the quoted statistics shows that this trend, although significant, is of the same order of magnitude as the number of applicants under the IIP, and many orders of magnitude lower than the impact of the rapid expansion of the foreign labour market.

Nevertheless, the range of proposals outlined in the White Paper appear to have been carefully crafted to address current issues, without heavily intervening in market forces. This is commendable since heavy market intervention has proven unsuccessful in the past, in Malta and elsewhere. It remains to be seen whether the proposals will be sufficient to correct the current crisis.

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti put forward various suggestions and observations on a number of matters in reaction to the White Paper, including on the following:

  • Rent subsidies, which the Kamra suggests should be converted to a housing allowance, similar to the British housing benefit, while however keeping in mind the risk that increasing liquidity in the rental market coupled with sustained population growth would result in further inflationary pressures;
  • The right of the landlord to withdraw from contracts in certain cases, which may give rise to abuse, since the objectives of the proposed regulation may be completely circumvented;
  • Pre-1995 leases, which are not addressed in the White Paper;
  • Affordable housing, which the White Paper terms as “the ultimate solution to the rental problem”, and the proposal for a “third sector” of housing provision, using innovative housing foundations or associations, or Public-Private Partnerships;
  • The introduction of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), which the Kamra believes to be long overdue;
  • Reliance on private supply, which the White Paper declares to have “failed”, and which in the Kamra’s opinion is a result of the complete absence of the role of urban planning in addressing the housing crisis, and the absence of measures to create affordable housing through the planning gain instrument;
  • Social housing, which is sometimes confused with “affordable housing”, is a solution which the Kamra sees as a temporary solution for those citizens who require it until they are able to move on to better prospects, and the suggestion that schemes for people to buy out their allocated “social” housing should be discontinued, since this effectively diminishes Government’s social housing stock, and, as has happened in the past, effectively allows people to profit off public resources;
  • The introduction of habitability and quality standards, which the Kamra agrees should be introduced without delay since the current crisis is not only due to high rental prices, but also the poor quality of the part of the supply;
  • The importance of placing greater emphasis on the curbing of discriminatory practices against minorities and socially disadvantaged members of society, including low-income earners;
  • The compulsory registration of contracts of lease, which the Kamra supports completely; and
  • The proposed establishment of a Rent Agency, and the Kamra’s opinion that rather than establishing a new agency, the Housing Authority should be thoroughly reformed such that the regulation of the housing sector becomes its primary function.

 

The Kamra tal-Periti considers the White Paper as a positive document which, on the basis of detailed research, proposes a number of regulatory mechanisms to address the current housing crisis. The proposed mechanisms now have to be fine-tuned and embraced by the political leadership.

 

 

 

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PR 08/18 | Launch of the Premju Emanuele Luigi Galizia 2019

Launch of the Premju Emanuele Luigi Galizia 2019

The Kamra tal-Periti will be launching the second edition of the Premju Emanuele Luigi Galizia on Friday 5th October 2018, to coincide with World Habitat Day and World Architecture Day which will be celebrated on the 1st October, and with European Engineers Day which is celebrated on the 5th October. The award scheme will be launched during the opening of an exhibition of theses and dissertations by the latest cohort of Master graduates from the Faculty for the Built Environment. A shortlist of the submitted work will be established by the jury, and the selected students invited to present their work to the jurors during the following week. The winners will be announced during the final Awards Ceremony of the Premju Emanuele Luigi Galizia to be held in June 2019.

The exhibition of the students’ work will be open to the public during Notte Bianca on the 6th October 2018 at the University of Malta, Valletta Campus.

 

World Habitat Day, World Architecture Day and Europan Engineers Day 2018

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.

This year’s theme is Municipal Solid Waste Management, a global issue that affects everyone. The amount of waste produced by individuals is growing daily and often costs local authorities a large proportion of their budget. Poor solid waste collection and disposal can lead to serious health problems from uncontrolled dump sites and waste burning. It also leads to polluted air and water.

A change in public attitudes to minimise waste and stop littering, increased recycling and reusing, sufficient funding, solid waste planning including adequate landfill sites, can help cities to improve the current state of solid waste management and save money to become ‘Waste-Wise Cities’.

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 2018 is “Architecture … for a Better World”.

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.

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PR 07/18 | KTP welcomes White Paper on Building & Construction Authority

The Kamra tal-Periti welcomes the White Paper issued for consultation by the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects for the setting up of a Building and Construction Authority. The consolidation of the various fragmented pieces of legislation, bodies and departments regulating the industry under one legislative and administrative umbrella is a positive development towards ensuring higher standards in the building and construction industry, to bring it in line with modern practice and standards, and to ensure the protection and sustainability of the significant investment made when properties are bought or rented out.

For many years now, the Kamra has struggled to impress upon the authorities the importance of separating planning development issues from those related to standards and regulations of buildings, not just at inception, but right through to end-of-life considerations. The Kamra has repeatedly called for the introduction of a full suite of building and construction regulations, backed up by a properly resourced Building Regulation Office. The principles outlined in the White Paper are aligned with the views of the Kamra tal-Periti, and, we believe, augur well for the industry. The Authority, if backed by all the necessary human, financial and technological resources, has the potential to make a significant contribution towards a better quality in our built environment. The Authority will, we believe, give additional impetus to the efforts of BICC, over the past years, to foster the right technical skills within the industry. We believe that only in this way can it be expected that every actor in the industry can take responsibility for what he or she does.

The Kamra tal-Periti will be shortly publishing a Policy Framework Document about this very subject, on which it has been working for the past months, to provide an analysis of the current situation, together with a framework for proposed reforms. It trusts that such a document will enable Government to attain the goals it has set in the White Paper, for the sake of the industry and its clients. The Kamra tal-Periti reiterates its full commitment and support to the Government in successfully implementing its vision, as expressed by the setting up of the Building & Construction Authority.

Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations revised

The Building Regulation Office, BRO, has announced that new regulations on Energy Performance of Buildings have now come into force. Published in L.N. 47 of 2018, they differ from the previous regulations as follows:

  1. EPB assessors shall be in possession of a warrant.
  2. A revision of the list of buildings exempted from the requirement to comply with the minimum energy performance requirements set out in Technical Document F (Part 1 and Part 2) and from the requirement of an EPC has been made.
  3. The requirement of a compliance certificate drawn up by the responsible architect or engineer declaring that a new building (or a building undergoing a major renovation) complies with the minimum energy performance requirements set out in Technical Document F (Part 1 and Part 2) has been introduced.
  4. When a building is sold or rented, the owner shall provide the buyer or the tenant with an EPC at the latest before the date of entering the promise of sale or rent agreement.
  5. For new buildings, a design-rating EPC shall be available just prior to obtaining a full development permit from the Planning Authority.
  6. Designers of new buildings shall ensure that various energy efficiency measures are taken into account (Alternative systems – Article 6).
  7. Setting of different deadlines for nZEB:
    – new public buildings by 31 December 2018
    – all other new buildings by 31 December 2020.
  8. Buildings having an EPC being advertised for sale or for rent shall include the energy performance rating in the advert in compliance with the ‘Advertising Requirements Guidelines’.
  9. A legal framework has been provided for the implementation of inspections of heating and air-conditioning systems.