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PR 14/19 | Avoidance of damage to third party property – new regulations

Verzjoni bil-Malti

On the 13th June 2019, Government halted all demolition and excavation works in the country as an emergency action in view of the recent spate of structural collapses which occurred adjacent to construction sites, a measure which the Council of the Kamra tal-Periti understood to be necessary due to the potential risks to public safety resulting from the lack of adequate regulation and of which it immediately informed periti. That day the Prime Minister announced that new regulations would be published regarding excavation and demolition works to address a number of issues. Draft amendments to the Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations were published on Monday 17th June 2019, and concern the following main aspects:

  • The definition of site responsibilities, in particular those of the site manager;
  • Increase in insurance cover and requirement for its renewal;
  • The process for the submission of the method statement and condition report, including regarding the need and frequency of geological and geotechnical surveys;
  • Exemptions; and
  • Penalties.

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti together with its team of technical experts has reviewed the proposed draft, and has this morning issued a preliminary position to all periti. This will be discussed and approved at an Extraordinary General Meeting to be held on Friday 21st June 2019. Periti have been given until Thursday at noon to submit their comments in writing to the Council, following which a final draft will be circulated.

The following is an Executive Summary of the Kamra’s initial reactions:

  1. The rush to implement these piecemeal changes to the regulatory regime that governs the building industry is ill-thought. Our regulations and legislative instruments need a complete overhaul, as the Kamra has repeatedly stated since 2007. Attempting to amend the current regulations without having considered their impact on other pieces of legislation as well as on current practices and capacity of the industry is a recipe for further confusion and lack of clarity, rather than addressing the issues of safety which these changes purport to address. Even if the purported aim is to address the dangerous process of demolitions and excavations adjacent to existing properties, the Legal Notice proposes to address all other construction activities, but, at the same time, fails to address the other dangerous process of loading party walls, and their foundations, designed to carry two or three storeys, by many more floors.
  2. The amendments claim to clarify the roles of the figures engaged on a site. However, there are glaring incongruencies with roles defined in other legislation, and rather than clarifying, the proposals introduce new roles without defining appropriate competences, while ignoring the existence of figures already defined in other legislation, such as licenced masons. It also ignores the blatant lacuna regarding the legal obligation for registration of contractors, who are liable, as per Civil Law, jointly with the perit, for the structural integrity of buildings.
  3. The proposed processes for the submission of method statements, geotechnical investigation reports and geotechnical design reports are cumbersome and more intent on establishing who does them, who submits them, when and to whom, than on establishing the criteria for their preparation. The Kamra is of the opinion that this is a result of the lack of research to understand how such instruments are used internationally, and trying to adapt them to the local situation, with no regard for scale or complexity of projects.
  4. The proposed draft seems to imply that the measures proposed therein are to apply retroactively to ongoing projects. This will have implications on the capacity of the industry to respond in a meaningful manner.

In our view, the proposed Legal Notice in its current form is not acceptable. The full version of the Kamra’s analysis on the draft will be published at the end of the consultation process following the EGM.

 

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PR 13/19 | Kamra tal-Periti holding talks with various industry stakeholders

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti has called an Extraordinary General Meeting on Friday 21st June 2019 to discuss the state of the construction industry. The purpose of the meeting is to update its members on the developments that have occurred over the past few weeks, the progress made on its public consultation document A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework for Malta following its publication in May, closing talks held over recent months with government about the updated Periti Act, and to consult on the draft regulations to be published on Monday by government following the temporary suspension of demolition and excavation works.

Meanwhile, the Kamra tal-Periti is also holding talks with various industry stakeholders about its reform proposals. The consultation meeting scheduled with the MDA for the end of the month has been brought forward to Tuesday, 18th June. The Kamra tal-Periti and the MDA have reached an understanding that in this critical juncture for the industry, it is important to converge towards a common position for the good of the country. Further meetings are also scheduled to take place with the Chamber of Engineers, the Chamber of Commerce, and the BICC.

The events of the past weeks have thrown a spotlight on the industry as a whole, including on the profession, which most certainly has its own responsibilities to carry with regard to the current state of affairs, as do all the other operators involved. The issues we are facing are complex, and the fast pace of the industry is stretching resources beyond capacity, yet none of this justifies relaxation of standards and lack of diligence.

This is a crucial moment for the industry to come together and seek convergence, and the Kamra will continue to take a leading role in ensuring that this takes place.

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PR 12/19 | The Building and Construction Industry is in Crisis

Verzjoni bil-Malti

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti is shocked to wake up this morning to the news of yet another serious incident which involved the collapse of a building in Mellieha.

The facts of the case are still emerging, yet it is evident that this incident and similar ones in the past months are a direct symptom of the chaos that prevails in the construction industry.

The Kamra tal-Periti has been calling for a complete overhaul of our regulatory systems since 2007, yet nothing has materialised to date. At the end of 2018, Government proposed the establishment of a Building and Construction Authority, a proposal which the Kamra had supported, however this is still in the early stages of formulation and is not envisaged to be established before the end of the year.

In May, the Kamra tal-Periti issued its detailed proposals for a modern building and construction regulation framework. A preliminary introduction to these proposals was presented to the Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Property Market, the Honourable Chris Agius, and to the Building Industry Consultative Council (BICC), however detailed discussions have yet to commence. The proposals were endorsed by the profession last November, and presented to various stakeholders in the past weeks. The Kamra has received very positive feedback and looks forward to taking these proposals forward with government.

The efforts which are being made are feeble. The only proposal that was announced since the Guardamangia collapse was the exploration of the setting up of a Considerate Constructors Scheme, an as yet insufficient local interpretation of a similar scheme in the UK. The proposed Scheme appears to be merely intended to tie contractors to a code of ethics on a purely voluntary basis rather than strengthening the regulatory system and accountability of industry operators across the board, thus providing further loopholes in the system.

Delay is not an option. The industry is in crisis. We have a complete lack of regulation of contractors, a complete lack of adequate competencies among the workforce, confusion about the various roles and responsibilities on construction sites, building regulations which date back to the 19th century, as well as a serious lack of enforcement. Unless we take immediate action, matters will only get worse.

In view of this, the Kamra tal-Periti has requested an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss a way forward. The meeting is expected to take place next week.

 

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PR 09/19 | Building Industry is regulated by 22 entities

Verzjoni bil-Malti

On the 26th April 2019, the Council of the Kamra tal-Periti met with a delegation of the Partit Nazzjonalista, headed by Party Leader Dr Adrian Delia, who highlighted a number of issues which the Party considers to be of utmost importance, including the need to shift from a mindset of development permitting to one of planning, and the importance of quality in the building industry. Dr Delia also highlighted the need for a long term vision for the country, and stated that the Party will insist that all the necessary technical and environmental studies related to the proposed link between Malta and Gozo are published prior to a final decision being taken.

Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, President of the Kamra tal-Periti, noted that the Chamber presented its proposals for an overhaul of the building and construction regulations to Government just two weeks ago. These proposals were approved by the profession at a General Meeting held last November, and were positively received by the Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius. These proposals will ensure better quality in the industry and will bring it firmly into the 21st century.

She also emphasised that shifting from a mindset of development permitting to one of strategic and local planning is imperative to ensure that the urban quality within our towns and villages is not lost forever.

With regard to the proposed Malta-Gozo tunnel, Perit Vella Lenicker reiterated the position of the Kamra that the studies should be carried out and published before any decisions are taken. She also stated that it was worrying that motions had to be passed in Parliament to ensure that all regulations and legislative requirements are adhered to, and this further emphasised the need for an urgent review of the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development and the translation of the Plan into the Local Plans, both of which are now practically obsolete.

A number of other issues were discussed, including the need for an architecture policy, a landscape policy and a skyline policy, as well as the need to introduce a culture of design competitions for projects which are funded by public money.

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti also presented its vision, as a member of the Architects’ Council of Europe, for the upcoming MEP elections, including the need to achieve a better quality of the built environment, the need to secure affordable housing of high quality, the need to re-think the connection between climate change and the built environment and the need to improve education and up-skilling across the sector.

The delegation of the Kamra tal-Periti included also Perit André Pizzuto (Vice President and Treasurer), Professor Alex Torpiano (Past President), and Council Members Periti Sandro Cini, Gaston Camilleri and Alberto Miceli Farrugia.

 

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PR 08/19 | The inadequacy of building and construction regulations

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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PR 07/19 | Kamra tal-Periti presents its vision for national building and construction regulation

Verzjoni bil-Malti

Yesterday (11th April 2019), members of the Council of the Kamra tal-Periti presented the Chamber’s vision for an overhaul of the current building regulations, which are both outdated and insufficient to ensure the highest standards of quality in the construction industry. This vision was presented to the Honourable Mr Chris Agius, Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Property Market, representatives of the Building Regulation Office (BRO) and the Building Industry Consultative Council (BICC), as well as consultants appointed by Government to oversee the establishment of a new Authority which is intended to regulate the industry.

Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, President of the Kamra tal-Periti, explained that the proposals being presented were approved by an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Chamber held last November, and confirmed the Kamra’s full availability to participate in discussions regarding the formulation of new building regulations, as well as the technical expertise of its members to ensure the highest standards within the sector.

Vice President Perit André Pizzuto gave an extensive presentation of the Kamra’s position, starting with an overview of the current situation and its limitations. He then went on to outline the Kamra’s proposals which include the consolidation of various regulators within the new Authority, the dire need for a comprehensive register of contractors, the importance of contemporary regulations which are not prescriptive but performance-based, and the promotion of a self-regulatory approach by the various professionals involved in the construction process.

The Kamra’s proposals were received positively, and discussions will continue in the coming months to ensure full synergy between the profession and the government’s advisors.

 

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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.

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