Architects propose solutions addressing industry slowdown

Extraordinary general meeting by the Kamra tal-Periti. (source: Kamra tal-Periti)

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Over 400 Maltese architects attended the Kamra tal-Periti’s recent Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) that highlighted the importance of safety, registration, licensing and classification of contractors, according to a press statement sent to Business Malta. The Kamra tal-Petiti has also drafted proposals for a new Legal Notice to outline the processes and requirements needed to achieve such goals.

This Extraordinary General Meeting was the second in three weeks, the first meeting was held on 21 June. Both of these meetings stressed the importance of safety and avoidance of damage to third-party property.

Substantial progress has been made since the last EGM, states Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, President of the Kamra tal-Periti. Concerns addressed in the last EGM are now included in the current Legal Notice 136, regarding the Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property. The Kamra’s insistence that registration, licensing and classification were needed for safety and quality on construction site brought about the setting up of a register of contractors, which was announced Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects Ian Borg and parliamentary secretary Chris Aguis together with the Kamra tal-Periti and the Malta Developers Association. The register will be followed up later this year by the establishment of a system of licensing and classification.

The Kamra tal-Periti has drafted proposals for a new Legal Notice which are expected to address the current decline being experienced by the industry following the introduction of the new regulations on 25 June, particularly on sites where demolition and excavation works cannot proceed without the appointment of a Site Technical Officer, says the press release sent to BM. Discussions are currently underway with the government on these proposals.

The proposed system will start off with three Registers: Building Construction, Excavation and Demolition Contractors, stated Perit André Pizzuto, Vice President of the Kamra tal-Periti. These are further classified on the basis of risk, namely High, Medium and Low Risk. The perit [Maltese word for architect] in charge of a new project would commission or carry out a risk assessment and indicate the type of contractors required to carry out the planned works, according to the press release.

The Site Technical Officer introduced in the Legal Notice is still maintained, however, the minimum qualifications held by such person would depend on the risk category in which the contractor is registered.

During the EGM it was agreed that a number of points with regard to Legal Notice 136 of 2019 need to be addressed without further delay. These mainly include: the role, responsibilities and competencies of the Site Technical Officer; a clear distinction between the works specifications that must be prepared by a perit, and the method statement which must be prepared by the contractor in order to state how the specifications are to be implemented and achieved; a clearer distinction between temporary and permanent works; and also the removal of various inconsistencies between the Maltese and English versions of the Legal Notice. The Kamra tal-Periti will be requesting further meetings with government to address such issues, says the press release.

Support from international associations

The Kamra tal-Periti has received letters of support for its position from the international community of architects, in which they were praised for their work on ensuring that historically established lines of responsibility on construction sites, in accordance with international practice in all developed countries, are maintained and strengthened.

“The Union commends the profession as it advocates clear and rigorous guidelines describing the responsibilities of the various stakeholders on construction sites in the interests of safety and quality of the built environment,” says Thomas Vonier, President of the International Union of Architects (UIA)

The Union of Mediterranean Architects (UMAR) held their 25th General Assembly in Rome and recognised “the Maltese profession in its efforts to retain its independence and impartiality, and for promoting clear and strong guidelines delineating responsibilities of the various stakeholders on construction sites in the interests of safety and quality of the built environment,” according to Wassim Naghi, President of the UMAR. “The General Assembly also supports the Kamra tal-Periti in its strong calls requesting government to immediately allocate sufficient and adequate resources to the local Regulator in order to allow it to carry out its statutory functions in a timely and efficient manner in the interest of public health and safety on and around construction sites,” notes Mr Naghi.

Turbulent times

After the walls of three buildings collapsed in the past two months in Malta near construction sites, forcing the government to temporarily halt demolition and excavation works, the Kamra called for an extraordinary general meeting.

Prior to the EGM the Kamra published its preliminary position, and after the EGM the Kamra pledged commitment to improving the public safety of citizens and urged the government to enter discussions with the association.

The Kamra also welcomed the recent listing of licensed masons published on the website of the Building Regulation Office (BRO). 

The Kamra sent a letter to the minister, asking to clarify a number of points. At the same time, the Kamra also asked for a meeting prior to the publication of the legal notice.

Kamra tal-Periti met the government to discuss the new regulations that were brought into force, during which the association outlined its issues with the current regulations, and the positions voted upon in the extraordinary general meeting on 21 June.