Architects urge gov’t to enter discussions in light of public safety

(source: Unsplash/Daniel McCullough)

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 June, 2019 at 9:21 pm by Christian Keszthelyi

The approximately 400 Maltese architects attending the Extraordinary General Meeting organised by Kamra tal-Periti on 21 June unanimously agreed that public safety is paramount, according to a press statement sent to Business Malta. They also urged the government to enter into discussions with the Kamra, which is the association representing the profession in Malta.

The EGM stressed that no effort should be spared to ensure that the safety of people in their homes, and their quality of life, are the topmost priority of all involved in the construction industry, including the respective regulators.

The EGM also reiterated the profession’s full commitment to ensure public safety and urged the government to enter into discussions with the Kamra, as the sole and legal representative of the profession, rather than depend on advisors or entities which may not be adequately familiar with the technical and engineering aspects of the construction process.

The EGM was called 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. After consulting architects, the chamber also issued a preliminary position prior to the EGM.

“The time is long overdue for the government to properly address in a holistic manner, the problems besetting the construction industry, and not through a piecemeal approach,” the Kamra stresses after the EGM. “Hastily drafted and ill-thought revisions to a Legal Notice will not serve to ensure public safety, but rather serves only to confuse the various roles and responsibilities on construction sites. In particular, the EGM emphasised that under Malta’s Civil Code there are only two figures responsible for construction work, namely the Perit and the Contractor,” the statement notes.

“Consequently, the role of a site manager, as conceived in the Legal Notice, could only be assumed to be within the contractor’s setup, since the Contractor was obliged at law to understand and follow the instructions issued by the perit [Maltese word for architect], and be sufficiently knowledgeable to understand the significance of such instructions,” the press statement adds.

Taking responsibility

During the EGM, architects reaffirmed their commitment to take full responsibility for the tasks that were within their remit. They, however, demanded that the Maltese government “stops dragging its feet, and immediately takes the necessary steps to ensure that the framework which allows periti [architects] to ensure public safety is in place and effective.”

After the EGM, the association representing Maltese architects has come forward with the following demands:

  • adoption of the amendments to the Periti Act, that the Kamra tal-Periti has been insisting on for the last 12 years, be approved, in full consultation with the Kamra;
  • that the government enters into immediate discussions with the Kamra, on the Building and Construction Regulation Framework it has proposed, and to agree on its implementation within a reasonable timeframe;
  • that, even before the setting up of the Building and Construction Authority, a proposal which the Kamra has supported since its inception, the government immediately provides the Building Regulation Office with all the necessary financial, human, and technical resources it requires to deal with its workload;
  • and finally, that the government implements the obligations of the regulator as far as concerns the certification of all building products, both produced locally or imported, as required by the Laws of Malta since 2011.

Furthermore, the chamber says that any Legal Notice should, rather than contain technical detail that is better placed in building regulations, include provisions that empower the architect to suspend works, and lodge a report with the Building Regulations Office, without having to relinquish their commission, if the contractor or developer refuse to comply with the architect’s instructions on matters relating to structural integrity, the press statement adds.

Finally, the architects demand a clear separation between planning application and permitting processes, and the processes by which building and construction are notified, regulated and monitored. “Nearly five years have been wasted as a result of the misguided advice given to the government that the two processes should be brought together under the remit of the Planning Authority,” the press statement by the Kamra underscores.

The Maltese government halted all demolition and excavation works in the country on 13 June 2019, as an emergency action in view of the recent spate of structural collapses which occurred adjacent to construction sites. The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti considered this measure necessary, due to the potential risks to public safety. Therefore, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that new regulations would be published regarding excavation and demolition works, in order to address a number of issues.

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