A new dawn for our construction industry?

With the construction sector experiencing a resurgence in growth, it is bound to have a detrimental impact on the environment

We now have, at least on paper, new laws and regulations based on what is supposed to be a robust regulatory and legislative framework aimed at having better, more qualified, skilled, professional, and responsible activity within the construction sector. Yet, was that enough, and, that notwithstanding, are there still any downsides to our construction industry?

From deteriorating infrastructure to the explosion of urban housing and office demand in Malta, the construction industry is continuing to be poised for significant growth. This should sound incredibly promising, not just for the architecture, engineering, and construction space, which will, quite literally, ‘build’ the output, but for aftermarket players too, such as the local property management companies, subsequent contractors, and others. However, despite a promising outlook, the industry will have challenges making the most of the upturn in infrastructure demand.

Yes, it is a great time to be in construction. Private construction spending is higher than it has ever been, and there is no sign of a slowdown coming any time soon. However, construction problems have always existed, and an uptick in the market has not magically made them disappear. In fact, increased spending in the private construction sector can even make some of these problems worse. In other words, construction is great right now, but it is not all roses. The industry will have to deal with its fair share of thorns.

Malta is changing fast, and with it, laws and guidelines related to construction change. Adding to that, the growing number of cross-state or multinational construction companies will have to balance all kinds of competing laws and regulations that deal with construction to varying degrees.

It is a lot to keep up with, and even if a lot of time and resources are available to devote to this particular issue, one can easily miss a notification about a change in the current laws or an entirely new rule. When that happens, anyone involved in the construction can get to the end of a project and be slapped with the shocking realisation that countless thousands of euros have just been lost because one will have to go back and remedy the issue.

Material orders, receipts, contracts, construction drawings, insurance confirmations, and more—these are the files in the documents that cover most construction company managers’ desks. It is a lot to manage, and failing to manage it properly can lead to extremely serious construction problems.

Scheduling is one of the most frustrating construction problems to date. Why? Because the advent of all kinds of automation and related technology has not solved the problem of getting people to show up when they say they are going to, general contractors know this well. It is impossible to have certain subcontractors on the site at the same time, as it will risk work conflicts or injuries. Even when everyone is led to agree on a date and time ahead of time, there will inevitably be a conflict or someone calling and saying they are not going to make it. Furthermore, construction companies are now known for being slow to adopt new technologies, many of which could cut costs and improve efficiency.

Communication is important in almost any industry, but in construction, it is absolutely critical. That does not mean, however, that it is always done right on or off the building site. In fact, communication is one of the biggest problems most professionals in this industry face. Communication problems can take different forms. Workers may be relying on word of mouth to communicate critical job site information, or they may be using apps or platforms to communicate that inherently leave particular staff members out of the loop. Meanwhile, communication between various subcontractors and general contractors is notorious for being difficult, if not sometimes impossible. And subcontractors are not the only thing one has to deal with in this arena. They also have to schedule their own people, who, thanks to a construction labour shortage, are already stretched thin.

Now that the radical regulatory and legislative reforms have been finalised, we can be sure that the blame game will eventually be played. Expect most of them to be pointing at someone else when something goes wrong. The problem is that there are so many people to shift the blame to when something goes wrong that detecting and identifying responsibility and liability becomes a problem.

Of course, the environmental impact will remain. With the construction sector experiencing a resurgence in growth, it is bound to have a detrimental impact on the environment. The construction sector uses tonnes of materials a year, many of which have an adverse impact on the environment. The products used during a particular construction job can also have an impact on the surrounding environment due to the extraction of raw materials. Similarly, a number of tools and resources regularly used by contract workers and construction firms, such as chemicals on site and even the fuel used by diggers and trucks, can significantly harm public health and the environment.

The construction industry will remain one of the main drivers of the Maltese economy. We do not know what shape it will take in the coming years, but the general public expects all involved to ensure that they carry out their practical and professional duties well and that they are graceful and pleasing in doing so. Would that be asking too much of them?