Building collapse: Architect who certified excavation works as safe is project business partner

The architect who certified the Santa Venera excavation works as having a low risk for third party collapse turns out to be a shareholder in the company behind the project

Rescuers slowly remove rubble from the collapsed house to try and find the woman that was buried under the debris. The house was adjacent to a construction site where excavation works and construction were approved last January.
Rescuers slowly remove rubble from the collapsed house to try and find the woman that was buried under the debris. The house was adjacent to a construction site where excavation works and construction were approved last January.

The architect who certified the Santa Venera construction site at the centre of a collapsed building as safe, is a shareholder in the company behind the development.

Architect Roderick Camilleri turns out to be a minority shareholder in MCZMC Developers Ltd run by Malcolm Mallia, a council member of the Malta Developers Association.

The construction site which abuts on two roads in Santa Venera is adjacent to the house and showroom that collapsed on Monday afternoon burying a woman underneath the rubble.

Camilleri drew up the method statement for the excavation works and would have had to evaluate the risks involved under new rules approved last year, following a series of building collapses.

But Camilleri is not simply the project architect but according to the Malta Business Registry a shareholder in the company behind the development, raising questions over a potential conflict of interest.

Camilleri is one of seven shareholders, with a 10% stake to his name. He is not a director and his shareholding is probably one way of getting paid for his services.

The other shareholders are Malcolm Mallia, Matthias Mallia, Elton-Joseph Caruana, Amanda Muscat, Christopher Zarb and Simon Zarb. All of these are company directors.

Excavation works on the construction site started last month after the development permit was granted in January this year.

In the section on risks involved of the method statement for excavation works, Camilleri wrote: “The adjacent properties are low lying structures, and as a result there are no major loads imposed on the rock surface for the time being. Consequently, the chance of any unplanned collapse of the third party structures is a minimum.”

The development covers a site measuring 1,326sq.m that consisted of a series of dilapidated stores at ground level behind a large garden.

The six-storey development consists of four shops and overlying apartments and includes two basement garages for 59 cars.

The Building Regulation Office issued a clearance for the development on 31 January following the presentation of a method statement by the developer.

Photos of the disaster area show that it was the side wall of the building abutting onto the excavated site that collapsed, pulling down the internal ceiling and roof.

Stricter rules governing demolition and excavation were introduced last year after three major incidents that involved building collapses next to excavation sites.

However, civil society groups like Graffitti and Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar denounced the rules as cosmetic and doing nothing to curb the industry’s rush to build.

More in National