Updated | Proposed amendments to building regulations published for public consultation

An increase in fines and a requirement for contractors to upload method statements online for third parties to view are among the new rules being proposed

The new regulations come after the country experienced three series collapses in a period of only two months
The new regulations come after the country experienced three series collapses in a period of only two months

A set of new rules to govern the construction industry were published on Monday for public consultation.

The proposed amendments come less than a week after the wall of a home neighbouring a construction site collapsed, forcing a family out of its home. The incident was the third over a period of two-month.

Speaking after a meeting with industry stakeholders last week, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the consultation would remain open till Friday with the view of having the rules approved by the following week. 

In a statement, the Infrastructure Ministry said the new rules aim to increase safety on building and construction sites, as well as safeguard third party property rights.

The ministry said that the regulations will be added to the legal notice dealing with the avoidance of damage to third party property. It added that the proposed amendments would seek to have the roles and responsibilities of any professionals involved in any works related to construction and excavation to be “clarified as much as possible”.

“There should also be more clarity with regard to the right of recourse methods and/or fines to be applied if an individual, professional, contractor or anyone else involve in any such works defaults on the said roles and responsibilities,” the ministry said.

It added that, in particular, it will now be mandatory for a competent site manager to be “present on site from the very outset to monitor all key decisions”. 

Prior to the commencement of excavation works, the proposals include the need for an architect to prepare a geotechnical design report, which if necessary should also be supported by a geological survey. The report, the ministry said, will be the responsibility of the architect who drafts it.

The report will have to establish the rock characteristics, the geometry of the rock and whether it has any fissures in order to determine the foundation stability, the strength of the rock and the load paths of surrounding building.

All this, the ministry said, will have to be noted in the geotechnical design report which all developers will be required to submit through an architect.

“The geotechnical design report is of fundamental importance because it is only after such analysis that the architect will be in a position to indicate exactly the type of machinery that could be used and the measures that should be taken during the course of excavation works,” the ministry said.

“The arbitrary use of machinery such as trenchers and chainsaws close to party walls, in the absence of geotechnical design report is being prohibited.”

Moreover, the ministry noted that “the architect who endorses the geotechnical design report must also ensure that the recommendations are taken on board”.

Reacting to the new regulations, Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi said that the regulations announced today had eliminated the requirement introduced by the last Nationalist administration for a geological investigation to be carried out prior to excavation. 

"This has serious implications for the safety of thrid party property. The geological investigation caluse should have been strengthened, not removed," Azzopadi said.

He added that references to a geoligical investigation had been removed with the only reference now being to a geological design report, which he said was something already done by the architect. 

"What was required was the strengthening of the geological investigation to prevent ground failure during or soon after excavation, as happened recently. This legislation removed the geological investigation requirement," Azzopardi said. "This is a step backwards."

Some of the main changes being proposed:

  • Site manager must now be an architect or a person certified as competent by an architect and must sign the method statement for any works
  • Site manager must be present when all crucial decisions are being taken, including any decision affecting third party properties  
  • Site manager will have to be present for any inspection of third party property
  • Minimum required insurance coverage will increase from €500,000 to €750,000 and must remain in place until all works are certified to have been completed
  • Method statement must be signed by the site manager
  • A geotechnical design report must be prepared by an architect before any type of excavation and if necessary this will need to be supported by a geological survey
  • Method statements must be uploaded online at least two weeks before works start
  • Residents will be able to ask for work to be stopped if the method statement is not being followed
  • Condition reports must be sent to residents by architects at least two weeks before works start
  • Fines for not abiding by method statement to increase from €500 to €10,000
  • Fines for ignoring notice to stop works to increase from €1,200 to €50,000

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