Updated | ‘Ill-thought’ construction regulation amendments unacceptable, says Chamber of Architects

The chamber said attempting to amend the current regulations without considering the impact on other laws and practices is a recipe for further confusion and lack of clarity

Malta has seen three residential buildings collapse in just two months
Malta has seen three residential buildings collapse in just two months

The Chamber of Architects and Civil Engineers said on Tuesday that amendments to construction sector regulations published by the government on Monday were unacceptable, and a recipe for further confusion and lack of clarity.

Amendments to the regulation were published yesterday for consultation, after all excavation and demolition works were temporarily suspended by the government last week, in the wake of yet another incident involving the collapse of a building neighbouring a construction site.

“The proposed Legal Notice in its current form is not acceptable,” the chamber said, adding that it would be publishing a full analysis of the draft on Friday, the day that the consultation period ends.

In an “executive summary” of its reactions, the chamber insisted that the “rush to implement these piecemeal changes to the regulatory regime that governs the building industry is ill-thought”.

It insisted that the country’s regulations and legislative instruments needed a complete overhaul, as the chamber has been saying since 2007.

“Attempting to amend the current regulations without having considered their impact on other pieces of legislation as well as on current practices and capacity of the industry is a recipe for further condusion and lack of clarity,” it insisted, adding that the proposed amendments would not address issues of safety.  

It said that the amendments failed to address the “dangerous process of loading party walls, and their foundations, two or three storeys, by many more floors”.  

Last month, the chamber presented a range of proposals aimed at bringing the local industry in line with modern practice and standards, while ensuring the protection and sustainability of the investment made when properties are constructed.

READ MORE: Architects present proposal for consolidation of construction industry regulation

Furthermore, regarding the amendments’ aim of clarifying roles of individuals engaged on construction sites, the chamber said there were “glaring incongruences with roles defined in other legislation”.

“Rather than clarifying, the proposals introduce new roles without defining appropriate competences, while ignoring the existence of figures already defined in other legislation, such as licensed masons,” the chamber noted. “It also ignores the blatant lacuna regarding the legal obligation for registration of contractors, who are liable, as per civil law, jointly with the perit, for the structural integrity of buildings.”

It also said that the proposed process for the submission of method statements, geotechnical investigation reports and geotechnical design reports were “cumbersome” and more intent on establishing “who does them, who submits them, when and to whom, than on estabilshing the criteria for their preparation”.

“The Kamra is of the opinion that this is a result of a lack of research to understand how such instruments are used internationally, and trying to adapt them to the local situation, with no regard for scale or complexity of projects,” the chamber said.

Finally, it pointed out that the proposed draft appears to imply that the amendments will apply retroactively to ongoing projects, insisting that this would have implications on the capacity of the industry to respond in a meaningful manner.

New regulations not enough to address current problems – planners                                 

In a separate statement, the Chamber of Planners said the proposed changes were not enough to address the problems being faced by the industry

“Legislation on its own will not resolve the problem that this rush to construct has created,” read the statement.

Among the points raised, was the fact that any new regulations should “promote a precautionary approach” when demolition and excavation works are taking place, irrespective of the distance between such works and adjacent property walls.

The chamber t also called for a clear completion date to be set for all works, which it said not exceed one calendar month. “No applications where the proposal is only to excavate a site should be allowed, since this may result in sites remaining excavated for years, jeopardising the stability of adjacent properties.”

It added that government should also consider reducing the validity of planning permits.

Moreover, it said as soon as damage to adjacent properties is reported works on site are to stop until the necessary investigations are carried out.

It said that all workers on site should have a working knowledge of tools, equipment and machinery used as well as have a basic knowledge of best practices.

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