New building rules: Site managers must be architects, excavation works to resume

Malta's architects on collision course with government over new building rules • 'Those who don’t want the responsibility know what they should do,' Ian Borg says

New building site rules to come into force on Tuesday
New building site rules to come into force on Tuesday

The Maltese government has decided to press on with new construction regulations obliging construction site managers to be architects, despite their objections.

The announcement was made by Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg on Monday afternoon.

“Those who don’t want the responsibility know what they should do... everyone must shoulder responsibility,” Borg said. 

The minister said that the new regulations would be published in Tuesday’s Government Gazette after which excavation and demolition works can resume, once the new conditions imposed by the new regulations have been satisfied.

Excavation and demolition works across all building sites were suspended in the wake of the third building collapse in two months. The common thread in all three cases was that the buildings were adjacent to excavation sites.

The Chamber of Architects has so far insisted that the role of a site manager, who will as of tomorrow be known as a site technical officer, should be the responsibility of the contractor, who at law must be sufficiently knowledgeable to carry out the architect’s instructions.

Borg said the new regulations would allow for the site technical officer to be a different architect to the architect that drew up the plans for a development, but must still be a warranted architect.

The site technical officer will have to be nominated by the contractor.

“Those who don’t wish to take on the responsibility can refuse to take on the job but we can’t have contractors working without the supervision of someone warranted by the State,” Borg said.

Over the five-day consultation period, some 250 submissions were received, both by NGOs and concerned private citizens, Borg said.

Tuesday’s legal notice, he said, would be radically different to that published on Monday.

Borg highlighted that the new law would require and specify the manner in which a method statement for demolition, excavation and construction works needed to be carried out.

Vague and unstructured method statements, he said, would no longer be accepted.

In addition to requiring a more detailed method statement, another “radical change” Borg said, would be the requirement for this to be made public. 

In this regard, he said the Planning Authority would be stepping in to give its assistance, with method statements being published on the authority’s map server.

Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg said the country expected warranted professionals such as architects to shoulder their responsibility
Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg said the country expected warranted professionals such as architects to shoulder their responsibility

The new rules will also require architects to present a condition report, which will take into account neighbouring sites and issues like the geology of the area.

Borg also noted that insurance premium necessary for works to be carried out must increase to €750,000 and must remain in place till works are certified as completed.

Fines for breaking the terms of a method statement and refusing to obey an enforcement notice will also increase substantially.

The minister stressed that the new regulations were simply a part of the reforms the government was looking to enact and would be launching a new agency that will incorporate the various entities currently regulating the construction industry.

Asked what reaction he expected from the Chamber of Architects, Borg stressed that ultimately the nation expected warranted professionals to take responsibility for their work.

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