The building blocks of change

The construction industry must be held accountable for its impact on our lives. We must not accept accidents, deaths, or a decline in professional standards as inevitable. It is the duty of every responsible citizen to respond to public consultation processes, so that voices are heard, and change is implemented.

Mention one thing that many Maltese and Gozitans are concerned about. Chances are that construction made the list.

Let’s face it, you’re extremely lucky if you haven’t been jolted out of bed by the sound of excavations, trucks, and cranes at seven in the morning, at some point or other during the past decade.

This concern is very real, considering how Malta’s skyline has changed, the way in which our once quiet streets have been transformed, and the increased number of construction-related accidents.

We know that the subject is now being discussed in the context of reform, but it’s not always clear what exactly is going on.

That’s why The Journal thought it fit to break it down.

€225,050 WORTH OF PENALTIES IN 8 MONTHS

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has been given more power to enforce. There has been an increase in the number of inspections on construction sites, the issuing of fines and ordering workers to cease their operation.

Here’s what happened from the 1st January this year till the 31st August:

Total inspections: 8,091

Total Penalties issued: 466

Enforcement Notices + Warnings to Stop Works: 281

Total Amount of Penalties: €225,050

JUST A COUPLE OF DAYS LEFT FOR CONTRACTORS TO APPLY FOR THEIR PERMIT

New regulations pertaining to the licensing requirements for contractors engaged in demolition, excavation, and construction activities have been enforced. It is now mandatory for all contractors to seek a license from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

Starting from July 2023, the BCA began accepting online applications through its website. Contractors who apply within the designated timeframe will be allowed to continue their operations, while their applications are under assessment by a Licensing Committee.

Those contractors who fail to submit their applications by the end of October 2023 will not be permitted to engage in demolition, excavation, or construction work.

Those submitting license applications from the 1st of November onwards, will need to await the provisional approval of their applications, which will be granted by the Licensing Committee. This provisional approval will enable them to operate until the full license is ultimately granted. The Licensing Committee is required to provide this provisional approval within a 60-day period from the date of application.

A CHANGE IN BUILDERS’ LICENSES

In June, a proposal for changing the regulations governing builder’s licenses was opened for public consultation. This proposal outlines the specific qualifications and skills required for individuals to work as builders in Malta. The primary objective is to establish a training framework that ensures both new applicants and existing license holders continually enhance their skills and stay updated on best practices in the construction industry.

Whilst the proposed change should bring greater clarity to the skills and responsibilities expected of individuals holding a builder’s license, there are also enhanced methods for enforcing these obligations when a licensed builder fails to fulfill their duties.

PROTECTING THIRD PARTIES AND INTRODUCING LAWS ON APERTURES

Last December, a Legal Notice was published on the management of construction sites which, among other things, transfers to the BCA the responsibility regarding the management of construction sites, introduces new regulations regarding the protection of third parties for ongoing projects, and introduces a new standard regarding the dimensions of the apertures for new residential places.

The main objective behind the introduction of the Legal Notice is that, among other things, the damage done to the environment is reduced by using appropriate construction practices in a way that causes the least inconvenience to the neighbours.

Amongst the key highlights, the regulations stipulate that whenever, up to 10 meters from the construction site, damage is done to third party sites, the developer must repair and restore to their original condition those parts of the damaged building. When there is enough proof that damage was done in properties beyond the 10 meters indicated, this must also be repaired. The regulations also aim to protect property belonging to the Government and local councils.

PLAYING SAFE

The Ministry for Public Works and Planning and the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA), held a consultation process on proposed amendments to the Legal Notice that deals with the Minimum Health and Safety Requirements for Work on Construction Sites.

Through the proposed amendments, project supervisors will be given all the necessary powers in construction sites under their control, to be able to fulfill their responsibilities. These responsibilities are also being clarified in the proposed Legal Notice.

The public consultation process ended last June and is currently being finalised.

ARCHITECTS: REGULATING THEIR REGULATIONS

In December of last year, the 2021 Act on the Profession of Architects saw the introduction of several new regulations governing this profession, amongst which are regulations specifically concerning the certification granted to architects.

These recent regulations serve as guidance for those embarking on a career in this field, outlining two distinct educational paths: one leading to the title of Architect and the other to Civil Engineer Architect. This aligns with recent adjustments made to the curriculum at the University of Malta.

One key aspect addressed in these published regulations is the minimum qualifications required in specific subjects for students aiming to obtain either an Architect or Civil Engineer Architect certification. Additional regulations that will soon take effect pertain to the functioning of the Board responsible for granting these certifications to architects. The development of these regulations involved consultations with the Chamber of Architects.

THE F IN “EFFICIENCY”

 The Ministry for Public Works and Planning, in collaboration with the BCA, recently released an updated draft document for public consultation. This document, referred to as “Document F,” outlines the minimum energy efficiency requirements for both new buildings and those undergoing renovation. The public had the opportunity to provide feedback on this document until last July.

The new document is intended to replace the existing one and will serve as a valuable guide for professionals, contractors, and construction operators in understanding their obligations concerning energy efficiency standards.

The Journal is informed that this document is nearly ready, and works have commenced on a new software that will help in this sector.

A ONE STOP SHOP FOR CONSTRUCTION LAWS

The Faculty of Law of the University has completed the first phase of research on Construction Laws in Malta. There was a need to collect laws and regulations related to the construction sector in one publication. This collection of laws and regulations must be updated regularly. This exercise is helpful for anyone who in some way works in this sector and offers a good point of reference.

You can find it here: https://xoghlijietpubblici.gov.mt/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Compendium-of-Laws-Regulating-Construction-in-Malta.pdf

As long as the construction industry remains a key economic driver, we are bound to be bothered bb it: as neighbours, as passers-by, or as people whose distant views are robbed due to development. However, this is a sector that is undergoing massive change. Whilst that is granted, it will also be a while before we see this change translated into action that we can see and that we can feel.

The construction industry must be held accountable for its impact on our lives. We must not accept accidents, deaths, or a decline in professional standards as inevitable. It is the duty of every responsible citizen to respond to public consultation processes, so that voices are heard, and change is implemented.

Main photo credit: Stefan Grage

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