Operating in a company involved in property developments it is disappointing to note the understandable criticism hurled at developers, building contractors, architects and basically at all stakeholders involved in the construction industry. It feels as  though all are bad cowboys, ruthless and greedy profiteers, and careless negligent bullies.

The truth is that there are excellent architects, developers and contractors, but unfortunately, yes, there are cowboys who should be “named and shamed” and held to account. 

Serious stakeholders and entities such as the Occupational Health and Safety Authority are indicating clearly that they want reforms and changes that will render the industry safer, more professional and self-disciplined. Indeed, it is high time for urgent action. 

There needs to be a separation of the ‘wheat from the chaff’, and while the good guys of the industry need to stand out and be respected, the bad guys need to either urgently mend their ways or else be removed.

Apart from effective rules and regulations and, of course, effective enforcement, other specific changes need to be implemented.

Especially in the case of major projects, the applicant/developer who applies to the Planning Authority for the full development permit, should, as standard practice, reach out and engage with relevant NGOs and local councils where the development will take place.

Even at the pre-submission stage of the application for the permit, the applicant should disclose transparently what the proposed development consists of, and if possible, reach consensus with NGOs and local councils. 

Furthermore, it is a matter of paramount importance that good relations are established between the contractors working on a site and the neighbouring property owners and residents.  Architects and site managers should also have a vested interest to ensure such good relations are in place.

The negative image of contractors as being bullies who ride roughshod over all and sundry has to be eradicated

There needs to be a strong effort for contractors to adopt a certain protocol and code of behaviour based on mutual politeness and respect with the neighbourhood wherever a building construction is  taking place. 

Developers and contractors need to show empathy and clearly demonstrate that they care and are sensitive to any negative issues that may arise and are a concern to owners of houses next to, or close to, the building site.

It should become a standard practice that prior to commencement of works on site, the developer/contractor reaches out to the nearby neighbours, inviting good communication, a good rapport and stretches out a hand of friendship. 

The negative image of contractors as being bullies who ride roughshod over all and sundry has to be eradicated. There will be times where neighbours could be unreasonable and unfriendly, but by and large these are a minority. 

Contractors need to engage with neighbours of the building site, assuring them that appropriate safety measures are in place.  This will go a long way to avoid conflicts, disputes and serious consequences.

It is absolutely essential that building sites are subjected to frequent independent inspections by professionally trained inspectors. 

Any shortcomings highlighted by inspectors have to be addressed urgently and the contractor/developer should consider the inspectors as vital team players in the overall aim of ensuring that appropriate health and safety standards are achieved.

Both skilled and unskilled workers in the construction sector need to undergo properly regulated training routines and practices. The wearing of protective clothing on building sites must be enforced and practised without fail.

It is unfair to dub all developers as greedy profiteers.

Many developments are, in fact, a long-term investment, taking years for the investor/developer to redeem costs and earn profit.  Such developments are not out of greed and are certainly not cases of “earning a quick buck”. 

The industry can be a tough and time-consuming one, involving years of hard work to purchase the property, to obtain the permit and to actually construct the development.

It would be nice to see more of the leading developers embrace principles such as corporate social responsibility and environmental, social and governance values.

This would enhance the construction industry with more professional operators and go a long way to a significant raising of the bar.

Every building development should be constructed in a way that enhances and complements the surrounding environment. An aesthetically pleasing building, apart from its own success, will add value and contribute holistically to a whole locality.

Needless to say, reforms in the construction industry, upgrading health and safety standards, and regulations aimed at preventing accidents on building sites are absolutely essential. However, hand in hand with such requirements is the general need for developers and contractors to continuously improve on quality and on their image and PR.

Alex MontanaroAlex Montanaro

Alex Montanaro is CEO of Exalco Group.

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