Before buying a second-hand car most would ask about its service history, whether it has been involved in any major accidents and how well it has been generally taken care of. Cars come with log books but a diligent car owner also keeps records.  

According to architects, it is about time we are able to do the same when buying a home.  

The Kamra tal-Periti is proposing the introduction of what it calls “post-occupancy certifications”, similar to those currently in place for lifts, which would ensure a building’s compliance with regulations and requirements throughout its lifetime.

This means that when you buy a property you will know exactly what you are getting, whether it has been properly maintained and is in line with all the requirements – through one comprehensive document. This could even include the original certificates issued when the property was first built and put on the market.  

A complete overhaul

The proposal is just one of a huge dossier compiled by the chamber, aimed at overhauling the mess of laws and regulations governing the construction sector today.  

Published on Friday, the document, which is open for public consultation, would see the functions of around two dozen different entities centralised into a one-stop-shop for the sector. 

It is ridiculous to make the biggest investment in one’s life with limited information at hand

This follows the government’s announcement last year that it will be consolidating a number of different authorities involved in policing the construction sector into one comprehensive new office.

A massive investment, made with limited information

According to the KTP, there is a limit to how much people should be expected to pay for a poorly built property.

Andre Pizzuto, who headed the chamber’s working group on these proposals, said it was ridiculous that home owners were making the biggest investment they would probably ever make in their lives with limited information at hand. They were often not sure how well the property had been maintained and to what standards it had first been built.  

Laws that in some cases dated back to the 19th century, such as certain sanitation regulations, were compounded by a convoluted regulatory landscape and the different professionals involved in the sector had varying degrees of training and liability. 

This, he said, could not remain unchanged as the country steamed ahead towards the development of large-scale projects and high-rise buildings.

The consultation document takes stock of the complex legal landscape in Malta and compares it to best practices in countries ranging from Scotland to Malaysia.

Simplify the system

In a nutshell, the KTP is proposing a broad reform of the building and construction regulation regime that covers all areas of the sector in a simple but comprehensive system, catering for small and large projects. 

For starters, a new system of certification and approved documents would be introduced, including newly written building and construction codes.

The role of periti and engineers would be more focused on design, setting of specifications, monitoring works and certifying compliance at completion in accordance with the new codes. Professional liabilities of a number of people involved (architects, engineers, masons, site managers, etc.) would be clearly set out in line with European norms.

Today masons are still being taught skills in an informal setting, much of which is not compatible with modern day building techniques.

Project managers, who are meant to monitor progress, are often the person behind the development, with little to no experience in health and safety on construction sites. 

Daily inspections

The KTP believes that large projects such as high-rise towers or hospitals should have their engineering works certified by an independent firm not involved in the project to ensure adherence to laws.

According to the KTP, it is also time for new professionals to inspect and monitor construction sites on a day-to-day basis.

Contractors should be registered in a bid to raise quality and standards, something the Developers’ Association has also been pushing for.  

Streamlined pre-construction processes would have to be carried out, including an independent review of civil engineering inputs such as structural analysis and design, as well as fire prevention and fire safety of major projects and some public buildings. 

And a register of independent professional building and construction inspectors will need to be set up. 

The full list of proposals is available for download on the KTP website www.kamratalperiti.org.

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