The Chamber of Architects has called for an updating of regulations involving the building industry in the wake of Wednesday's collapse of an apartment block in Gwardamanġa and other earlier incidents.

The Kamra tal-Periti said the rate of construction accidents in Malta, whether resulting in damage to neighbouring properties, injury or even death, was unacceptable.

"The ever-increasing complexity of today’s buildings, compounded by the current frenzy of the industry to turn around projects as quickly as possible, urgently requires an immediate and major overhaul of the country’s building and construction regulatory processes.

"The current legislation in Malta is characterised by excessive fragmentation of responsibilities," it said.

For example, the Civil Code stated that “If a building or other considerable stone work erected under a building contract shall, in the course of 15 years from the day on which the construction of the same was completed, wholly or in part, or be in manifest danger of falling to ruin, owing to a defect in the construction, or even owing to some defect in the ground, the architect and the contractor shall be responsible therefore.”

But the Code did not establish clear lines of responsibility, and these were generally decided by the courts depending on the particular circumstances of each case.

Moreover, whereas architects had a professional warrant and were subject to a Code of Professional Conduct, contractors were not regulated at all.

"This is especially worrying when it comes to demolition and excavation contractors. The absence of a registration system means that anyone with demolition or excavation plant can carry out such works, without any basic training, technical knowledge, or insurance cover."

The absence of a registration system means that anyone with demolition or excavation plant can carry out such works, without any basic training, technical knowledge, or insurance cover

The Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations placed the onus of enforcing the implementation of a works method statement drawn up by an architect on a site manager purposely appointed by the developer, and on the contractor executing the works. 

One of the regulations stated that “professional responsibility for the method statement remains with the architect who prepares it, whilst ultimate responsibility for adhering to the method statement rests with the site manager and the contractor.”

But once again, the regulations did not establish minimum basic training or competences for site managers, not even as basic a requirement as literacy.

The regulations even allowed the developer to take on the role of site manager, in what was clearly a blatant conflict of interest sanctioned by the law.

"Indeed, if the developer fails to appoint a site manager, the regulations presume that the developer is ipso facto carrying the responsibilities of a site manager.

When two key players in the industry are not required to possess basic competence and are wholly unregulated, the public is exposed to unacceptably high and unnecessary risks

"When two key players in the industry are not required to possess basic competence and are wholly unregulated, the public is exposed to unacceptably high and unnecessary risks," the chamber warned.

It said that just two weeks ago, it held talks with the government on its detailed proposals for the regulation of the industry to bring it in line with other European countries. It will be making its proposals public in the coming days. 

The chamber stressed that its comments did not refer to any case in particular. 

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