Enforcement is missing from new construction legislation – FAA

Photo by Miguela Xuereb

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar believes that the key aspect missing from the new building regulations is enforcement.

FAA argues that throughout the list of legal amendments which the ‘Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property during Construction,’ hopes to enact, they state that the, ‘legislation is silent’ on enforcement.

They explain that there appears to be, ‘no commitment to increase resources for enforcement by the Building Regulations Office,’ signaling ‘no change.’

Demolition and excavation reforms enforced tomorrow – Borg

Not new but a regression

In their response to the amendments outlined in the draft regulations, FAA says that is in essence nothing new on the issue of geological surveys conducted on excavations below three metres. However, now it is suggested that a geotechnical investigation within a geotechnical design report is optional on the decision of the architect. ‘That is no longer obligatory, and will in many cases be swept aside,’ they state.

Miguela Xuereb

Enforcing the 76cm rule

Worst still, FAA argues that the new regulations, ‘have not incorporated or increased the Police law re leaving a distance of 76cm when excavating alongside a neighbouring wall.’ They state that this needs to be enforced seeing as developers have ignored this law, ‘in order to maximize basement space – at the risk of neighbours’ lives.’

Decisions, training, licensing, responsibility

FAA argues that the amendments have not attempted to introduce the licensing or bestow responsibility upon contractors. They argue that this creates big problems when there are contractors who do not have any experience in the role.

This is while FAA points to real concerns over decision making. They argue that the requirement for the architect and site manager to be present for all construction decisions doesn’t work when there is no site manager. This would mean that the responsibility would fall to the architect.

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Worst still, they raise concerns over the training and awareness of the other roles involved in the construction project, these being the demolition contractors, crane operators, steel workers or concrete pourers. They explain that, ‘these people would be unaware of the first signs of danger and press on, oblivious of the risks to themselves and others.’ They argue that this creates, ‘a recipe for disaster.’

FAA concludes by saying that the legislation is acting to protect Malta’s development lobby.

‘By its failure to tackle the real issues, it is clear that this legislation was drafted to avoid penalising the development lobby, the very sector that has caused residents to fear for their safety in their own homes.’  

We’re asking for implementation of existing laws

Similar to FAA’s comments about the implementation of new regulations, Professor Alex Torpiano says that Periti want the government should seriously implement existing laws.

Torpiano outlines a series of items which the government should be carrying out, from the proper listing of licensed masons, issuing of licenses to building contractors and tradespeople, as outlined under the existing Building Regulations Act 2011.  He also explains that they call for current training for contractors and operatives involved in the industry today.

Impact of demolition

The Professor also questions why there is a lack of emphasis on analyzing the structural integrity of adjacent buildings or if building additional floors on top of existing buildings is less risky.

He goes on to say that, ‘the focus, on the possible impact of geotechnical conditions on excavation, or building, works adjacent to existing properties, is not matched by any concern about the impact of demolition works on party walls of existing buildings, or the direct impact on existing buildings when additional floors are erected on walls, and on foundations and ground conditions, which were not conceived for that load.’

For this reason, he states that the Legal Notice has been rushed and thus is ‘intrinsically deficient’

Miguela Xuereb

Government reluctant to acknowledge lack of training and licensing

Professor Torpiano also explains that with the complexity of the industry it seemed as if the Government, ‘is reluctant to acknowledge that the lack of training, or the lack of skills licensing, are the roots of the problems of the industry.’

His comment on this referred to the publication of the what appeared to be an incomplete list of licensed masons at Kamra Tal-Periti’s Extraordinary General Meeting.

‘Without an ID card No., and without a validity period, the list is practically of no use to Periti or owners wishing to engage skilled craftsmen for their projects. Even worse, the limited training that our masons receive before being licensed is effectively designed for a construction industry primarily based on stone construction, as required decades ago.’

For this reason, the writer asks that those with key responsibilities in the construction industry are brought up to the same industry level of skill and knowledge, are licensed, registered and regulated, in order that they can function effectively within the industry and for the sake of the public who will be using their services.

‘The construction industry is currently like a big hospital where the doctors are trained, and are clearly required to take responsibility for their decisions and instructions; but contrary to common sense, none of the other hospital staff, that should support their work, are either adequately trained, or licensed, or even registered. Adding to the liabilities of the doctors would not, in these circumstances, make the health of the patients any better.’