The Malta Independent 19 April 2024, Friday
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Chamber of Architects, MDA launch National Building Council; to set higher standards for industry

Semira Abbas Shalan Friday, 16 February 2024, 13:36 Last update: about 2 months ago

The Chamber of Architects and the Malta Developers Association have launched the National Building Council, a joint initiative set to impose higher standards to all workers involved in the building industry, as well as the industry itself.

During a press conference on Friday, both presidents of the Chamber of Architects and the MDA signed an agreement to establish the council, which the two organisations have been working on for over a year.

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Chamber of Architects President Andre Pizzuto said that the need was felt for this council due to the “huge damage” the industry’s reputation has suffered, as well as the adverse opinion the public has had on the industry over the past years.

“The Chamber and the MDA felt that as leaders of the industry, it is our obligation to solve this crisis,” Pizzuto said, adding that it is also an obligation towards their members, and public interest.

Pizzuto said that the environments in which people live, work and relax in, should be of high quality.

The industry must agree to set standards, and the MDA and the Chamber came together to sign this agreement, Pizzuto said.

The aim is to create a joint agenda and a strategy of implementation, he continued.

Pizzuto mentioned the Gzira incident, where the façade of a construction site collapsed onto a street in Gzira. “This incident showed that there is the need for the initiative,” Pizzuto said.

He said that the changes needed are not moving at the same pace the industry is moving in at present.

“The Building and Construction Authority has become a recipient of papers and documents, which is not leading to any security. This is repeating itself in public entities, where there is a lot of bureaucracy, seemingly to justify their existence, and not to improve the industry,” Pizzuto said.

He said that the solution for the present, as well as the future, is to increase efforts towards self-regulation, and set standards so that the Chamber and the MDA hold themselves accountable.

Pizzuto addressed architects, saying that while some may not understand the initiative, the Chamber will keep its position, in seeing that the profession is protected and that the environment they work in improves, as it is currently at an unacceptable state.

“Keeping with the status quo is not possible, and in a way we are disturbing this. This is a test for the both of us, a test of will, competences, and putting our money where our mouth is,” Pizzuto said, adding that the initiative is a way to hold the organisations accountable.

MDA President Michael Stivala said that as an association, the MDA set out to gather all developers to lobby with government on necessary changes, but this was not enough.

“The association changed and developed, now we represent several workers. We cannot work alone, and leave things fragmented,” Stivala said.

He described the initiative as a “historic step” where the professional, and those who operate, work together to see that things are done better than what was done in the past.

Stivala said that there are a total of 21 authorities and government departments that architects and developers have to face.

“We waste more time and resources on papers than we do on projects, ensuring the building’s good aesthetic, and that the building is being used as intended,” Stivala said, adding that a lot of resources is being wasted, which reflects on the price the consumer has to pay.

He continued that prices and bureaucracy expenses within the industry continue to grow.

Stivala said that the Council will concentrate on certain issues in the country, such as the aesthetics of buildings, and more “green buildings.”

With regards to the construction process, Stivala said that there is the need for more protection for the industry’s workers, as well as protection for neighbours, with the least inconvenience possible.

The Council will also focus on education and training, describing it as the “biggest problem” the industry currently faces.

“There is a shortage of workers, and those there are not trained enough. We need to reform how training is done, and how it is regulated,” Stivala said, acknowledging that changes cannot be made overnight.

Stivala also pointed out that today’s effects of the quality of workers in the industry came from a past decision which the association did not agree with, the closure of certain training schools, without replacing them with another model.

Another change the Council will focus on is the quality of materials used in construction, which must be adequate and of high quality. Stivala mentioned that currently, materials are not being certified.

He called for “enormous” changes in policies of each authority, where 21 authorities issue their own regulations, most of which do not match or comply with regulations of other authorities.

“The architect and the developer spends more time explaining what is happening to each authority, rather than focusing on doing the job right, wasting a lot of time and strength,” Stivala said, calling for an end to excess bureaucracy.

Stivala said that the National Building Council will be open for all those who want to change things as soon as possible.

“We do not want to waste anyone’s time, and changes must be done as soon as possible, in line with the industry. For the public out there to live a higher quality of life, these changes must be made, and assure that expenses are controlled, as it will affect affordability and create more problems,” he said.

Stivala said that the two will continue working for the industry which gives energy to the economy, one which needs growth and modernisation for the benefit of all.

Answering questions by the media, Pizzuto and Stivala said that enforcement of the rules is only a small part, and that standards must be set for everyone in the industry.

“The law as it is, is not working. Incidents are still happening, and this situation is not an acceptable one. We will not arrive with enforcement only,” Pizzuto said.

Stivala said that it does not make sense for architects and developers to get stuck having their papers and documents checked by all authorities, rather than focusing on their work.

He said that the delays and excessive bureaucracy is costing the country “hundreds of millions” and is interrupting important investment.

What was going to be called the Green Building Council, Pizzuto said that it is clear that the country must focus on other priorities, such as standards of practice in the industry, for both architects and all workers in the industry, including plumbers and electricians, on top of building, excavation and demolition contractors.

“Till today, they have little to no regulations. The intention is to create standards and quality marks for all,” he said.

The two presidents then signed the agreement at the end of the press conference.

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