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MALTATODAY 9 June 2019

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5 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 9 JUNE 2019 Chamber of Architects says Malta's construction industry is 'in crisis' MASSIMO COSTA THE collapse of an apartment block in Mellie- ha was a direct symptom of the chaos that pre- vails in the construction industry, the Kamra tal-Periti said yesterday. The architects' chamber said it was shocked at the news of yet another serious incident re- lated to construction, highlighting that it had been calling for a complete overhaul of Malta's regulatory system since 2007, yet nothing had materialised to date. The chamber noted that in 2018 the gov- ernment had proposed the establishment of a Building and Construction Authority, a pro- posal which it had supported, however this is still in its early stages of formulation and it is not envisaged to be established before the end of the year. "The efforts which are being made are feeble," the chamber said, "The only proposal that was announced since the Guardamangia collapse was the exploration of the setting up of a Con- siderate Constructors Scheme, an as yet insuf- ficient local interpretation of a similar scheme in the UK." "The proposed scheme appears to be merely intended to tie contractors to a code of eth- ics on a purely voluntary basis rather than strengthening the regulatory system and ac- countability of industry operators across the board, thus providing further loopholes in the system." "Delay is not an option. The industry is in cri- sis," the chamber stressed. It said that there was "a complete lack of regulation of contractors, a complete lack of adequate competencies among the workforce, confusion about the various roles and respon- sibilities on construction sites, building regula- tions which date back to the 19th century, as well as a serious lack of enforcement." It warned that unless immediate action was taken, matters would only get worse. The chamber has now requested an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss a way forward. The meeting is expected to take place in the coming week. In May the chamber issued its detailed pro- posals for a modern building and construction regulation framework. A preliminary introduction to the proposals was presented to planning parliamentary sec- retary Chris Agius and to the Building Industry Consultative Council (BICC), however detailed discussions have yet to commence, it said. The proposals were endorsed by the profes- sion last November and presented to various stakeholders in the past weeks, the Kamra said, adding that it had received very positive feed- back and looked forward to taking these pro- posals forward with government. "The efforts being made are feeble... delay is not an option. The industry is in crisis" Second incident in under two months Less than two months ago, a very similar incident hap- pened in Guardamangia. On the evening of 24 April, a block of flats on Guarda- mangia Hill collapsed, sending shocked neighbours out on the street. Fortunately nobody was in- jured since the residents of the flats managed to escape, hav- ing not been in the part of the block that collapsed. Three apartments, includ- ing Transport Malta's Theory Testing Centre, crumbled in the incident. Similarly to yesterday's inci- dent, adjacent to the collapsed building was a construction site, where building works had been under way. After the collapse, neigh- bourhood residents told the press that large cracks in the apartment block's walls had been visible from outside. The next day, police and Civ- il Protection Department per- sonnel ordered other residents to evacuate the area, which was deemed unsafe since an- other part of the apartment block could collapse. Home Affairs Minister Mi- chael Farrugia had been on site, telling MaltaToday he was there to address the needs of residents who were still outside their homes from the previous night. The residents were instructed to seek shelter in government housing and nearby hotels. "I'm not an investigative person," Farrugia said, "I had some basic information about the site and have now come to speak to contractors and resi- dents." Farrugia said he would be letting the investigating mag- istrate delve into what hap- pened. He underlined that the re- sponsibility for overseeing the safety of workers on construc- tion sites fell into the lap of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority, as he in- sisted that the watchdog took frequent action and did its job. In the aftermath of the inci- dent, the Prime Minister was quick to assert that what had happened shouldn't serve to place the construction indus- try in a bad light. Joseph Muscat told mem- bers of the media that a "les- son had been learnt" and that construction procedures and regulations should be followed adequately. He claimed that the authori- ties had not received any re- ports prior to the incident. "My information is that the authorities concerned did not receive any reports. I'm not contradicting the residents. They might have filed reports with the project management but not to the authorities con- cerned," Muscat had said. rescued from building collapse PHOTO KARL AZZOPARDI

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