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London fire: Architects back call for holistic review of building regulations

Fragmented regulation needs to be consolidated and updated

The Chamber of Architects has backed a call by the Chamber of Engineers for a review of building regulations regarding fire safety in Malta in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London.

It said that over the years it made several public calls and lobbied successive governments, for the Building Regulation Office to be strengthened and given the resources it needs, so that Malta could finally have modern and appropriate building regulations, covering the full range of health and safety risks faced by building users.  

"Politicians have, unfortunately, found it difficult to understand that building regulations, and building control, are different and separate from, Planning Permit conditions. This failure to understand the industry has resulted in a situation where the need for building regulations is treated with indifference – until something happens, and then there is a knee-jerk reaction for the industry to do something," the Chamber of Architects said.

"This lack of awareness has resulted in a piecemeal approach, where various regulations fall under disparate pieces of legislation, weakly attempting at regulating the building industry through the planning process," it added.

Sanitary regulations (covering light and ventilation) – conceptually dating from the 19th century – fall, under one law, within the remit of the Planning Authority, and under another law, under that of the Health Department; Fire Safety guidelines fall under the indirect remit of the Civil Protection Department; Lifts Regulations fall under MCCAA; electricity regulations fall under a privatised Enemalta; drainage regulations fall under the Health Department, but also under the Water Services Corporation; accessibility issues are regulated by the Commission for Persons with Disabilities; excavation, demolition and general construction regulations fall under the BRO; while health and safety on construction sites falls under the Occupational Health and Safety Authority.  

With specific reference to fire safety, the Chamber said that the Civil Protection Department had reached an advanced stage in the drafting of new regulations, particularly in response to the increased high-rise development. Such regulations should be placed within a holistic and consistent system of building regulations, administered by the Building Regulation Office, the Chamber stressed. 

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