The topic of energy in the past few weeks and months has been very topical, particularly from the political and economic facets. We have all noticed the debates across the EU and how the impact of energy prices affects our economies. We are at an exciting juncture. Yet we need further messages of stability and decisive action to disregard. We have a full agenda that we need to address, and the energy efficiency issue in buildings is significant to the government. We must also take action to see that the impact of surging energy prices is kept to a bare minimum, if not negligible.

 

We must also take action to see that the impact of surging energy prices is kept to a bare minimum, if not negligible. 

 

However, there is a bigger picture: our commitment to decarbonising our economy. And we have to look at this from various angles, not only about the amount of fossil fuel we use. It is about the way forward to ensure continuity and economic activity, to instil growth in our economies, and to ensure that we provide what families and people need. But at the end of the day, we must always bear in mind that we have a clear focus, that we have a clear goal, and that the goal is undisputed. 

 

Interestingly, in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, with increased teleworking, we have seen a jump in greenhouse emissions because of the greater use of our homes. Only 40% of energy is consumed inside the buildings, and buildings are responsible for no less than 36% of greenhouse gas emissions – undoubtedly a sizable amount. The buildings that we use could be more energy efficient. 

Did you know that 75% of the building stock in Europe is not energy efficient? 

The general sentiment around the building and construction industry yearns for improved quality not just in design and aesthetics but also building techniques and materials.

There have been many changes in how we live and work, and more changes are necessary to address the climatic changes we face. We also must look at the new directives that are being introduced, as well as directives that are already in force and how we intend to act upon them to achieve the established objectives, and we should ask an obvious question. Where do we stand? 

The general sentiment around the building and construction industry yearns for improved quality not just in design and aesthetics but also building techniques and materials. Earlier this morning, I had an opportunity to address a press conference tied to budget measures.

As well as our ministry’s plan to update to see that this sector evolves, an essential aspect of the evolution that is necessary for the construction and building sector is buildings that are more energy efficient on two levels, the newly built and the retrofitting of older ones.

One of the roles the Building & Construction Authority (BCA) plays is this education, and we have started several initiatives in this regard.

We need to understand that there is a need for a paradigm shift in how we plan and develop our living spaces. We need to make people more aware of the importance of energy efficiency in buildings, a matter that needs to be addressed in both existing (or old) buildings, not only in newly built ones.  One of the aspects that I like to communicate when I discuss the sector is that for too long in our country, we have always looked at the construction and the real estate sector from the supply side. We need to ask what the consumer’s position is – a missing factor that has given rise to several missed opportunities in the field. 

 

It is high time that consumers buying a property know the energy efficiency levels and property. The supply side will understand that it is time for a change when the consumers ask these pertinent questions more vigorously and continuously. So, it is high time that consumers know that there are rights related to energy efficiency in this regard. 

It is high time that consumers buying a property know the energy efficiency levels and property. (…) So, it is high time that consumers know that there are rights related to energy efficiency in this regard. 

One of the roles the Building & Construction Authority (BCA) plays is this education, and we have started several initiatives in this regard. In this respect, we have also increased the tempo of our media campaigns and are working with the Ministry for Energy to support our message through legislation.  Once the Legislative framework is in place, we have the challenge of compliance. I will be delving into this further, even considering other changes that we are noticing and being stated over time. 

 

The establishment of the BCA – which focuses on the holistic quality of our buildings – was an essential change in the Maltese construction ecosystem. When we discuss this sector, most of the time we talk about the Planning Authority, we speak about planning permits, but we need to start having a broader view and discuss the quality of these buildings. 

Consumers need to be more aware that we could achieve higher and better-quality levels. In that case, we must ensure that all players in the various construction sector have the essential technical and professional skills to practise in their respective fields. The time for amateurism is over. So, it is not merely a question of just legislation; it is not just a question of government. We will only succeed once we bring everyone on board with the ultimate good aims.

Retrofitting to maximise environmental sustainability is a distinct type of industrial activity within the construction sector, one which will give rise to new business opportunities in this specialised sector. 

I don’t believe in a revolution that happens overnight but in a gradual evolution. We have to evolve into having a better building stock. One of the initiatives my ministry has taken in the past few months, which I saw when I was still Parliamentary Secretary responsible for European Funds, is the retrofitting of Project House.

This building was commissioned by the Public Works Department in the late 80s or 90s. Still, by today’s standards, it has a poor energy efficiency standing and is crying for a retrofit. It will cost €4 million to upgrade this building; however, the Public Works Department and the Ministry see the retrofitting of this block as an opportunity to showcase best practices in the field, an example of the kind of eco-friendly projects we need in Malta.

Soon, energy-efficient buildings will benefit from higher financing opportunities. If they are going to make such a change, banks need to explain how they intend to make it. It would be a significant loss if banks were to take such decisions without considering the holistic approach and impact while our building stocks are at such a high level.

Retrofitting to maximise environmental sustainability is a distinct type of industrial activity within the construction sector, one which will give rise to new business opportunities in this specialised sector.

It is crucial not just for the government but for the whole economy and the whole sector and a way forward to ensure sustainability both from an environmental point of view and an economic and financial side of things.

Abou a week ago, I participated in a conference organised by KPMG wherein a bank official mentioned that banks are considering that when financing loans, they intend to take into consideration the qualities of a building and its energy efficiency when evaluating alone and the cost of a loan. Soon, energy-efficient buildings will benefit from higher financing opportunities. If they are going to make such a change, banks need to explain how they intend to make it. It would be a significant loss if banks were to take such decisions without considering the holistic approach and impact while our building stocks are at such a high level. 

Banks expect higher quality buildings and limited carbon footprint levels to finance projects, so we must understand that the time has come to change our methods and update our practices. 

The financing world expects higher quality buildings and limited carbon footprint levels to finance projects, so we must understand that the time has come to change our methods and update our practices.

As stakeholders, our noble objectives can only be achieved if we work together and take positive action today.

The MEDPOWER2022 conference organised by The Foundation for Innovation and Research – Malta, has been an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas, and chart the way forward, with experts in the field of Power Generation, Transmission, Distribution and Energy Conversion – namely engineers, researchers, scholars, and technicians as well as companies and private ventures.

The focus of my speech on the opening day of the conference was on Energy Efficient Buildings – a priority for my government. There are decisions which we cannot afford to postpone – Energy efficiency in buildings is one of them.

If we truly want our country to reach its environmental goals regarding emissions, energy-efficient buildings are a must. We must address the inefficient nature of today’s buildings and the time to act is now. Energy efficiency not only saves money, and provides a cleaner, healthier environment but it also creates jobs. It is an important contribution to achieve our 2050 decorbonisation goals.

On paper, the Energy Performance Building Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive are EU directives.  They set out how Europe can achieve a zero-emission and fully decarbonised building stock by 2050. It is estimated that by 2050 the Earth’s population will have grown by 3 billion. Now is, certainly, high time to build energy efficient buildings and retrofit existing building to achieve energy efficiency.

The global energy crisis means that more energy efficient buildings are needed. The European Commission estimates that Buildings are responsible for approximately:

  • 40% of EU energy consumption
  • 36% of the energy-related greenhouse gas emissions

Together, the directives promote policies that will help

  • achieve a highly energy efficient and decarbonised building stock by 2050
  • create a stable environment for investment decisions
  • enable consumers and businesses to make more informed choices to save energy and money

But in essence, these EU Directives are about a better standard of living, a greener, healthier environment. Better homes. Cleaner energy. Healthier lives.

The entire building and property sector must update and adapt itself to these realities.

Behavioural changes, by building users, developers and building professionals, are needed to achieve action on energy efficiency. Potential property owners must be made aware of the energy efficiency factor in buildings they may be acquiring. It is essential that potential buyers are made aware of energy efficiency in buildings to further instigate a greater demand for such efficiency in buildings.

There are no ifs, and buts. We must be bold. It’s in Malta’s, and its environment, and its’ people’s, interest to be bold and induce further change in the property sector.

The Energy Performance certificate that certifies the energy efficiency of each building will gain more importance. There are clear indications that the energy efficiency of each property will begin to affect whether a person obtains bank financing and the price of that financing.

Government’s commitment is to make Malta an economy that is almost free of emissions. It is a strategy which is central to the development of the economic model of the future – the near future.

Our target is to reach the 2050 Sustainable Development Goals as declared by the United Nations and we shall lose no time, and effort, in reaching these targets. Significant improvements, in the use of renewable energy, have been made. According to the National Statistics Office (NSO) during 2020, the harvesting of renewable energy from grid-connected PV systems was estimated at 233.1 GWh, an increase of 20.5 per cent over the previous year.

The domestic sector has been the primary consumer of PV installations, accounting for 93.6 per cent of the total stock of PV installations. Budget 2023 has now extended the installation of PV panels for residential houses and renovations of private sector buildings. In 2020, the stock of PV installations amounted to more than 29,000, compared to roughly 27,000 in 2019, an increase of more than 6%. In 2018, it amounted to less than 25,000 installations.

Robust economic growth is a trademark of the current administration, and the construction sector is a major contributor to this growth.  In the first quarter of this year, contracts worth nearly three quarters of a billion euro were signed.

This was the best first quarter data ever to be recorded in our nation’s history. The average value per contract was 11% more than that observed in the same period in 2019, before the pandemic started.

Latest figures from the National Statistics Office show that apartments made up more than 70 per cent of the total number of approved new dwellings. But we must upgrade our standards in the planning and construction sectors. Banks are indicating that the energy efficiency qualities of a property and the size of a property’s carbon footprint will directly affect qualification for bank finance, and the cost of such financing for instance.

I expect commercial banks to be amongst the main stakeholders on this matter – especially in rolling out an information campaign to customers explaining the new procedures that shall be adopted from their end. Let me be clear: the way forward is not based on draconian measures. We need a sensible and reasonable evolution clearly intended to ensure that the property stock available is more energy efficient.

Energy efficient properties are in the public interest – and the changes that we would like to see are no excuse, for anybody, or anyone, be they developers, be they banks and other financial institutions, to complicate peoples’ lives and or adopt heavily bureaucratic procedures. We shall allow none of that.

In planning new buildings, both private and public, we must seek to speak a new language: the language of renewables, energy efficiency, better insulation of the buildings, reducing heating, cooling, ventilating, applying climate-sensitive design techniques, energy-efficient light sources, and advanced lighting technologies – these must be given primary importance.

I encourage you all, professionals, and businesses, to take the lead. Government is committed to provide the right incentives. Let us all join forces to make this change happen. Let us, together, walk the talk in both domestic, commercial, and public buildings. The cost of inaction is too high.

This requires radical changes in the way we build but also radical changes in the way we think, act, and behave. It is a unique technological, social, and financial opportunity that should not be lost.

The Ministry for Public Works and Planning always welcomes initiatives and events that serve as a platform for information, debate, and an exchange of best practices. It is precisely for this reason that I was delighted to be invited and be part of an excellent panel of speakers at the First International Built Heritage Conference in Malta, organized by the Chartered Insitute of Building in collaboration with the Malta Chamber of Construction Management.

Since early school days, children are taught that Malta as an island came to be from sedimentary rock. It was cast by the elements, it sustained natural changes, weather conditions, and persisted, only to come into being. It is the quarried limestone that has shaped our architecture since time immemorial. Politically, the island passed from one ruler to another, who all impressed their own cultural traits on the Maltese community, left traces in the language that the community speaks, and prominently left marks on the architecture around us.

We are, indeed, what we went through, as a nation and as a country aesthetically. The types and forms of buildings around us, as foreign visitors often comment, immediately give the feeling that there was a long and winding history which brought us to this present moment. And that, in fact, is a perfect summary. It is also my view that, we have the tendency that our nature feeds on its physical surroundings. In that as much as we as humans, feed on the social interaction we are exposed to, we also feed from our physical space which we orbit.

Why is all this so important? Because our surroundings should be reflecting ourselves, our lifestyles, our needs, our nature as humans, and as Maltese. It is this heritage that shall lie at the basis of the route we shall designate into the future.

The preservation of historical landmarks is not merely done in tribute to our past but serves as a resounding expression of our identity.

We owe it to our ascendants, as much as we owe it to future generations. Historical architecture reflects our own experience and nature as a nation; thus, it shall also inspire the built environment we design for the present and the future. The present general mindset is rightly set on quality – quality of life, quality landscapes, quality environment – and rightly so. People expect and yearn for quality.

It is essential, to make sure the new spaces we are creating – whether built or open – are made with these principles in mind, but at the same time, there is also so much quality around us, which we inherited from past generations, which can impart a handful of lessons. Lessons in design, space utilization, airways, and insulation together with other features which make for an energy-efficient building.

It is with this mindset that our public authorities, most prominently, the Planning Authority, but also the newly set Building Construction Authority, regulate first and implement schemes to preserve and to cultivate private buildings of historical value. We are decisively acting to update and upgrade the construction sector with a clear objective to ensure better quality all round, we must ensure further restoration initiatives as well as adapt and embrace new buildings technologies to address present and future challenges. They are the path to quality, beauty, and above all sustainability in the face the change in climate.

The government is increasingly supportive using the carrot, rather than the stick, to enable private operators’ preservation of the architectural beauty of our island, and through it project our future. First time buyers today, are not simply encouraged to buy a property, but through significant grants, they are guided to opt for properties in the Urban Conservation Area, inside village cores. They are even more supported if they choose to purchase houses, closed which would have been closed and unused for years.

Whilst the central government is there to support, it is also there to lead by example in this sector. The process of restoration was indeed spearheaded by public entities which in the last years invested to regenerate the value of old buildings distributed around the island and render them useful once again to the public.

Valletta Design Cluster Roof Garden on site of the Old Abattoir – MASP Public Open Spaces Award 2021

 

I still remember the days when the Southern parts of Valletta, were in a derelict state. Nobody imagined, the huge positive impact that the repurposing of the Old Abattoir could practically change the scenery but also the feeling of the area. The project is inspirational in the way it gave a new life to the building.  The intervention did not drastically change the nature of the structure. From a disused dodgy place, today it offers an inimitable space for local artists, for events as the Design Cluster become a location integral to the cultural scene of Malta which also boasts a beautiful garden accessible to the general public.

Lower Valletta offers a new vibrant experience today. The holistic project undertaken that was spearheaded by the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation under my chairmanship. An EU funded regeneration project that was devised to add value to the whole region – turned derelict buildings into usable communal spaces and public housing, rendering in a cleaner, more pleasant environment that is socially useful.  I can mention other projects, inside or outside the harbour area. Whilst the process varies, the end remains the same. An old building was dying a natural death and with it, its story was perishing. Each project regenerated the same building and complemented it with sensitive design interventions. Each project is based in the principle of sustainability – especially environmental but also social and cultural.

Abandoned sites were turned into airy, beautiful public spaces. For public places aren’t only empty squares, but places where people interact, express themselves, and come together. The Government shall not relinquish its role to lead by example in this area. It shall also not stop increasing the private sector’s capacity to do the same. The preservation of our architectural landmarks retains value and adds value, and we intend to keep creating such value with a view to improved quality of life, touristic product and for the sake of beauty itself. Creating such value depends on alliances with educational institutions to train experts and instill a skillset which is then reflected in a quality-built environment around us.

Award-winning rennovation – Imperial Residential Home, Sliema

It is essential that we continue to invest in capacity building. The protection of our heritage also depends on ensuring more expertly trained professionals in all aspects and related sectors to provide to provide the highest level of excellence.

One must also underline the extensive work carried out by the Planning Authority to schedule historical buildings in order the ensure the highest level of protection. As part of the planning the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage is extensively consulted. This is another means of ensuring protection to our architectural heritage. We can’t hinder progress. It all goes back to the planning process itself, which, in acknowledging and safeguarding the historical value of an old building, must find ways to permit a new sustainable use of such building. I am proud to see that funds collected from the planning process itself are being invested directly in the restoration of old buildings and breathing new life into them.

These initiatives need to be further buttressed by a vibrant and informed debate on an updated aesthetics policy for new buildings and other projects. It is essential that all stakeholders engage positively in forging a way forward to ensure that we respond positively to the concerns that are being expressed.

I strongly believe that beautiful architecture may come at a greater cost yet definitively gives a higher value to our urban environment.

The Labour Party is a progressive political organisation founded on social democratic principles, striving for an inclusive society which provides employment for everyone, ensures social justice, and whose state is measured by the progress of its most vulnerable members.

The budget for 2023 presented in the beginning of the week, epitomises this nature of the Labour Party and its economic and social plan whilst in government.

This budget comes at a time when the proverbial clouds on the global economic landscape cannot get gloomier. When prices have soared. When the news is unfortunately dominated by war on our doorstep and instability all around. People elsewhere are aggrieved because their governments are simply out of touch.

We opted for different policies when compared to our European partners. For a series of budgets in the past two years, including the mini-budgets midway through the covid outbreak, this government has developed what may be called a trickle-up doctrine. Departing from the traditional centrist idea of enabling the wealthiest in society to generate heaps of wealth from which others may reap benefit mainly through employment, the government focused on shoring up the most vulnerable categories in Maltese society, and we did this repeatedly. This method prevents people from falling into a poverty trap which in turn creates even heftier burdens on us all.

In general, keeping a wider pool of people and households in a state where they can participate in and contribute to the economy, is what fuels the economy, keeps it going and generates wealth and growth. It is this same growth which maintains demand for goods and services, and which as a result maintains (high rates of employment which then ultimately enables more former welfare beneficiaries to emancipate from the need of State assistance. When we pledge a budget with a social purpose, we mean it.

The major social intervention in this budget is the State’s absorption of the hikes in energy prices. This is maintaining households’ purchasing power in a wider context of pressure on prices in many a sector. Given that the State’s subsidies on energy prices is also impacting businesses, this limiting exorbitant costs for such businesses which would otherwise be relayed onto customers and ultimately safeguarding jobs.

Over and above the cost of living adjustment which is close to €10, and which would have otherwise soared to more than a double in the absence of the government’s energy subsidies, 80,000 low income families will be receiving an additional input to make sure they live adequately in the current economic climate.

We have once again taken a clear decision to assist personsattempting to purchase their first home. The decisive intervention through the €10,000 grant to all first time buyers spanning for the first 10 years in their loan repayment, will alleviate a considerable burden from these young families who take such a hefty financial step.

Significant impact in cetrain people’s lives may be made not merely through financial measures but especially through improved care, most importantly medical care. The funding for an oncology clinic in primary healthcare makes treatment much more accessible to cancer patients as do chemotherapy pumps to be used at home. The budget went far beyond lipservice to mental health. In fact adults of working age who spend time out of work due to  mental health challenges at some point of their lives will start to be given credits for up to two years to cover the lost social security contributions. In the detail and speficity of such a measure one may find the core of the social fabric out of which this budget was born.

Various other initiatives have been announced aimed at weathering the economic storm. We firmly believe that our economic policies should be devised in order to facilitate growth as a means to our main aim – social justice. We have stood firm in our stance not to introduce new taxes while ensuring that our finances are sustainable.

Notwithstanding the context within which it coincides, this budget is another testament to the Labour Government’s economic and political plan which has people and their decent living conditions at its core. The model built on sustainable growth worked in good times and has seen us sail through different storms and remains the best tool in the shed to keep on delivering adequate living standards to all households.

 

Kemm ili attiv fil-politika dejjem emmint li l-kuntatt man-nies huwa l-aqwa mezz biex politiku jkun jista’ jifforma opinjoni dwar x’inhuma l-ħtiġijiet u l-preokkupazzjonijiet tagħhom u b’hekk wieħed ikun jista’ jaħdem u jirsisti biex jara li x-xewqat tan-nies jitwettqu.

Nafu li din hija sfida kontinwa għaliex it-tmexxija tal-pajjiż ikollha quddiemha strateġija għall-pajjiż kollu u waqt li tkun qed tmexxi tkun trid tiżen xi jkunu l-prijoritajiet tal-pajjiż fiċ-ċirkostanżi tal-preżent.

Hawnhekk irrid nirrimarka li d-dinja bħalissa reġgħet tinsab fi kriżi propju f’dan iż-żmien meta nistgħu ngħidu li konna bdejna nieħdu ftit tan-nifs wara li għaddejna mill-kriżi tal-pandemija. Bil-kemm konna għadna neħħejna r-restrizzjonijiet kollha li ġabet magħha l-pandemija li ma bdejniex inħabbtu wiċċna mal-gwerra bejn ir-Russja u l-Ukrajna. Fuq din il-gwerra s’issa nafu biss meta bdiet u l-ħerba li qed iġġib magħha iżda kif se tispiċċa u meta, għadna ma nafux. Anzi jidher li t-theddida li l-affarijiet jistgħu jeskalaw qegħda hemm u nittamaw li jsir sforz ġenwin għall-paċi bejn iż-żewg naħat.

Waqt li għaddej dan kollu, d-dinja qegħda tħabbat wiċċha ma’ kriżi fil-qasam tal-enerġija kkaġunata mill-istess gwerra li ġabet magħha skarsezza partikolarment fil-provvista tal-gass fil-kontinent Ewropew. Hija ħasra li dawn il-provvisti bdew jintużaw bħala arma li tista’ ġġib ukoll tbatija lil ħafna popli fid-dinja. L-iskarsezza ġabet magħha għoli tal-ħajja qawwi fid-dinja kollha għaliex ħafna pajjiżi kellhom jitfgħu il-piż taż-żidiet fil-prezzijiet tal-enerġija fuq in-nies li bdew jaraw il-kontijiet tad-dawl tagħhom jisplodu. Intrapriżi mad-dinja kollha bdew jgħollu l-prezzijiet tal-prodotti tagħhom għaliex l-ispiża tal-produzzjoni kibret immens minħabba ż-żieda fil-prezz tal-elettriku. U għandna wkoll lill-Unjoni Ewropea  tħeġġeġ pajjiżi Ewropej biex jieħdu miżuri ħalli jnaqqsu l-konsum tal-enerġija fix-xhur kesħin tax-xitwa li ġejja u dan ukoll mistenni jġib tbatija.

B’għażla għaqlija, f’pajjiżna għandna gvern għaqli li għalih il-kwalita tal-ħajja tan-nies tiġi qabel kull kunsiderazzjoni oħra. Wara l-miljuni kbar ta’ Ewro li l-Gvern nefaq biex issussidja l-pagi ta’ eluf ta’ ħaddiema waqt il-pandemija, ma ddejjaq xejn li għal darb’oħra jerġa’ jinvesti miljuni kbar f’sussidju biex il-poplu Malti u Għawdxi baqa’ jgawdi minn prezzijiet tal-enerġija stabbli li ma ħolqu l-ebda skossi għall-ekonomija tal-pajjiż. Il-Gvern wiegħed li se jikkumpensa lill-familji Maltin għall-għoli tal-ħajja u fil-budget li ġej huwa mistenni li jingħataw il-kumpens sħiħ maħdum skont il-mekkaniżmu maqbul bejn l-imsiehba soċjali kollha, magħruf bħala COLA. Il-Gvern mhux se jonqos li jgħin ukoll lil dawk l-aktar vulnerabbli fosthom il-pensjonanti.

Dejjem emminna bħala gvern li m’għandniex naddottaw politika ta’ awsterita li bosta pajjiżi Ewropej qed jaddottaw fiċ-ċirkostanżi tal-lum, partikolarment pajjiżi mmexxija minn gvernijiet konservattivi u tal-lemin. Hekk kien jemmen ukoll Gvern Nazzjonalista qabel l-2013 meta l-politika tiegħu ta’ awsterita, b’kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma għoljin b’mod esaġerat fost affarijiet oħra, ġabet magħha staġnar ekonomiku tant li spiċċaw il-leġislatura b’aktar minn 8,000 ruħ bla xogħol.

Il-politika tal-Gvern Laburista ta’ investiment kontinwu fin-nies ġabet magħha il-ġid u tkabbir ekonomiku bla preċedent tant li llum stess, minkejja l-kriżi tal-pandemija u issa l-gwerra bejn ir-Russja u l-Ukranja, għandna l-inqas rata ta’ qgħad fl-Ewropa. Għandna nkomplu f’din it-triq ħalli nkomplu noħolqu l-ġid u nużawh bil-għaqal favur in-nies anke f’dawn iż-żminijiet diffiċli.

Huwa essenżjali li nkomplu nisimgħu lin-nies ħalli nkunu nafu mill-qrib x’inhuma l-aspirazzjonijiet. L-akbar għajnuna li nistgħu nagħtu bħalissa huwa li nkomplu mmexxu fid-direzzjoni li nżommu l-istabbilita fil-prezzijiet tal-enerġija u ngħinu kemm nistgħu lil dawk l-aktar vulnerabbli biex il-kwalita’ tal-ħajja tagħhom tibqa’ waħda tajba u fejn inkunu nistgħu, intejbuha wkoll.

Il-Maltin u l-Għawdxin għandhom aktar minn prova waħda kemm Gvern Laburista taħt it-tmexxija tal-Prim Ministru Robert Abela, huwa gvern li jieħu d-deċiżjonijiet u jeħodhom b’għaqal tant li wara noħorġu aktar b’saħħitna minn qabel. Dan huwa mument ieħor importanti fejn se tkun it-tmexxija għaqlija li tgħinna nsalpaw ‘il barra mill-għawġ ta’ dawn iż-żminijiet biex wara nkomplu mexjin ‘il quddiem u nsostnu l-kwalità tal-ħajja għall-familji Maltin u Għawdxin.

L-istħarriġ tal-Istatistika Ewropea dwar id-Dħul u l-Kundizzjonijiet tal-Ħajja (EUSILC) 2021 irrapporta li 59.5% tad-djar kollha abitati f’Malta u Għawdex kienu jew appartamenti jew maisonettes, filwaqt li 35.8% kienu djar semi-detached jew terraced houses. Din l-istatistika tindika li l-maġġoranza tar-residenti f’Malta jgħixu f’residenzi li huma aċċessibbli minn spazji komuni li r-responsabbiltà tal-manteniment tagħhom tinqasam b’mod ugwali bejn is-sidien tad-diversi unitajiet separati.

Minħabba dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi hemm bżonn liġi li tirrifletti din ir-realtà fejn mhux l-ewwel darba li nħolqu konflitti u tilwim bejn ir-residenti fuq ħaġa jew oħra, u huwa propju għalhekk li f’pajjiżna għandna liġi tal-kondominji biex tindirizza dawn it-tip ta’ problemi. Għaldaqstant bħalissa fuq din il-liġi li ilha fis-seħħ mis-sena 2000, inbeda proċess ta’ reviżjoni biex l-amministrazzjoni tal-kondominji tiġi aġġornata.

Tajjeb li nsemmu li bħalissa, skont l-Att dwar il-Condominia, għandu jinħatar amministratur meta jkun hemm aktar minn tliet appartamenti fl-istess binja. Jekk tali ħatra ma jkunx hemm qbil dwarha, il-kwistjoni għandha tiġi riferuta għall-arbitraġġ, u l-amministratur jinħatar mill-Arbitru. Skont l-istess Att, ta’ min isemmi wkoll li kwalunkwe sid ta’ appartament jew maisonette f’kondominju, qatt ma jista’ jirrinunzja  għall-pussess tiegħu tal-partijiet komuni u għaldaqstant, l-ispejjeż kollha relatati mal-manutenzjoni, preservazzjoni u tiswijiet għandhom jinqasmu bejn is-sidien kollha.

llum f’pajjiżna għandna numru ta’ nies li qed joffru servizz bħala amministraturi b’mod professjonali u l-mod kif dan il-qasam għandu jiġi regolat. Apparti minn hekk għandek numru ta’ żviluppi anke fil-modi kif kienet inkitbet il-liġi; pereżempju l-voti li jkollhom is-sidien meta jiġu biex jieħdu deċiżjonijiet dwar il-partijiet komuni. Kwistjonijiet oħra li nħolqu anke permezz ta’ sentenzi konfliġġenti fil-mod kif kienu qed jitħarsu d-drittijiet ta’ propjetà mill-att tal-kodiċi ċivili għal mod kif ġew introdotti fil-liġi tal-condominia.

Il-Gvern qed janalizza l-proċess ta’ konsultazzjoni li kien sar biex flimkien mas-sezzjoni tal-Kondominji u l-Immaniġjar tal-Bini fi ħdan l-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi Maltin l-MDA, il-liġi taqdi l-ħtiġijiet tal-lum. Huwa dritt ta’ kull bniedem li jgħix fil-paċi f’daru u f’ambjent xieraq u għalhekk tali emendi qed isiru biex fir-realtajiet tal-lum il-ġurnata, tirrenja l-armonija bejn familji differenti li jgħixu fl-istess binja. Inħares ‘il quddiem sabiex dan il-proċess ta’ reviżjoni jiġi konkluż u jiġu introdotti l-emendi neċessarji fi żmien qarib għal kwalità ta’ ħajja aħjar tal-familji tagħna.

Jekk tixtieq tikkumenta ibgħat messaġġ fuq [email protected]

 

The Chamber of Engineers organized the 29th Annual Engineering Conference Sustainable Development Goals: An Engineering Perspective. This conference addressed the challenges and opportunities that engineers are facing in order to achieve the goals in favor of sustainable development according to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Among these we find the sanitation and supply of clean water, affordable and clean energy, industry and innovation, sustainable cities and communities, and responsible consumption and production.

“The change that the country wants to make towards an economy that is almost free of emissions is central to the development of the economic model of the future.”

As Minister of Public Works and Planning, it is refreshing to meet the engineering community at this moment. This event’s focus, justifiably, is on Sustainable Development, and the timing couldn’t have been better.  This is a golden opportunity for the engineering community and its stakeholders to come up with and discuss technical and engineering solutions to Contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Engineers play a vital role in addressing basic human needs, alleviating poverty, promoting secure and sustainable development, responding to emergency situations, reconstructing infrastructure, bridging the knowledge divide, and promoting intercultural cooperation. We all have deadlines, expenses, targets, and competition. Yet the issue of sustainability is no longer a cliché mentioned by companies to look cool and contemporary. Like it or not, only those who adopt a sustainable business model will survive.

We must all understand social and environmental constraints and not just conform to financial necessities. When business or greed are allowed to lead in development, we face severe consequences, and today’s environmental woes are a case in point. As engineers, your profession has played and continues to play a critical role in the future of sustainable development. Whether building new products or working on technologies that will revolutionise our future, you are instrumental in designing, architecting, and devising how products, goods and services are delivered and consumed.

For development to be tenable, engineers must incorporate ‘sustainability’ into all the planning and engineering of products and projects. Technology is neither good nor bad in itself – it is how we apply it that determines whether balance is achieved. According to leading American engineering professor and author Bill Kelly: “social responsibility is not a new issue for the engineering profession. It is fundamental to defining engineering as a profession. Following the concept that the outward part of an engineer’s social responsibility affects public policy, the engineering profession is challenged today to help define social responsibility as part of defining the principles and practices of sustainable development.”

“… the time for action is now.”

Clearly, the time for action is now. We cannot safeguard our economic progress and momentum unless environmental protection is inbuilt into our decision-making process. This requires a paradigm shift in our approach to future development. We can no longer afford the business-as-usual approach. We need new methods and the reallocation of investments, particularly in innovation, research, and development in those areas where we need to improve most.

We must shift towards a green and inclusive economy, achieving equilibrium between environmental protection and economic development whilst ensuring that future growth is socially sustainable. This is even more necessary in these challenging times.

Let’s look at the construction and planning sectors in Malta, for instance. Malta’s Sustainable Development plan envisages the strengthening of how we look at our dwellings, how environmentally sustainable our houses are, how much heat they attract and retain, how humid they are and how many resources we can save if they are designed better. The Building and Construction Authority springs to mind here together with the whole real estate sector.

More importance to environmental impact and renewable energy aspects. Priority needs to be given to those projects whose operations are working towards carbon neutrality.  The whole real estate sector needs to up its game in this regard. Establishing the Building and Construction Authority in 2021 was an important milestone that marked our government’s commitment to bringing the necessary change forward. This authority is spearheading the creation of a construction eco-system, embracing good governance, policies and tailormade practices that support networking platforms promoting compliant and sustainable buildings.

The EPC certification shouldn’t be underestimated. Soon, the energy efficiency of a property and the size of a property’s carbon footprint will directly affect qualification for bank finance, and the cost of such financing for instance. Just think about that! One must recognise the inputs from engineers in the construction and property sector, for instance – and how much their insights and ability can help create greater awareness and develop energy-efficiency solutions in buildings.

Engineers must champion the drive for sustainable development in Malta. It would help if you pinpointed where there are things which need addressing. Engineers must also come up with practical solutions. Your skills and knowledge are very much needed to help expedite the country’s sustainability challenges. There are processes where the role of a warranted engineer should be mandatory by law, so your say as a professional is essential – especially on some issues concerning construction, manufacturing and projects affecting public health and safety. This a discussion that I intend to carry out with the Chamber of Engineers.

We need to see more engineers in government institutions and authorities and those key economic sectors where your expertise will make all the difference. This is a time which we can consider as an opportune moment for the engineering profession to change a challenging situation into an opportunity for growth. But we also need to make sure that along the way we shall have, at the technical and professional levels, the right competencies ready to take-up these challenges. Capacity building is also a priority. The Engineering Profession  needs to be promoted further. People must be made more aware about engineering projects, learn more about the Chambers’ work and events and get to know its members. The younger generations need to be made aware of the opportunities that this profession offers.

Malta cannot succeed in its 2050 UN Sustainable Development Goals target without the help of engineers. One expects to see more participation of engineers not only in industry and business but also in the regulatory sector. We look at the engineering community for ideas, guidance, and vision. Your profession can help create new opportunities for retrofitting existing buildings to become more energy efficient.

We need engineers to ensure that our country continues to enjoy safe, clean water (Goal 6) and sanitation for all, help source out sustainable energy sources (Goal 7), and develop resilient infrastructure (Goal 9) and liveable cities (Goal 11).

Contingency planning against the risks of natural disasters and climate change is also an essential part of Goal 11. Engineers are key in designing and building resilient and sustainable infrastructure for our cities. The transition to a low-carbon economy is central to Malta’s future economic development model. A low-carbon economy can be a win-win situation for all those concerned. Achieving these targets will need integrated engineering solutions that provide resilient infrastructure, sustainable energy, and access to the latest communication technology.

There’s quite a lot to do, as you can see. The government has ambitious plans and acknowledges that it needs to set the pace and act as a role model. Businesses and professionals are expected to take advantage of favourable economic policy towards low-carbon investment, which in turn shores up the competitiveness of the country and contributes to lower emissions and improved air quality and health benefits.

Malta’s vision is to align itself with the pace the EU intends to take. The European economy must make drastic cuts in emissions which will see a reduction of up to 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. Such cuts will be progressive, with interim reduction targets of 40% and 60% by 2030 and 2040, respectively; this can only be possible without fundamental changes in consumption and production patterns and improved utilisation of resources which are already integrated into the modus operandi by other sectors, not least energy, transport, buildings, industry, and agriculture.

Meeting all the sustainable Development Goals is quite a tall order for any country, not least a small island like ours. We must muster all our human talents and professions, bringing all hands on deck to ensure we don’t miss the boat. This event offers us the opportunity to learn about the work in the various fields affecting sustainability, discover what other European states are doing, and follow in their footsteps. At the same time, we will discuss how the engineering profession can help make a difference in this world.

I congratulate the Chamber of Engineers on its effort to become a stronger beacon for the engineering profession in Malta. Malta recognises the hard work and dedication of the engineering community. Coincidentally, I take the opportunity to commend Ing. Michelle Cortis, who this month was elected to the Executive Board of the Federation of Professional Engineers, which gathers leading engineering bodies in Europe. The Chamber of Engineers offers hope for future generations, and I am most happy to collaborate with you to help make our future greener and more carbon-neutral!

Bridging the gap between practicality and art, the exhibition celebrates everything the Faculty of the Built Environment does at the University of Malta.

I have been particularly fascinated by the Society of Architecture and Civil Engineering Students ever since the very first time I came across this student organization.

SACES is vibrant and creative; the organization works, and the passion behind its drive augurs well for Malta’s architecture and, indeed, the entire local construction field.

This exhibition offers the opportunity for our university students to showcase their work to their colleagues and the public. It presents their skills and talent, supplying fresh and innovative ideas for our built environment. It is of utmost importance to SACES that works such as these are experienced by the public, as they represent highly relevant issues, as well as practical, creative solutions which lie at the very essence of the architect’s professional calling.

These projects represent students’ ideals when rethinking and designing our spaces. Once they set out to work in the profession, they will help bring about the much-needed change in how our built environment is developing. Events such as these offer an opportunity for the creativity of students to be communicated to society through designs, sketches, digital graphics, and architectural models. Students are given the opportunity to display their upcoming interpretation of spaces and structures, and what ambitions there are for the world we live in.

During my visit, I was happy to notice the emergence of eco-friendly architectural ideals and sustainable projects as a mainstream drive. The need to reduce our carbon footprint is no longer a cliché but the only way we can survive as geographically vulnerable islands. We can only continue to exist if we develop an innovative, sustainable, and carbon-neutral construction sector. The government is committed to these aims.

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Dear Students,

As future architects, you take on the responsibility to create projects that respect the spatial realities of their immediate neighbourhood; you need to weigh every project’s design and aesthetical impact and take decisions that deliver carbon-neutral solutions. I encourage you to create and work on projects that make them feel proud.

Create milestones, not eyesores.

It sounds like a tall order, but it’s the only way to go.

Preserve your sense of professional pride and steer away from greed; above all, work to preserve your country’s historical and environmental heritage. Your professional insight is of the essence to discern what should be submitted for construction planning approval purposes or not. This is your call as architects; people look up to your profession for direction. Let’s steer our construction sector to greener and more attractive postures. Your help is crucial.

Construction should be about making people’s lives better. However, sadly, our news media is often riddled with stories that demonize development. This type of reporting is most often unfair and incorrect, yet one must acknowledge that people out there have had enough of mediocrity. Some developers, industry professionals, and workers are disregarding the law and disrespecting their neighbouring communities. All this places the entire building and development sector in a negative light, which is unfair for the many hardworking professionals and tradespeople who give their absolute best.

Construction and planning are your future livelihood, and we need your ideas and energy to help us develop solutions and new ideas. This is why the Architecture Student EXPO offers more than just hope. We may be an island, but our insularity is no limit to our potential. Architects must take the lead and function as catalysts for change in the sector. In every SACES member, I see an opportunity for our country.

It is reassuring to see our future professionals studying and gearing up to develop functional and aesthetically pleasing projects – as well as ecologically sustainable ones. We need more creative architects and civil engineers in Malta. We need to innovate and become more akin to our European partners in this regard. For instance, our architects can learn a lot from their German, British, Italian and Spanish peers.

However, dear students, a degree is never the end of the line. There is always room for advancement, and I encourage practising architects – even the most experienced ones – to pursue a regime of continuous professional education. Updating one’s skills through structured training and, and why not, acquiring new ones, is the hallmark of the new reality which affects all sectors of our economy, as it does with other professions. Why should architects be any different?

Architects in Malta should keep abreast with the latest technological advancements, use of new, renewable materials, design styles, and building practices if we are to succeed and win tomorrow’s challenges.

We cannot afford to repeat the misgivings of the recent and not-so-recent history where construction and planning are concerned.

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The Architecture Student EXPO is a celebration of everything the Faculty for the Built Environment does at the University of Malta, and I commend them for their work. SACES is a shining example of how our students can put into practice what they learn and adapt from other countries’ success stories. This is the way to go. The more initiatives of this type there are, the better.

I encourage everyone to support our students as they are an essential partner in our collective effort to make Malta’s future evermore successful.

Il-prattika tal-konservazzjoni hija bbażata fuq il-valuri offruti mir-riżorsi tal-wirt arkitettoniku għal individwi, gruppi, komunitajiet u gvernijiet differenti. Iżda x’nifmhu eżatt b’konservazzjoni? X’importanza għandha fil-valur kollettiv tas-soċjetà tal-lum? Mingħajr ma nidħol f’teknikalitajiet, nistgħu ngħidu li fl-aktar forma sempliċi, l-konservazzjoni tinvolvi l-protezzjoni u l-manutenzjoni b’mod sistematiku u pjanat ta’ oġġetti, strutturi jew valuri li fil-kuntest storiku tagħhom, jixirqilhom rikonoxximent fuq bażi nazzjonali.

Dawn huwa propju dak li d-Dipartiment tax-Xogħlijiet Pubbliċi għadu kemm wettaq permezz ta’ investiment ta’ €600,000 fir-rinnovazzjoni tal-Pont ta’ Gomorino – ġawhra arkitettonika oħra fiċ-ċentru ta’ Malta li tlestiet fl-1900 bħala parti mill-estensjoni għal-linja tal-ferrovija li kienet topera f’Malta għal kwazi 50 sena.

Il-ħsarat li saru matul is-snin kienu konsiderovoli fosthom fejn tidħol l-istruttura nnifisha. Għalhekk ġie deċiż li jinqala’ l-wiċċ eżistenti kollu u jsiru l-pedamenti tat-triq li tgħaddi minn fuq dan il-pont. Sar ukoll it-tisħiħ tat-truf tal-parapett fejn tneħħa l-ħajt preċedenti u sar railing tal-ħadid adegwat biex tiżdied is-sigurtà filwaqt li xorta waħda tkun tista’ titgawda l-veduta.

Minn barra it-triq saret ukoll bankina ġdida biex tintuża minn dawk li jħobbu jmorru jimxu f’din iż-żona. Is-servizzi eżistenti ġew mgħoddija minn taħt l-istess bankina filwaqt li ġiet installata sistema ta’ dawl moderna u aktar effiċjenti. Tajjeb li nsemmu li dan ix-xogħol sar b’osservazzjoni kontinwa tal-pjanti oriġinali li fuqhom inbena dan il-Pont u li d-Dipartiment għandu f’arkivju ta’ pjanti kbir ġewwa Project House, il-Furjana.

Madankollu, l-importanza storika ma kinitx l-unika raġuni għala ntagħżel propju dan il-pont għal dan l-investiment. Il-pożizzjoni tiegħu bejn l-Imtarfa u l-Imdina ukoll kienet fattur importanti li ġie kkunsidrat minħabba l-fatt li dan il-pont joffri aċċessibiltà kemm għal karozzi kif ukoll għal min iħobb jmur jippassiġġa fl-akwati. Ma nistgħux ukoll ma nsemmux il-valur estetiku ta’ dan il-pont li jikkumplimenta l-ġmiel naturali tal-Wied tal-Għeriexem.

B’portafoll ta’ proġetti li jvarjaw minn dawk komunitarji sa dawk nazzjonali bħalma hu l-Malta National Park, id-Dipartiment tax-Xogħlijiet Pubbliċi qed ikompli jkun ta’ servizz u qed iwettaq ħidma siewja madwar pajjiżna kollu. Għaldaqstant, nieħu din l-okkażjoni biex nirringrazzja lil dawk kollha li kienu involuti kif ukoll lil Kunsill Lokali tal-Imdina tal-kooperazzjoni fit-twettiq ta’ dan il-proġett.

Permezz ta’ proġetti ta’ dan it-tip irridu nkomplu nagħtu dehra ġdida lill-aktar opri arkitettoniċi ta’ pajjiżna biex jitgawdew mill-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri. Inħares ‘il quddiem għall-aktar impenn biex grazzi għall-entitajiet kollha li jaqgħu taħt il-Ministeru għax-Xogħlijiet Pubbliċi u l-Ippjanar, nkomplu nwettqu proġetti li jkomplu jtejbu il-kwalità tal-ħajja tan-nies.

 

Our actions today shall forge tomorrow’s future.

Meanwhile, our continued economic and physical well-being will depend on how much we succeed in learning from past mistakes, planning, adopting new working methods and embracing new technologies. Therefore, all stakeholders in the sector, including developers, professionals, contractors, tradesmen and investors, must work together towards these common goals. The need for a more innovative, sustainable and carbon-neutral construction sector has been highlighted over and over again. I underline the need for all stakeholders to elevate the importance of buildings’ aesthetics and how these should complement their surroundings while respecting Malta’s outstanding heritage.

During an evening event held at MUŻA by the Planning Authority,  it is was really encouraging to see the energy, drive and creativity of our future architects and participants in the Archivisit experience by the Society for Architecture & Civil Engineering Students (SACES); It is necessary we appreciate and celebrate some of Malta’s most outstanding architectural and spatial planning projects. Indeed, breakthrough works such as these underpin how much the construction sector can serve as a force for good in this country.

I also commend the winners of this year’s Malta Architecture and Spatial Planning (MASP) Awards. This award serves to give recognition to architects, interior designers, university students and any person who has made an outstanding contribution over the years through research, education, theory or practice of architecture and the built environment. A means of showcasing best practices. The spirit of this prize very much fits the type of future that the government envisages for this sector, one built on excellence and a positive contribution to society. Let these exemplary projects catalyze more positive change and serve as inspiration to others.

The government is working to secure our nation’s future in construction by investing in education at all levels, while empowering competent authorities such as the Planning Authority and the Building and Construction Authority to achieve their aims. Additionally, we are working on ways to educate the public about these authorities’ mission and purpose. We cannot succeed without public support. This understanding is necessary, as change is needed for a purpose, and this is for the common good.

Sterling HQ, San Gwann

The way forward is to help steer the Building & Construction industry towards adopting the necessary change in its processes and practices. A key to the success of this gradual process is the creation of greater awareness and improved education at all levels. There is a need to regenerate vocational subjects and recognize new skills, such as green jobs and technical professionals, as well as upscale and generate innovative practices and regulatory aspects to ensure that the sector moves on to new standards.

In an increasingly competitive and unstable world, Malta’s success in real estate and foreign direct investment will depend on how much we continue to raise local standards.

Future success will depend on how much we protect and improve our architectural heritage, the environment, and our community’s quality of life today. We cannot afford to get any of these three areas wrong.

Furthermore, we must continue to work towards a construction sector that works more harmoniously with the community – while showing good neighbourliness. We must work towards an industry that is less polluting to the environment, not just in terms of improved air quality and better ways of dealing with its waste, but also in terms of less noise pollution.

Affluence and economic growth are not enough. Malta needs to up its game where the quality of our living environment is concerned. We also understand that people need to enjoy nature and the outdoors, as these are essential qualities of a good and healthy standard of living. I believe that the Periti need to take the lead and give direction, not simply take the brief from your clients. People look up to you and your profession. Let’s steer our construction sector to greener and more attractive postures. Your input is crucial.

Our projects must prioritize aesthetics while respecting, as far as possible, our neighbourhoods.

Roof Garden – Valletta Design Cluster

Aesthetics come at a cost, yet yield unlimited value. We need less greed and more consideration for the aesthetical values of our buildings in respect of our country’s history and character, before it is too late. Our objective is for the construction sector to be better regulated, with improved laws on the licensing of contractors, as well as introducing building codes and measures to upgrade the skills of all workers in the industry.

The Planning Authority has been tasked with the update of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) and introduce new indicators to ensure that SPED is meeting its objectives to protect our country’s rural and urban environment.

The government is committed to ensuring that urban conservation areas (UCAs) are irrevocably defined, except for widening and including other sites in the scheme. The government plans to introduce a buffer zone around urban conservation areas so that there is a gradual change for the better in the aesthetics of our towns and villages. On the same lines, we are looking closely at scheduled second-tier buildings with new incentives to encourage owners to restore these buildings and open them to the public where possible.

When approving development permits, the responsible authorities must give more importance to environmental impact and renewable energy aspects.

At this stage, the Archivisit initiative by the Society for Architecture & Civil Engineering Students (SACES) comes to mind; this project augurs well for the future of the architecture profession in Malta. It shows that an active drive to learn and adapt from other countries’ success stories is the way to go. The more initiatives of this type there are, the better.

We may be an island, but our insularity is no limit to our potential. We cannot stay put, perpetuating old style and discarded work habits. We must get out of our comfort zone and look for more innovative ideas and technologies. We cannot afford to repeat the misgivings of the recent and not-so-recent history where construction and planning are concerned. We must act now.

We need to spearhead the creation of a construction eco-system, embracing good governance, policies and tailormade practices that support networking platforms promoting compliant and sustainable buildings.

We must ensure that any development is carried out with the least possible inconvenience to residents and the surrounding environment.

There is a lot of work to do, but I am determined to see it through and excited about our prospects. The Long-Term Renovation Strategy being put forward is a game-changer and is ambitious in its scope.

Imperial Residential Home, Sliema

The government is committed to leading by example, and this strategy manifests this commitment as it also focuses on achieving more energy-efficient systems in public buildings. We expect the private sector to follow suit.

We can make it by working together! Armed with our nation’s heritage, collective skills, vision and determination to bring about positive change, we are envisaging a quantum leap forward in construction and planning, which is a step towards a better quality of life for all.

Our commitments will not only help Malta strengthen its economic and environmental well-being but do much, much more.