Our collective commitment has to be based and focused on one direction – higher standards in the construction industry.

We can only achieve this if we collectively understand that the upgrade of this sector is not simply about better designs or better implementation during the constructions phase of the building but we must also plan and achieve higher quality in the functioning of the buildings we construct, utilise and occupy.

Adopting a fire standard in buildings is not only about the drafting and approval of a document which will acquire legal enforceability.  It is an important task that must be undertaken in a timely manner that evaluates the current situation as well as forges a way foreword in order that the new standards are adopted in a seamless manner.

These standards need to address two important aspects. On the one hand the standards will guide professionals in the design of buildings with particular reference to the construction of a building as well as the design of fittings that will be included in the building. On the other hand the standard must define the level of upkeep in a building to ensure that the required levels of safety are adhered to during the lifetime of a building.

This standard is therefore about people’s safety and people’s lives. The drafting of the standard has to be the result of a solid interface between the Building & Construction Authority which is responsible for building codes together with the Civil Protection Department that has various important responsibilities in relation to this specific topic.

I cannot stress enough the need to create awareness with regard to fire safety. The process of change cannot simply be based on a technical discussion of a document that shall establish the legally enforceable standards. We need to make the public as well as all interested parties in the sector aware for the need of improvement in this particular aspect. Sometimes I get the impression that people in Malta think that fire does not pose risks to Maltese buildings. This is completely untrue.

Recent experiences have shown the risks our various buildings have and how a timely intervention by using safety equipment on site coupled with an efficient and effective Civil Protection Department can save people’s lives. We are facing new challenges resulting from taller buildings, car parking spaces under residences, the new realities of electric cars as well as the presence of more potentially flammable materials in the various buildings we occupy. All these matters confirm the need for a structured process towards more fire safety.

The implementation of Fire Standards is not simply a law enforcement process. It has to be coupled with the presence and availability of recognised trained and qualified professionals and technical personnel who can carry out the Works that are needed within buildings to ensure that these standards can be achieved.

We need to undertake a widespread process that bolsters the certifying processes that are currently available. This shall require a wide discussion with the Chamber of Architects, the Chamber of Engineers as well as other institutions and stakeholders to ensure the availability of the necessary framework.

As Government we are committed to spearhead more reforms towards higher standards in the contruction and real-estate industries. The Contractors’ Licensing process is a concrete example of our commitment towards this change. This change can be carried out if it continues to find the support of stakeholders, professionals and all involved parties in this sector, particularly the general public that utilises all forms of buildings. As a country we need to undertake one solid commitment: Let us do things better.


Climate Challenges and Opportunities for Real Estate: Time for Action

Bank of Valletta – 24th January 2023

Today’s event was truly an important one. An excellent initiative at the right time. I recall meeting Kenneth Farrugia at the beginning of his tenure as CEO. It is encouraging to see that Bank of Valletta have grasped the importance of energy efficient buildings and are showing their willingness to be an important stakeholder in this change – one that can be postponed no longer. We must upgrade the level of energy efficiency of today’s buildings.

The time to act is now.

This is a change of significant importance for the Maltese Government, the business community and the country as a whole. Now is the time to join forces, with a multitude of stakeholders, but Banks none the least, to drive this change together. It is estimated that only 40% of energy is consumed inside buildings, and buildings are responsible for no less than 36% of greenhouse gas emissions. The buildings that we use could be more energy efficient.  The entire building and property sector must evolve and change to address these realities.

Behavioural changes, by building users, developers and building professionals, are needed to achieve action on energy efficiency. Purchasing a property is, from a financial point of view, one of life’s biggest, if not the biggest, commitment. A lot of hard work and sacrifice goes into purchasing a property to make it your home. And whilst building a comfortable home for one’s family needs is everyone’s priority, however, little, if any, thought is put into ensuring that the property purchased is of the highest quality, in terms of materials and building technology used in its construction.

The consumer, unfortunately, is hardly aware of the conditions that he should ask for.

Let’s call a spade by its name: The technologies adopted in the construction of a property is, often, traditional and in various cases leaves much to be desired. This is, often, a reflection, and not the best of reflections, on the key players in this sector: Developers, professionals and contractors. It is high time that investors consider thoroughly the trends in the sale of properties, and also other investment opportunities, while those opting to invest further in the property market are to ensure that they acquaint themselves with the new realities that Climate Change is bringing with it.

There is no doubt that the real estate sector in Malta was, is, and remains one of the most, if not the most, robust sectors of our economy. The property market continues to thrive – despite the global challenges that we are part of. Capital appreciation remains strong, and the cost of purchase is significant. However, the quality aspect remains one which is much to be desired. And in this respect, Banks have a crucial role to play.

It is Banks that finance the absolute majority of property purchases, be they residential or for commercial purposes. It is therefore, pertinent that Banks explain their obligations in relation to the financing of property both to the public in general as well as investors in this sector. Banks need to roll out a clear way forward – call it a roadmap if you wish – on the manner in which they shall observe and adhere to these obligations in evaluating the financing of the property purchases in relation to energy efficiency.

The Energy Performance Certificate that certifies the energy efficiency of each building will gain more importance. 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.

Access to financing for the purchase of a property is a key element to ensure that more people become owners of their homes. I must emphasize, that we cannot simply look at this matter as it was the financing of just another business transaction like any other – for it is not. Developers, on their part, need to up their game to ensure that the financing of property is not hindered as a result of the lack of energy efficient qualities in buildings placed on the market.

It is high time that consumers buying a property know the energy efficiency levels of the property.

Our aim should be to have green and sustainable buildings. This requires radical changes in the way we build but also radical changes in the way we think, act, and behave. We need to create awareness on the part of property purchasers with regard to energy efficiency. This is part of the change required.

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. Energy efficiency not only saves money, and provides a cleaner, healthier environment but it also creates jobs.

Recently, we inaugurated Project House. The head office of the Works Department, known as Projects House in Floriana, underwent a €4 million investment that makes it more energy sustainable. This is in line with Government’s commitment for the de-carbonization of our economy. 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.

The European Union’s Recovery and Resilience Plan provided funds for more energy efficiency in public buildings and commercial buildings. 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.

Budget 2023 has now extended benefits in relation to the installation of PV panels for residential houses and renovations of private sector buildings. 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. Efforts are underway to update Energy Performance Certificate issued by the Building and Construction Authority to reflect the new requirements.

This change requires a collective effort. It requires that all stakeholders: Government; Banks; Developers and Consumers are on board. This change cannot happen unless there is a collective effort. This change requires a broad discussion whereby all issues are addressed and solutions found – collectively. Banks have a primary role to play – and communicating, clearly, with stake holders and consumers is a must. Let us not look at this change as a bureaucratic process – but one that shall reap benefits for all. Let us, together, walk the talk in both domestic, commercial, and public buildings.

The cost of inaction is too high. We will only succeed once we bring everyone on board. We have to see the present challenges as new opportunities. Let us ensure that this, much needed change, is done in a just and fair manner. For we all stand to gain from energy efficient buildings. Let us all join forces to make this change happen.

Din is-sena ħabbarna l-bidu tax-xogħlijiet fuq il-bini ta’ sistema ta’ stormwater culverts fiż-Żurrieq permezz ta’ investiment ta’ madwar miljun ewro biex tiġi indirizzata l-problema tal-għargħar fiċ-ċentru taż-Żurrieq u l-madwar. Proġett li kien ilu mistenni mir-residenti taż-Żurrieq ta’ din iż-żona li saħansitra kien qed jiħlilhom l-ilma ġo djarhom wara xi maltempata qawwija.

Fil-bidu tax-xogħlijiet ta’ skavar, instabu fdalijiet storiċi fejn minnufih infurmajna lis-Sovrintendenza tal-Wirt Kulturali sabiex tevalwa iż-żona. Bħalissa għaddejin studji minn naħa ta’ dan id-dipartiment fuq ir-rilevanza u l-funzjoni ta’ dawn il-qatgħat fil-blat li, mal-ewwel daqqa t’għajn, jidhru simili għal cart ruts li nsibu f’diversi żoni madwar Malta u Għawdex. Minkejja dan, ix-xogħol kompla għaddej f’żona aktar ‘il fuq biex ma jitwaqqafx il-progress ta’ dan il-proġett li issa jinsab miexi b’rittmu tajjeb.

Kompla t-tħaffir fit-telgħa ta’ Vjal ix-Xarolla, fejn din is-sistema se tingħaqad ma’ oħra eżistenti, u issa wasal sal-bidu ta’ Triq il-Bronja. Tajjeb li wieħed isemmi, li dan il-proġett se jikkonsisti f’bini ta’ culvert, b’tul totali li jaqbeż l-1,000 metru, 61 metru ta’ catchment pits u 28 catchment chambers fejn jinġabar l-ilma.

Permezz ta’ dan l-investiment se nnaqsu nkonvenjent li ilu snin jurta lir-residenti ta’ din iż-żona ċentrali fiż-Żurrieq. Barra minn hekk, dan se jkun intervent ieħor minn kullana ta’ proġetti reċenti biex tittaffa l-problema tal-għargħar fuq skala nazzjonali u sabiex l-ilma li jinġabar, jintuża bħala riżorsa alternattiva bl-aħjar mod possibbli.

Bħal kull proġett ieħor f’żoni residenzjali, nifhem li dan il-proġett jaf joħloq diversi inkovenjenti kemm għar-residenti tal-akwata kif ukoll għal min ta’ kuljum juża’ dawn it-toroq. Għaldaqstant, bħala Dipartiment tax-Xogħlijiet Pubbliċi qegħdin f’kuntatt kontinwu mal-Kunsilli Lokali taż-Żurrieq u ta’ Ħal Safi sabiex ninfurmaw lill-pubbliku b’kwalunkwe tibdil fid-direzzjonijiet tat-traffiku. Qegħdin ukoll f’kuntatt ma’ Transport Malta biex anke t-trasport pubbliku li jgħaddi minn din iż-żona jiġi rivedut temporanjament skond kif ikun meħtieġ.

Dan u ħafna aktar xogħol li qed jitwettaq mill-Gvern ta’ Robert Abela huwa prova li fid-deċiżjonijiet kollha li jittieħdu, hemm rispett sħiħ u rieda soda biex nkomplu ntejbu l-kwalità tal-ħajja tan-nies. Nemmen li apparti l-ħtieġa tal-ħolqien tax-xogħol, tal-investimenti fl-ekonomija u fil-ħolqien tal-ġid, hemm bżonn ninvestu f’aktar proġetti bħal dan li qed nwettqu fiż-Żurrieq kemm għal benefiċċju tar-residenti, kif ukoll għall-ambjent isbaħ u aħjar billi nħarsu r-riżorsi naturali ta’ pajjiżna.