This year’s Architectural Student Expo is an opportunity for students to showcase their work to their colleagues and the public.

Since its inception in 1974, SACES – The Society of Architecture and Civil Engineering Students – within the Faculty for the Built Environment at the University of Malta, managed to bring together different skills and to maximize the potential of our future architects. Indeed, the passion, creativity, and innovation of the students within this organization augurs well for Malta’s architecture.

The economic, social and cultural developments in the post-war period in Malta, as much as in Europe, have been substantial. The population of the Maltese Islands has witnessed several demographic changes between the 19th and 21st century. In fact, the resident population of the Maltese Islands grew more than fourfold between 1842 and 2023. Population growth during the 21st century was essentially a result of demographic changes including influx of foreign workers as a result of unprecedented growth.

Undoubtedly, in the recent past, the real estate sector has registered substantial activity. It attracted various investments together with an enhanced productivity. This activity was the result of higher demand for property units both for residential and commercial purposes.

While this is very positive from an economic point of view, it also has its challenges because it paved the way for a construction boom. This has brought with it various challenges not least amongst others the requirement that we must improve our standards to enhance the quality of our construction projects.

For this to happen the need was felt to take a thorough look at the various laws that regulate the sector so as to consolidate where it is needed.

The Ministry for Public Works and Planning and the University of Malta are currently working together to make the first compendium of the laws that regulate construction.

Against this backdrop, the Ministry for Public Works and Planning and the University of Malta are currently working together to make the first compendium of the laws that regulate construction.

Besides, the Planning Authority with the assistance of various local and international consultants is finalising the necessary studies for the updating of the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED). These studies shall provide essential tools in reviewing national planning objectives based on various important aspects that shall indicate the country’s need in the next two decades.

One of the major objectives that shall be addressed within the immediate term is a review of current policies and regulations in relation to aesthetics. The urban fabric has been impacted with the increased development Malta has registered over the years. Therefore, there will be more emphasis to promote good practices, adopting policies that protect streetscapes and a more holistic approach in this regard.

On the other hand, a focused discussion leading to a specific review is being undertaken to address the needs of Gozo. While working towards the future economic advancment of the island, Gozo’s regional particularities and specific necessities need to be respected. To this end, the Gozo strategy, that has recently been published will indicate the aspects that require review to protect the uniqueness of Gozo, the Island of Villages.

The vast majority of Maltese live in urban areas and the quality of our built environment has a considerable impact on our quality of life. Against this backdrop, more than ever, future architects and civil Engineers are duty bound to develop meaningful and healthy places because these have a profund effect on the country’s social and economic wellbeing.

While acknowledging the importance of preserving buildings with valuable heritage and safeguarding our natural resources, the Government and all involved stakeholders including future architects need to ensure better regulation and implementation for the construction sector and higher quality.

In this regard, the Government has already embarked on a number of unprecedented reforms to make the leap forward to upgrade quality in construction. In July the Licensing of contractors regime that will regulate demolition, excavation and construction came into force. By 1st January 2025, the entire construction industry must have a licence for contractors to continue operating at construction sites. Coupled with this, we are also updating the Mason’s Licence. This will be the first major change to the licence in many years. The overarching objective of this reform is to instill more responsibility among masons and pave the way for higher quality in the construction sector.

Furthermore, the process towards the introduction of the Building Codes is being intensified to ensure completion in the near future. The introduction of compulsory skill cards and the promotion of more training and education in the sector shall be the main thrust in achieving the objectives of this reform. These changes shall continue to be adopted with a continuous and structured involvement of all stakeholders including the general public which expressed a clear message towards a change for more responsible and sustainable development that achieves better and higher standards.

Architects have a pivotal role to play because their expertise in architectural design is critical in ensuring that construction projects meet the highest standards. To this end, architects should refrain from presenting non-starter projects. Architects should advise their clients to present projects that are more sensitive to the surroundings of the site of the project. Moreover, planning applications need to be preceded with processes that ensure stakeholder interaction and participation.  Thus, it is imperative that architects prioritise the public interest over any interests that their clients may have, when these go against planning policies.

Following a consultation process between the Ministry for Public Works and Planning and the Chamber of Architects various parts of the 2021 Periti Act entered into force and several regulations were introduced. I truly believe that this is a crucial step in the right direction because while these regulations provide better guidelines to those who intend taking a course leading to architects’ profession, they will also lead to stronger work ethics to ensure better quality in the industry.

Added to this, we are also setting the country on the path to a Green transition. The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is currently working to make the buildings more energy efficient and to update the regulations on Energy Performance Certificates known as EPCs.

Besides, through the Construction and Demolition Waste Strategy for Malta short and long-term measures are being implimented to prioritise reuese and recycling.

A new regulatory framework for Construction and Demolition Waste is currently being developed, aiming to streamline waste management efforts and promote sustainable practices within the construction sector. This regulatory framework is expected to come into force by end of year.

Yesterday we have announced a consultation that will lead to an important reform in the planning process particularly when third party appeals are presented. It is being envisaged that permits that are appealed should be suspended pending the appeal process. This change shall be founded on a clear balance between the interests of all involved and a clear assurance that the appeal process shall be an efficient and swift one to ensure certainty in the process.

This year’s Architectural Student Expo is once again an opportunity for students to showcase their work to their colleagues and the public. It is also an important tool to help us think outside the box about the much-needed change in our built envrionment.

All construction has an impact on the public, to this end all actors involved in construction need to join forces and work together towards more responsibility, more seriousness, and above all better quality in the construction sector.

Let us not forget that Every man wants to belong to a “place”; he wants to believe that he is in the most wonderful spot on earth and he takes pride in how and where he spends his time on this earth. Emotion is the most important determinant in architecture.”