This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Architects go to war every day: KTP chief testifies in Sofia inquiry

Architects often find themselves caught up between different authorities and their disgrutled clients, the president of the profession’s regulatory body told court on Friday, urging for one centralised entity that regulated the building industry. 

“It’s like going to war every day. You either fight with some entity or with the client,” Kamra tal-Periti (Chamber of Architects) president Andre’ Pizzuto said.

Pizzuto was testifying in the public inquiry into the death of Jean Paul Sofia, a 20-year-old who was buried under the remains of a timber factory that was being constructed at Corradino.

The chamber's president said that reforming the building sector was a slow-moving process.

Up until a few years ago, “conscientious” architects often went beyond the remit of their profession to impose standards on building contractors. Back then, standards were considered an extra expense, while architects were viewed as an added inconvenience, he said.

A series of collapses, followed by the death of Miriam Pace and Sofia, brought about a shift in public opinion and a growing awareness of the gravity of the situation.

But rather than the series of entities that have been set up to regulate the sector, giving rise to a series of gaps in the system, the chamber is proposing one central authority that would set building and construction regulations as well as issue licences of all labourers working in construction, Pizzuto said.

Such a system would function in a simple manner: "it would be subject to one condition, namely that we live in a normal country where each player knows what they are doinge".

"But if one of those fails along the way, who would bring him in check,” asked  Judge Emeritus and chair of the board Joseph Zammit McKeon. 

The current system is amateurish, replied Pizzuto, citing by way of example a recently proposed regulation that would, among others, allow a builder “over the age of 18” to be issued with a contractor’s licence to oversee workers. 

Pizzuto drew comparison with large private projects that adopted a  "sophisticated set up" of skilled workers, quality assurance and control and insurance cover. 

“Accidents do not happen there. The set up provides for checks upon checks. Accidents happen in small and medium projects.”

Is it time for a moratorium? 

Pizzuto said the chamber had put many proposals to the Building and Construction Authority, however, the drafts it received in reply were nothing but “shocking”.

These included having an architect  - who is not the same one that designd the project - appointed by a contractor to certify that the contractor himself is capable of carrying out the project.  

Pizzuto decried lack of national building regulations that guide architects. 

Asked by the chair whether it was “time for a moratorium, putting all development on hold until we put our house in order”, the witness said that that measure was “rather controversial and extreme”.

He did, however, acknowledge a sense of urgency.

“There’s a need to roll up our sleeves. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We need to implement existing standards: that’s all.”

The chamber itself has already issued “design codes” setting standards for the profession rather than wait for “20 or 30 years” on the authorities to come up with such codes. 

The anonymous BCA team

Pizzuto also expressed concern about the anonymity of architects engaged by BCA to check method statements. 

That practice was unethical and illegal, he said.

The situation had given rise to a “blatant conflict of interest” and an offence in terms of the Periti Act. 

Describing the situation as “obscene”, Pizzuto said that an architect should not write a method statement for the contractor.

“While the anonymous BCA team requests alterations to the method statement, it is the architect that is having to shoulder responsibility.” 

'Hostage negotiators’

In his testimony, Pizzuto claimed architects often found thelselves caught up between different entities, having to step in as “hostage negotiators” to “extract the client from the trap they find themselves in on account of these entities”. 

This was leading to architects giving up the profession or moving abroad.

“It’s tragic,” observed Pizzuto, describing how architects “went to war each day” waging battle with one entity or another, or with their clients. 

Pizzuto said the BCA should have jurisdiction over all buildings, regulations and enforcement.

KTP resources

As questions turned to the chamber’s resources, the witness said that funding came primarily from membership fees and events. 

However, “to be fair”, the current administration was helping the chamber "quite a lot". 

“The minister is receptive to our proposals. He also gave us a budget to develop a digital platform.” 

More to follow