The Construction Industry is one of the main sectors that involve Geologists throughout Europe. The Maltese construction industry grew by 41% between 2015 and 2019. The level of growth puts Malta in the top 5 countries for construction activity in the EU.
Geologists provide two important contributions in the construction industry:
Assessing the stability and safety of rock excavation and tunnelling
Assessing the quality of geomaterials (the bulk of building materials consists of geological materials, namely cut stone, aggregate and cement.
One of the main problems associated with construction is rock failure during excavation. Geologists are the experts in assessing and interpreting rock and assessing the potential for rock failure and geohazards.
Following a series of tragic rock failures at excavation sites that left several homeless and a fatality, the Hon Prime Minister of Malta appointed the Building Industry Technical Committee to evaluate the building industry. The Committee issued its Report in 2020, known as the Quintano Report*.
The Report made some interesting observations about the safety of third-parties next to excavation sites. The following are quotes from the Quintano Report:
1. "The state of safety of the neighbouring structures is therefore left to chance....This is nothing short of playing Russian roulette with the lives of third parties".
2. The title ‘Perit’ is "grossly outdated in the complexity of the modern building industry" and that the "Perit can no longer be the only expert".
3. “Most accidents occur because these (rock mass discontinuities) are often misunderstood (by the civil engineer) or because their importance in compromising stability is neglected completely.”
A number of questions arise about the present regulatory situation:
Are the BICC and BCA heeding the Quintano Report?
Why are professional geologists (the experts on rock and excavation) who know the importance of rock mass discontinuities and can identify them, still NOT recognised by the BICC and BCA?
Why was the request for membership to the BICC Advisory Board made by the Malta Chamber of Geologists refused by the BICC Chairman? Is this in the interest of public safety?
*Quintano L., Simiana M., Mifsud A., Cassar M. (2020) Building Industry Technical Committee Report. 35 pp.
Geomaterials are dominated by limestone which is processed into two forms:
Dimension stone: Globigerina Limestone is cut into dimension stone at sizes determined by Legal Notice 47 of 1976.
Aggregate: Upper and Lower Coralline Limestone are crushed to produce aggregate. Grading of aggregate is according to EN 12620:2013, but American standards are also used. Flakiness and water absorption tend to be high in Maltese aggregate which creates problems to concrete mix design requiring high strength concrete.