Tidying up: Unified construction code expected to sweep away legal ambiguities

For many years the construction sector has tended to operate according to a frequently ambiguous and inadequate legal framework. It is governed by a patchwork of incongruous legal texts which are enforced by various levels of government, from local to national. As a result of this, building has become difficult to monitor and the responsibility of the various stakeholders is unclear. For the past few years, the Ministry of Habitat and Urban Planning (Le Ministère de l'Habitat, de l'Urbanisme et de la Politique de la ville, MHUP) has been preparing a new unified construction code (Réglement Générale de Construction, RGC) for the sector, which will address administrative, legal and judicial inadequacies. By simplifying administrative processes and enhancing oversight, the text is expected to create a more competitive construction industry. Although the proposed code has already been delayed by several years, it is likely to be adopted in 2014.

INFORMAL SECTOR: High levels of ambiguity in the sector have opened the way for a sizeable informal segment to flourish, with informal buildings currently comprising around 25% of the market. Some developers have resorted to applying the French building code for lack of an alternative system. The new construction code should correct these dynamics by bringing future building projects under its administrative and legal umbrella, and avoiding the need for the private sector to resort to self-regulation.

CODE DETAILS: The code will be centred around five major pillars. Firstly, the use of unsafe building materials has been a recurrent problem in Morocco, especially within the informal building sector. As part of the proposed code, all materials used must be traceable through an accompanying data sheet and a certificate of origin. The new code will introduce maintenance requirements for buildings to ensure that buildings remain within safety requirements. The enforcement of standards is a key element and the code details the fines issued for violations of parts of the code. Delays, for example, may be punishable by a Dh60,000 (€5328) fine, worksite safety violations may incur a Dh50,000 (€4440) fine, while structural weakness in buildings due to code violations may lead to a fine of up to Dh1m (€88,800).

The code also spells out the roles of specialists in all fields related to construction, from architecture to engineering to inspectors. Builders will be required to present detailed construction plans, which includes deadlines, implementation plans, contracts and a building site workbook, 15 days before the launch of a new construction site. The code will enter into force in two years after adoption and will apply only to new constructions. In addition, there will be provisions for a transition period under specific circumstances for projects and the code will initially apply to buildings which serve a public function.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY: A new regulation regarding thermal insulation, aiming to improve building energy efficiency, also came into force in December 2013. It dictates which types of material must used in building insulation regarding roofing, walls, windows and floorboards. The construction sector is one of the country’s most significant energy consumers. As a result, the new regulation is considered an important first step in reducing its levels of consumption. Builders will have a transition period of one year to comply with the new rules and their failure to do so will result in construction permits being refused.

BUILDING PERMITS: Morocco fell from 81 to 83 in the World Bank’s rankings for construction permits in its 2013 “Doing Business” report. A total of 15 procedures are required to obtain a construction permit in Morocco, which can take up to 97 days. In doing so, the country has fared slightly better than the remainder of the region, where the average number of procedures is 16, and there is a waiting period of up to 145 days. In OECD countries, by contrast, it takes an average of 13 procedures and 147 days, respectively, in order to obtain a building permit.

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The Report: Morocco 2014

Construction & Real Estate chapter from The Report: Morocco 2014

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