The Green Way


The Planning Authority is encouraging organizations to offer their employees incentives to commute to work in a green way – and it is leading by example.

It has introduced a variety of schemes for its own employees, ranging from a minibus service, to free top up of Tal-Linja cards, ferry tickets across Marsamxett and Grand Harbour, and incentives for those who commute by walking, have bicycles, scooters or who car-pool. Other measures also include the provision of an emergency vehicle (to ensure that staff who only use their car just in case they have to leave quickly to attend to an emergency can use public transport but would be ferried quickly should anything unfortunate happen to relatives), the increased deployment of electric or hybrid cars. A wider flexitime period (starting from 6:00 to 9:00) also helps as the tailing hours of the arrival period do not coincide with the morning rush hour, thus helping with reducing the car load at any one time. A number of additional measures are contemplated for the future.

There are a number of objectives that may be met through these measures. One is reducing the actual number of vehicles on the road and the associated need for parking spaces. Another is to promote the use of more environmentally friendly vehicles. Yet another is to reduce the need for travel.

It is estimated that on average, each car requires in the region of 200 square metres of road if it travels at a maximum speed of 80 kilometres an hour. “Cars take up much more space than people realise because of the road requirements. This does not include just the car footprint but also the safety distance from other cars. If lateral distances of adjacent lanes are taken into account then the figure is even higher. Parking also takes a lot of space. When using private vehicles, parking is required at each location where the car stops and the driver temporarily leaves the car. This is applicable to home, places visited (like work, shops etc.), visits to relatives or friends and so forth. Efficient use of space is even more relevant in Malta where space is so limited and where there are more private cars than driving licences!” Perit Frans Mallia explained.

“And the island has the second most dense transportation network in the world. Since the 1980s, the amount of roads constructed has been phenomenal as we tried to keep up with the increase in demand for cars. Whilst it is true that there are practically no options that replace the comfort and flexibility offered by the private car – this is only applicable as long as there is no congestion and you find somewhere to park! - We also have to bear in mind that it is also practically the most expensive means of transport”

Transport Malta and other entities have been taking a number of initiatives to ease the pressure. In view of its remit of sustainably regulating land use, the Planning Authority has taken green travel possibilities very seriously. “Our remit is to look at land use but that includes understanding the impact of traffic and roads as you cannot have one without the other,” Perit Frans Malllia said.

Land transport features very prominently in spatial planning and thus the PA feels obliged to contribute to research and where possible implement measures that promote green travel. It is also conducted a number of related studies which are being drafted to complement other documents on the same overall subject. Exchanges with Transport Malta also take place in the determination of development applications and traffic assessments of larger projects.

The PA has already established contacts with other entities to share what it has learnt so far from its green travel trials. For example, contacts to explore commonalities and experience have already been established with the Environment and Resource Authority, part of which was formerly merged with the PA through the former MEPA.

Persuading people to give up their cars will almost certainly only happen if there is some form of incentive or viable alternative. The Authority launched a project around a year ago, which started off with a questionnaire sent to its 400 staff. This was compiled to explore feasible green travel options given that staff members have different commuting patterns.

It is well known that green travel measures are most applicable to staff members who regularly arrive and leave work at the same time and do not need to run errands on the way to or from work. Last summer, the authority organized– and paid for - two minibuses, one collecting staff from the north and one from the south. To make it viable, the commute had to be as short as possible so it set the times before the morning rush hour. Since the Authority has extended flexi time to its staff, they were able to start and end earlier. The service had an appeal to a sector of its staff. The earlier journey time also translates into spreading traffic away from the morning rush hour.

“It was oversubscribed in summer but before we extended it, we wanted to see how it works in winter when people might have children’s school times and after-school activities to take into consideration,” he said. The mini-bus trial has therefore been extended till December, after which a decision would be taken to modify where necessary and have a service of a more permanent nature.

The incentives have so far persuaded around 40 staff members to leave their cars at home in favour of using public transport. The Incentive is offering up to €26 a month top up of the Tal-Linja card. This practically implies that public transport becomes free for the subscribed and the benefit extends beyond office hours. Another benefit includes the refund of the cost of a block ticket for the ferry across Marsamxett or Grand Harbour. In such cases transport is provided from the ferry landing to the PA offices in Floriana in order to further facilitate uptake of this travel option.

To encourage people who cannot use public transport to use less polluting means of transport, those who use motorcycles, scooters or bicycles, as well as those who walk, get €312 a year: “The concept is to allow these employees to keep their options open. So if, for example, it is too hot to walk or it is raining and you do not want to use a scooter, then the subsidy will cover the cost of alternative green transport (eg. the bus),” he said.

“The measure has encouraged a number of people who live nearby to actually walk to work.” Walking and cycling also have the added benefit of exercise apart from reducing the car load from our roads.

Of course, some people may still use their cars. Another measure that the Authority considered to reduce car numbers was through car-pooling. Another ‘carrot’ was to offer reserved parking for those who car-share with at least one passenger. Another option being considered is to offer a number of company cars for use to commute – as long as they car-pool with at least two other people.

Naturally the measures will leave a small impact on the traffic and parking loads but the effect would be much more significant if the example is emulated by other entities in the public and private sector. However, success is envisaged if different organisation can team up to take advantages from the economies of scale.

“The government is actively trying to tackle this issue and actually announced measures for employers in the last Budget. We want to make sure that if companies want to take up the idea of organising alternatives for the employees, we are in a position to help them based on first-hand experience and share our model with them.”

For further information contact: Robert Galea on 2290 1048 or email address: [email protected]


The Planning Authority has concluded work on its premises in Floriana in line with its ambitious objective to bring the Authority’s premises to nearly zero energy consumption by 2018.

Parts of the Planning Authority premises date back to 250 years ago. They were originally used as ancillary military buildings by the Order of St John, and were then utilised by the British military as barracks. Even new buildings struggle to achieve near zero C02, let alone structures built in different eras where energy efficiency was not a concern, so the project, which was managed by Ing. Louis Borg, entailed the implementation of extensive changes to various aspects of the building.

Planning Authority’s Executive Chairman Johann Buttigieg said “This project will act as a showcase to demonstrate how old buildings can be upgraded with modern energy saving technology without disturbing the surroundings. The improvement of temperature comfort, noise pollution, light control and gardening will have an improved effect on the general well-being of the employees and clients who visit our premises.”

Two PV system installations – one of 30kW and one of 40kW – were installed to complement the already-existing 7.2kW system, allowing the other office Block to reduce their energy consumption down to nearly zero. These two systems will generate 106MWh yearly, 13 per cent of today’s electrical energy usage, which is expected to improve further due to on-going energy performance action projects.

The 1600m3 well undernearth the Planning Authority’s premises, which was connected only with the Main Office Block, will now also receive rain water supply from the roofs’ of the other office Blocks. Through this new system, an extra 480m3 of rainwater will be collected from these roofs, while a chlorinizer and UV filter system connecting in line with an inverter pump system will pump the water to the flushing system of all the rest rooms. An engineered cesspit (60m3) was also built to provide second-class water for irrigation purposes.

All old-fashioned WCs were upgraded with a water-saving new toilet system which uses less than half the traditional amount, corresponding to a water saving potential of around 3.2m3 daily (800m3 yearly). The domestic hot water system was upgraded to air heating, creating energy savings of 80 per cent. Thermal insulation was introduced on the Planning Authority’s premises’ roof, reducing the energy gain for the summer and heat loss in winter, and improving the U-value of the building from 0.831W/m2K to 0.303/m2K.

All apertures were upgraded with PVC-U and double glazing panels while the glass was upgraded to E-low type, improving the thermal conductivity from 4.8W/m2K to 2.1W/m2K. The improvements will not only result in energy savings, but will also improve comfort and well-being for the employees working in the offices. An added benefit on these three upgrades is the soundproofing from outdoor noise pollution, since the west side of the premises overlooks a very busy main road.

The introduction of energy metering of high consuming equipment will also reduce energy consumption, since one can set pre-set daily energy consumption levels. Twelve new AC units have been fitted in the main foyer area and connected to the new chiller, which is capable of giving enough energy to cool the area. The new Building Automation System has started to control all lighting levels and space temperature while monitor all energy consumption within the respective offices. This will allow the Planning Authority to achieve ISO 140001. Furthermore, the light fittings were upgraded to reduce light consumption in the offices by at least 50 per cent.

Regardless, Ing. Borg concluded that CO2 neutral is possible by the stipulated deadline with further investment on renewable energy sources. “The new PV project and the existing PV system will together produce power of 80kW by generating approximately 126,000kWh of energy. This is equivalent to about 15 per cent of the present energy consumption. When this is accompanied by the recommended energy saving implementations, the percentage of PV energy will double to about 32 per cent of the electrical energy. The Autority’s premises still have space to fit about 210kW peak PV system which will generate 300,000kWh yearly with today’s technology and this will make the Planning Authority a contributor to the National Grid.”

"The works carried out were part of project ERDF 342 "Renovating Public Buildings to Increase Energy Efficiency and Reduce GHG (Phase I)". The project was funded by the European Regional Development Fund for Malta, Operational Programme I - Cohesion Policy 2007-2013, Investing in Competitiveness for a Better Quality of Life."