Vassallo Group means two words to Christian Vassallo: family business. “I truly believe that ‘family’ is the crux of our Group. We are proud to be able to work as a family with all the ups and downs that come with it,” he says. According to Christian, another thing that gives the Group an edge is the strong sense of corporate responsibility it has at its core.
“It’s something we take very seriously. Whatever we do, we feel the responsibility that we are doing things in the interest of society, while reaching our goals at the same time. All of Vassallo Group’s almost 2,000 employees are pulling the same rope and working towards a common goal, and as a director, I strive to work towards that every day.”
Over the past few years, Christian’s main focus has been the University of Malta’s Campus Hub – the Group’s biggest investment to date. “What does it mean when we say it is the largest single investment? It is the largest construction project in one location so far, and the largest single financial facility we’ve ever taken out,” he explains.
Here he takes the time to stress that the Group had huge support and great positive feedback from the banks, which was invaluable. The project would not have been possible without them, he emphasises. Furthermore, he adds, without the synergies of all the companies that make up Vassallo Group, this project would not have been completed on time, or within budget, notwithstanding Covid and rising costs.
“From A to Z, it was a Vassallo Group project, during a very difficult and challenging time.” The University wanted to attract more international students but needed accommodation on site to achieve this aim. The Campus Hub can take between 800 to 1,000 students to live on campus.
With Campus Hub, the intent was to allow the University of Malta to become more of an international university. Having accommodation on campus creates a lot of opportunities for the university to come alive after hours. Residents have access to a gym, laundry, and a swimming pool, as well as retail and food markets.
The actual site of Campus Hub is 12,500 sqm and the decision was made to only develop 10,000 of it to allow for 2,000 sqm of open space in a green area. This big open space, the Pjazza, has been made available to all University students, as have the retail outlets, to allow a more complete student life.
“We went for an international system used in Malta for the first time on such a large scale known as ‘bubble deck’, which means we used bubbles in the structure to reduce the need for concrete by 40 per cent and also decreased the CO2 footprint. By using it, we saved over 1.5 million gallons of CO2. Even though it was more expensive, we opted for it, as it was important to us.”
They also decided to go for prefabricated bathrooms: everything was produced in one place in Milan, Italy, and it all came down to Malta together. This not only saved a large amount of money in transportation, but it also prevented a negative impact on the environment. All the stairs on site were also prefabricated offsite.
“Additionally, we used insulation on all the facades to reduce heat loss. We also invested heavily in huge water tanks – even bigger than what was requested by the Planning Authority –to capture all the water coming on site, including air conditioning water. It will then go to reservoirs to water plants and so on. Of course, we also invested in trees and vegetation as well,” he says.
In Christian’s opinion, environmental practices are essential for the industry: “They are also value for money… and this is the standard we will be using going forward. Our intention is to have the first carbon neutral building on the island as a group.”
Does he see the Campus Hub as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Vassallo Group? “This is a tough question,” he laughs, “As a group, the jewel in the crown is undoubtedly HILA, which offers a wide range of services to persons with disabilities, and which has a huge positive impact on people’s lives. I would say Campus Hub has been a very important step in the Group’s growth. It showed us what we can accomplish if we put all our energy into one project. Now, we are much more confident we can handle a project just as big in the future.