A large proportion of the Lithuanian population lives in buildings in extremely poor condition: balconies are just the tip of the iceberg


A large proportion of the Lithuanian population lives in buildings in extremely poor condition: balconies are just the tip of the iceberg

While criticism is being aimed at Soviet-era apartment blocks, buildings with cultural heritage status are 100 years old and counting in the old towns of major cities. This means that their renovation is even more complex, longer and more expensive, which is why owners of such properties often refuse to renovate them. According to the experts who look after them, the condition of such buildings is often really bad: crumbling balconies that endanger passers-by are just the tip of the iceberg.

The complexity of renovating heritage buildings

The beginning of this year was marked by a major tragedy: an explosion in an apartment block in Viršuliškės, Vilnius, killed an adult and a child, and left the whole building homeless. The blast wave was so strong that it destroyed the load-bearing structures of several flats, rendering the entire block of flats unusable. Although this disaster does not seem to be related to the fact that the apartment block was built during the Soviet era, a debate quickly started to spread in society that housing built during that period was in a poor state of repair and in need of renovation. However, there is relatively little mention of even older buildings built before the Second World War and a little later, before the 1960s. These buildings are found in practically all major Lithuanian cities and are also occupied by people.

The State Data Agency provides statistics on the housing stock in Lithuania, according to which 10.2% of housing in Lithuania was built before 1945, 8% between 1946 and 1960 (data for 2021). These figures may seem small, but I wonder how much of this housing is being renovated. According to the Environmental Project Management Agency (EPMA), 3.99% of apartment blocks built before 1945 have been renovated, while 10.50% of those built between 1946 and 1960 have been renovated.

Algis Čaplikas, President of the Lithuanian Chamber of Housing, says that there are several types of apartment blocks built before 1945 – heritage and non-heritage. Those that are not protected by heritage are usually 2-3 storeys high, do not have many flats, and it is not difficult to prepare a renovation project for them, just need the agreement of the residents. However, renovation of heritage-protected blocks of flats is a more complex process. In order to renovate heritage buildings, the renovation project also needs to be coordinated with the heritage authorities, making the renovation much more expensive and complex.

Crumbling facades, outdated utilities

However, it is often the cultural heritage buildings, which contain flats owned by private individuals, that are in a poor state of repair. Stories of crumbling balconies, flooded basements, cracked walls, etc. have been repeatedly heard in the public sphere. The residents of such buildings are pointing arrows at the municipality, but they are responsible for their own property and its maintenance. Povilas Lysiukas, a specialist in building maintenance at Civinity Namai, the company that manages residential buildings listed as cultural heritage, tells Delfi būstas that it is not uncommon for the residents of the upper floors of a block of flats located in a cultural heritage zone to face problems caused by a leaking roof or a worn-out rainwater drainage system. The balconies of many of these buildings are in a very poor state of repair and have been enclosed with safety nets to protect the safety of passers-by and cars. The foundations of such houses are often built with poor materials, resulting in cracking of walls, lack of waterproofing in the foundations, and damage to the interior spaces due to uneven foundation deposits. “Drinking water pipes are very often missing and sewage pipes are blocked. It is also a big problem that when this type of accident happens, the professionals who deal with it have to spend time looking for the problem, because most of the time these houses do not have engineering drawings of the networks, and often these pipelines pass through several apartment blocks, so the work has to be coordinated with the professionals who maintain the neighbouring houses. In addition, in order to fix a pipe underground in a cultural heritage zone, permissions have to be organised from the responsible authorities, which also takes time. All this time, the residents are left without water, which of course causes great inconvenience and anger. Another common problem in such houses is old electrical wiring. Faulty electrical wiring poses a high risk of fire,” says the expert.

Source: Delfi

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