Dreaming of a home in the Old Town? Be prepared for frequent pipeline emergencies or additional investments


Dreaming of a home in the Old Town? Be prepared for frequent pipeline emergencies or additional investments

Living in the Old Town can be both a pleasure and an inconvenience, as well as an additional investment. The historic apartment blocks in the cultural heritage zone were built a long time ago and have worn out utilities. In such houses, drinking water pipes are very often missing and sewage pipes are often blocked. The renovation of these utilities is not funded by the heritage programmes, so that residents who want to fix them bear the full cost of the work.

Accidents caused by old pipelines are common

Apartment blocks in historic old towns date back a very long time, for example in Vilnius Old Town there are surviving buildings from the 14th and 19th centuries that are in a much worse technical condition than a typical apartment block.

According to Povilas Lysiukas, a specialist in building maintenance and protection of immovable cultural heritage at Civinity Namai, a company involved in the maintenance and administration of apartment buildings, the engineering networks in such houses, such as drinking water and sewage pipelines, are worn out.

“Accidents in old town apartment blocks are usually caused by burst drinking water pipes and blocked sewage pipes. If the pipes in a historic building have never been replaced since they were installed, the emergency service has to visit these buildings at least 2-3 times a year,” says Lysiukas.

You may not have water for a week

In the event of a plumbing emergency, the water is temporarily shut off. In normal apartment blocks, this type of emergency can be localised within 1 to 4 hours, but in houses in the Old Town, it can take up to a week. All this time, residents are left without water, which is of course a major inconvenience.

“Most of the time, these houses do not have drawings of the engineering networks, so in the event of an accident, the professionals dealing with it have to spend a long time looking for the problem. Often, pipelines run through walls, private premises and even neighbouring blocks of flats, so they have to be coordinated with neighbours. In addition, in a cultural heritage zone, it takes time to organise permits from the responsible authorities to fix a pipe underground,” says a Civinity Namai specialist.

In the event of a pipeline accident, residents are not only inconvenienced by the loss of water: a burst pipe can flood flats and other areas of the block of flats, causing significant property damage. In some cases, a burst pipe can flood electrical installations, which can cause electrical short circuits and endanger not only property, but also people’s health or lives.

Funding programmes only help to improve the exterior of buildings

Municipal heritage programmes provide support and partial funding to owners of Old Town dwellings for the restoration of building facades, roofs, balconies and authentic wooden windows and doors.

“Municipal support only partially addresses the problems of old houses in the cultural heritage area. If only the exterior of the building is repaired, the apartment block remains the same inside and has the same problems, which do not reduce the number of accidents in the block and do not improve the quality of life of the residents,” says Mr Lysiukas.

According to Civinity Namai, such programmes are very much needed and are used by a large number of owners in the Old Town, but their aim is to improve the condition and preserve the authenticity of the buildings in the urban cultural heritage protection zone, but they do not address the problem of dilapidated engineering systems.

The owners of a typical apartment building change the engineering systems by engaging them in a building modernisation programme, commonly known as renovation. Residents then tackle both energy efficiency and upgrading of the engineering networks at the same time.

“Houses in the Old Town are not covered by the retrofitting programme, so residents have to continue to live with recurring breakdowns or pay for the upgrading of the network entirely out of their own pockets. Of course, not everyone can afford this,” shares a Civinity Namai specialist.

There are several options for those wishing to upgrade their utility networks

Upgrading the engineering networks in a block of flats requires the approval of the majority of the flat owners. Often, some of the residents in an old town apartment block are of retirement age and their income does not allow them to pay the full cost of upgrading the networks upfront.

According to Mr Lysiukas, there are several possible alternatives to solve this problem.

“Firstly, residents can agree to an increase in the rate of accumulation of funds and target their accumulation of funds for network modernisation. Residents can also choose the alternative of financing the cost of the works from a bank or other financial institutions, but in this case they have to pay interest,” said Mr Lysiukas.

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