Sergei Lyovkin: Our program does not foresee the reconstruction of five storey houses like in Germany

Sergei Lyovkin: Our program does not foresee the reconstruction of five storey houses like in Germany
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Might the program concerning the renovation of 5-storey houses be replaced by one for reconstruction ?

Flames are being fanned in Moscow round the Khruschev-era houses renovation program. Some people support the program, while others criticise the authorities. The most acute questions of the capital’s inhabitants require detailed answers. Recently, Head of the Moscow Urban Development Policy Department, Sergei Lyovkin, explained the authorities’ decisions to journalists at a press-conference.

Q.: Why has renovation program appeared now?

— During recent years the government has received many claims from citizens, more than 250 000, asking why their houses were not included in the program of renovation. Municipal deputies, the Moscow public chamber and the Moscow City Duma initiated the work in relation to the buildings which were not initially supposed to be knocked down.

Additionally, the capital repair program being fulfilled in Moscow presently has revealed a number of technical problems that have shown that the large-scale work on the repair of those houses was not reasonable. This concerns the five-storey buildings of the first period of industrial housing construction which were built in the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s. 

For example, the heating system in such buildings was mounted in the outer panel, so in order to repair the pipes they have to be extracted, and new devices need to be mounted which will make a kitchen less comfortable. Accordingly, disruption of the constructive structure of a building will occur.

Risers and stacks were mounted in the walls between two apartments, and the parting walls should be dismounted, resulting in the small area of a bathroom becoming even smaller.

Many houses do not have cellars and technical floors, all of the pipes distributed on the ground floor are made in the floors, thus meaning that all of the walls and floors should be disassembled, and these are serious technical problems.

Another thing is that according to the data by the Moscow Technical Inventory Bureau and Housing Inspection, the calculated wear of these buildings has reached 40—60%. According to the standards, in the forthcoming 15—20 years they will reach 65—70%, which is a critical index. Looking at the rules, the house is then considered dangerous.

So, if we do not start the program of renovation now, in a couple of decades a vast volume of housing might become dangerous, and then the residents would have to be resettled according to other laws.


Q.: Will the number of the residents increase in the districts under renovation?

— Of course, the number of residents will grow as the residential area of the houses which will be constructed replace the old ones. We have carried out a special analysis, including the data of realtors and Rosreestr, of what has taken place on the Moscow realty market during the previous 6 years.

The analysis has shown that about 3 m sq. m of housing was built every year, and the population of the capital annually increased by 50,000 people. According to Rosreestr’s information, Muscovites are mainly buyers of flats, with 10% of buyers being Moscow region residents, and only 3—5% amounting to residents from other regions. 

Besides, the people presently living in 5-storey houses would invest additional money in buying a flat for their relatives, as people become accustomed to living in just one district. Thus, a delayed demand will be formed, which, from our standpoint, will be realised.

And, finally, according to the CB’s data, our residents have savings, so Muskovites have a definite potential.


Q.: Is there international experience of the renovation of residential buildings. For example, in Germany nothing was demolished, and all of the buildings were reconstructed. Why don’t Russian authorities take such examples into consideration? Why must everything be broken? 

— At first sight the five-story houses in Russia and Germany seem the same, but when you go into detail you see absolutely different buildings, with different technical performances.

By the way, in Germany the complex reconstruction was carried out with the attraction of residents’ finance.


Q.: What houses will be built within the renovation program? Will there be buildings of standard design?

— We shall have to run with the current development, where there is not much free space: five-storey buildings are surrounded with nursery schools, schools, and other social objects. Additionally, it is necessary that apartment layouts should be taken into account. That is why the houses will be built according to individual projects, mainly of cast-in-place construction.

We shall not abandon the use of the modern industrial panel series, but only in case we see an opportunity for the use of such projects while developing the territories qualified for renovation.



Q.: How will the quality of work be controlled?

— All kinds of control for project designing and construction of any objects, including residential ones, are determined in the Urban Development Code. There also exist federal and regional standards, and the design project is adopted only when it corresponds to all of them: residents are to be provided with parking areas, nursery schools, schools, hospitals, improved territory, a necessary road network, and public transport and its availability, etc. All these requirements have already been included in the urban development documents by the Moscow City Architecture Committee.

The second stage is house designing. In Russia there are sanitary and epidemiologic and fire security regulations, plus standards on an accessible environment for low mobility groups of people, etc.

A design engineer includes all these parameters in the project and sends it to the state expertise. If the necessary requirements are not observed, the department will issue an adverse determination. The state expertise has the authority to influence the budget financing.  So, the project must contain the substantiation of all the pricing and the total cost of an object’s construction.

Once the expertise is over, the third stage starts whereby a contractor submits a claim for a construction permit. From this moment on the process is controlled by Moscow State Construction Supervision Committee, and one of its departments conducts expertise and laboratory investigations. All the used materials (concrete, steel framework, floor covering, etc.) must have a passport or a certificate of quality issued by an authoritative department. Without them the work will not be adopted.


Q: The residents of Khruschev-era houses worry very much about their flats, as many of them have repaired and redecorated them. What will the new houses be like?

— As far as the houses of comfort-class are concerned, fully finished flats, an engineering infrastructure and a comfortable environment are intended. The finishing materials are planned to be of the highest quality, and the flats will meet the modern requirements on energy efficiency.  Windows with energy saving insulated glass units will be installed, and each flat will be equipped with hot and cold water, with electric energy calculators. This will certainly reduce the communal expenses. 

Smoke sensors, on-door speakerphones and surveillance videocameras will add to the security of the new houses. 

Entry elements will be on the same level with pavements to make the life of elderly and disabled people, as well as young mothers with baby strollers ,easier.

The ground floors will be non-residential, and there will be shops, drug-stores, etc. there instead. The territory will be improved according to modern standards, including the quality of the road surface, plants, children’s play grounds and other facets of the infrastructure.

Furthermore, the number of the houses to be dismounted is enough to develop a whole quarter, and the houses will be located around the perimeter and make the inner space of the yard quiet and safe, which will reduce the harmful impact of heavy traffic along main and district roads. 



Editorial note

On the whole, Sergei Lyovkin sounded very convincing. It is quite clear that Muskovites really have many questions demanding definite answers. Of course, many of Mr Lyovkin’s reasons might be agreed upon, but in some issues he mignt have been poorly informed, or knowingly shared only a part of information.

In particular, his statement concerning the fact that the reconstruction carried out in Germany is impossible in Moscow doesn't hold up against criticism. Actually, the houses that were reconstructed in Germany were absolutely the same as in Russia, as they were from the first period of industrial housing construction and were also without cellars and technical floors. In that case the Germans resettled people in other houses, emptied the ground floors and made them technical. The reconstructed houses were made rental or devolved to business for organising offices and hotels.

It is not right either that residents’ money was used for resettlement. Mainly the houses in Eastern Germany were reconstructed, and there were a lot of poor unemployed people who could not pay for resettlement even if they wanted to. Of course, those who wanted to improve their living conditions significantly found the money necessary. But the state lent them a mortgage at a miserly rate, too.