While the pace of new residential construction in Vilnius is increasing significantly, the speed of restoration of old buildings, including buildings of cultural heritage, in the Vilnius Old Town, is still insufficient.
Due to its uniqueness, Vilnius Old Town is recognized worldwide and in 1994 was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Therefore, its maintenance and management must be primarily aimed at improving the condition of buildings and the authentic preservation of the environment.
There are about 1,500 buildings in Vilnius Old Town – 95 percent of them are cultural heritage buildings. A quarter of these buildings require renovation work to preserve the unique details of the building, adding value to the buildings and the environment.
According to Gediminas Rutkauskas, the director of the Vilnius Old Town Renewal Agency, in 1993, before the entry of Vilnius Old Town to the UNESCO World Heritage List, an international ICOMOS expert inspected the value and condition of the Old Town and provided a substantial observation that the biggest and longest dangerous shortcomings are the lack of technical maintenance, management, the lack of such traditions and proper procedures.
“Only in isolated cases when renovating apartments residents also pay attention to the general physical condition of the building. Only a small part of the apartment owners in general understands the necessity of proper building maintenance and timely renewal. However, the biggest obstacle remains limited financial resources. “- says G. Rutkauskas
In order to look at the processes of cultural heritage buildings and their environment management, as well as facilitating the financial joint activities of historic buildings, the Vilnius Old Town Renewal Agency since 2000 has implemented the Old Town Renovation Program. Municipality of Vilnius in 2015-2020 allocated almost 2 million Euros to the owners of historic buildings and in 2021 allocated over 600-thousand-euro support.
“Unfortunately, there is still too less owners of the historic buildings who can allocate proper funds needed for the exterior repairs of the building. Therefore, the support gives the residents of the old town a great opportunity not only to tidy up the exterior of the buildings – to renovate the roof, facades, courtyards, provide security and comfort of life, but also to protect cultural heritage from extinction, prolong their age and decorate the city.” Says the director of the agency.
During the management of historic buildings, the Municipality of Vilnius provides 50 percent financial support for the renovation of balconies, loggias, cornices and maintenance. Also, 50 percent support is provided for the external management of cultural heritage objects and cultural heritage structures located in cultural heritage areas. For the renovation of the roof and the renovation of the inner courtyards of the old town, municipality provides 40 percent necessary funds.
The Agency cooperates with the company Senamiesčio ūkis, which is a part of the Civinity group and is providing residential apartment administration and maintenance services in the Vilnius Old Town. In 2020 Civinity renovated 10 clients’ buildings in the Vilnius Old Town, the total area of which reaches 20 thousand square meters. Last year, in cooperation with the agency, the company helped the residents to receive the financial support from the municipality.
“Strict requirements are applied to the renovation of historic buildings in the Old Town, therefore traditional construction materials must be used during renovation works, unique architectural elements must be restored, as well as the quality and durability of works must be ensured,” says Martynas Naujokas, Director of Senamiesčio ūkis.
When communicating with the clients the representatives of the company emphasize that the untidy facade or roof poses a danger to the residents of the house and passers-by walking on the streets. Besides, if the works are not carried on time, it has a great impact on the stability of the building structures and the protected architectural details.
“In consultation with the residents we invite them to use the financial support and prevent emerging threats. It is important to understand that buildings are maintained and maintained in a timely manner, which not only provides a new quality of life, but also increases the value, safety and reduces potential repair costs of existing property. It is gratifying that the Vilnius Old Town Renewal Agency has taken an excellent initiative and is helping to revitalize the Old Town. Together we can reach better results in restoring Vilnius Old Town.”- Says M. Naujokas.
Residents of the districts located in the Vilnius Cultural Heritage Protection Zone (Old Town, Žvėrynas and Naujamiestis) can apply for financial support for the renovation of historic apartment buildings. Firstly, residents should contact the administrator of the building and express their willingness to have their apartment building renewed. In turn, the administrator of the building organizes a meeting of the building owners during which proper decisions are being made. Planned works should be approved by 50% + 1 of the owners.
The process of preparing documents usually takes 4 to 8 months before the start of construction works. The renovation process takes 3 to 6 months, depending on the scope of work being done. According to the contract concluded by the project administrator, the technical supervisor is responsible for the quality supervision of the performed works. He must ensure that construction work is carried out in accordance with the design of the building, control the quality of materials and equipment used during construction. The warranty for the works of the renovated apartment building is 5 years, the 10-year warranty is given for the hidden elements of the building (priming, crack sewing, etc.). The most important thing to know is that the proper and timely maintenance of buildings is an important and urgent task. This is especially important for valuable old buildings, cultural heritage sites, as the condition of an unmanaged building deteriorates rapidly due to our climatic conditions, destroying the authentic content, reliability and value of the buildings.