2009. 12. 6.

Built in 1970, with its 886 flats The Village House counts as Hungary’s biggest apartment building. Even then, the 315m long building was regarded as an experiment.  The 15 staircases are catered for by 9 types of heating systems, as it was the intention that the best practice from experience gathered here would be transferred to the other panel blocks popping up like mushrooms in the district. Its lifetime was originally determined as 50-60  years, but most recent estimates have predicted a rise to 150 years. Those first householders who moved in back in 1971 were mostly homeowners from the surrounding single floor, mostly uninsulated houses, which were demolished for the grandiose construction. Today around 15% of the original inhabitants live here. 

For most of the ship-building and textile industry workers the exchange was a good deal, as the new, on average 50m2 flats were modern by the standards of the day, and all the way up to the end of the ’80s they only had to pay minimal heating costs.  Moreover, if any problem came about in the house, the state took care of it. At the beginning of the ’90s the building became a community-owned house, but the needed change in ownership attitudes has still not completely happened(according to Gyula Réti, the building’s manager).

There are two problematic areas concerning the house. The first is the general waste of energy, which is true for most unrenovated panel blocks and other apartment buildings too. The inappropriate insulation and the windows’ poor condition results in, basically, the householder heating the street. This huge waste can be further exacerbated if, during the heating season, the suitable temperature is not obtained by a thermostat but by opening the windows. In 2003 the house was renovated, one of the results of which was that it became possible to control room temperatures. Unfortunately however, not so long ago it was still quite often noticed that the windows were wide open to Buda’s night sky during the winter. Energy efficiency is not only a key question in economic energy use, but also has implications for the environment and climate change too.

The other problem is basically the previous aspects as experienced by the dwellers themselves: the higher and higher heating bills. However, it would be a mistake to hold only the building to account for these ever fatter amounts – a good part of this is due to inappropriate energy-use habits. Besides the open windows, or the over-heated apartments, wasteful use of hot water or even the badly-considered, large amounts of energy used for cooling in the summer heat waves all contribute towards the difficulty in affording bills.

Bearing all this in mind, it is a positive development worth noting that 82% of the householders still voted yes to the renovations. For them to dare undertake such a sizely (and costly) investment, the support of the Municipality and the EU undoubtedly provided a reassuring background.  True, the householders can only gain from the project. Not only will their comfort improve and the heating costs be lower, but their property’s value will improve too.