Archivo de la etiqueta: Social housing

WHEN CONSTRUCTION WAS LINEAR

We have recently published an article on the problems detected in a large part of the housing stock in our towns and cities that were built during the second half of the 20th century, when the technical standards did not contemplate any vocation for energy saving or reuse: When construction was linear. Analysis of the energy sustainability of social housing in Spain (1939-1989). Los objetivos y conclusiones de dicha publicación os la incluimos a continuación.

Building circularly means thinking and design-ing for the future, so that, in addition to sus-tainability in construction, use and possible re-use, at the end of the building’s useful life, all the elements can be usable. Since Pearce and Turner (1995) set out their ideas on the circular economy, this approach has gained prominence in other disciplines, such as architecture (McDonough and Braungart, 2005). However, until very recently architecture has been ‘line-ar’, if we understand this as opposed to that end of reduce-reuse-recycle: the initial purpose was disconnected from the end. Sigue leyendo

THE PLAN FOR THE 7,000 DWELLINGS IN RENFE

In 1944, the public company RENFE had been declared a construction company for the purposes of the 1939 law on subsidised housing. It therefore initiated a plan to build social housing for its workers in those areas where demand was greatest. This plan, known as the 4,000 dwellings (in reality, 3,900 were programmed), began in the midst of the autarchy with serious supply problems and with an architectural vocation that shied away from innovations in design and materials, taking refuge in the generalised use of brick as the main construction element. With these conditions, the pace of construction was not what was expected and, in 1954, when the legislative change took place, barely 1,800 dwellings had been completed. 

The new law on low-income housing of 1954 proposed a reunification of the previous regulations, an improvement in construction aid, especially for private initiatives, and streamlining the administrative action of permit and construction procedures. With the new law, RENFE assumed the need to extend its plan to 7,000 dwellings, counting the previous planned constructions. This plan, revised and published in 1956, was valued by the company as the tool that allowed it to cover the existing demand among the company’s workers. Sigue leyendo

NOTES ON FOUNDATIONS AND STRUCTURES IN RAILWAY DWELLINGS BUILT BETWEEN 1949-1989 (I)

In order to deal with the subject of this entry, it is necessary to distinguish between two periods: the first, between 1949 and 1965, when practically all the housing promoted by RENFE was built, and the second, between 1965 and 1989, when the main promoter group was made up of the cooperatives formed by railway workers. This distinction derives from the technical regulatory context, which prescribed construction solutions and materials in the housing project, and also with regard to the availability of materials to carry out the construction.

In this sense, for the dwellings of the first period, two technical regulations were in force: at first, the Order of 29 February 1944 (BOE, no. 61, 1 March 1944) was approved, which determined the minimum hygienic conditions that dwellings had to meet, drawn up at the proposal of the Local Health Commission and which basically consisted of a compendium of 14 precepts which did not deal with the issue of foundations and structures, However, it did require, for dwellings on ground floors, or in those that were allowed below street level, to guarantee waterproofing or insulation against damp, which in some cases would result in sanitary floor slabs. It also prescribed the waterproofing of walls and floors, but, in the projects consulted in this first period where the structural system mainly used is load-bearing walls, apart from the brevity of the project documentation, there are no project prescriptions in this sense for dwellings located on the ground floor, which was the most common situation in this first period.

The second mandatory regulation for the dwellings under study was the Order of 12 July 1955 approving the text of the technical ordinances and construction standards for “low-income housing”. In these regulations, just as the prescriptions for dwellings in the first group are limited to the fact that the building must comply with existing municipal ordinances, for those in the second group, to which all the dwellings under study belong, the following are established: minimum project contents, details of the urbanisation projects in accordance with existing planning, suitability of the land and its valuation (Martínez-Corral & Cuéllar, 2020).

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THE PATRIMONIALISATION OF SOCIAL HOUSING

The modern city has been a place of intense and constant transformation over the last century. After the disentailment processes and the elimination of the city walls in the 19th century, the enlargements were imposed and the remodelling of the historic centres was completed, which provided the cities with new administrative buildings, laid out wide avenues and communication axes, and built parks and common leisure areas where the bourgeois city presented its status. But the modern city, above all, was filled with dwellings which, fed by a massive migration from the countryside to the city, forced legislative changes and new planning where the new urban expansion neighbourhoods took the urban limits where the newcomers settled (Fariña Tojo, 2000, p. 20-22).

Thus, in 20th century cities, the expansion of their neighbourhoods towards the periphery can be likened, following Tilden’s metaphor (2006, p. 30), to the growth rings shown by the cross-section of a tree, which tells us its history in the whimsical outline of these concentric lines. From the correct interpretation of each and every one of the points of these rings, with periods of drought that narrow the stripes or periods of heavy rainfall that show great growth, the configuration and evolution of our tree, that is to say, of our cities, is determined. Sigue leyendo

THE USE OF CERAMICS AS A STRUCTURAL MATERIAL IN RAILWAY HOUSING (PART II: FLOOR SLABS)

Continuing with the use of ceramics in the construction of railway housing, regarding the floor slabs, in the first period analysed, corresponding to the construction of housing by RENFE, the so-called “autarkic” floor slabs prevailed, imposed by the restriction on the use of iron in construction (Decree 11 March 1941 (BOE no. 71 of 12 March 1941) in force until the publication of the Decree of derogation of 19 January 1956 and, subsequently, the approval of the MV 101/1962 standard, on “Actions in construction”. It should be pointed out that, despite the repealing decree, another subsequent decree was issued (Decree of 26 July 1957) which warned against the excessive use of metallic materials and that it would be advisable to issue a provision regulating their use, given the scarcity of the material. The policies of the time, in addition to the restrictions imposed, stressed the need to use traditional techniques. Along these lines, the General Directorate of Architecture called in its bulletin in 1947 for the use of traditional materials and techniques. Given the precariousness of materials and labour, the possibility of a certain guarantee and quality, albeit minimal, was seen in ceramic materials. The information bulletins of the Directorate General of Architecture (BIDGA) were published quarterly from December 1946 to the first quarter of 1957 (Pérez Escolano, 2013) and served as a chronicle of the architectural practice of the time. Essentially, these are slabs that were made with ceramic lightening elements and in situ or ceramic ribs with little reinforcement on the tensile side (one or two steel bars). The top slab, then called the “compression layer”, was 4 or 5 cm thick and had no reinforcement. There was also a variant of these slabs without an upper compression layer, which could be assembled on site or in the workshop (Muzquiz de Miguel, 1945). From the 1960s onwards, once the period of restriction had been overcome and, in our case, coincided with the dwellings built by the railway cooperatives, the type of slab that became the norm was made up of prestressed concrete joists. Between one period and another, around the 1950s and 1960s, the use of calcium aluminate cement (aluminous cement) became popular, especially in joists, which was banned for this use from 1979 onwards. To date, we have not detected its use in any of the projects analysed. In the cases under study from this first period, slab edges of between 13 and 20 cm are observed. Although the most commonly used solution is the 15 cm edge. They are made up of hollow bricks arranged every 25 cm (length), leaving a space of 5 cm for the ribs reinforced with a 12-14 mm steel bar on the lower face. The grooving of the brick walls was a guarantee of adhesion with the mortar. The most repeated dosage of mortar used was 1:2:3, using 340 kg of cement per cubic metre, and the coatings did not reach a centimetre, which is one of the most common causes of pathology detected in these slabs due to the lack of protection of the reinforcement. The regulatory requirements of the period meant that, in projects prior to 1957, any type of prefabricated slab was explicitly disdained because it was considered that “they were only weakly reinforced for rigidity before being placed in their definitive position, the reinforcement being completed afterwards with the small ribs that join them together. This, which is theoretically perfect, has the risks of prefabrication imperfections and failures due to deformations when the joists are raised to the floors”.  However, the reality is that the limitations imposed on the use of iron during the post-war period led to the lowest quality moment in the construction of floor slabs (Azpilicueta Astarloa, 2004).

Illustration 1. Self-supporting slab section of the RENFE housing group in Las Matas (Madrid). AMF, project M-5476-VP. 

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THE USE OF CERAMICS AS A STRUCTURAL MATERIAL IN RAILWAY HOUSING (PART I: WALLS)

After the Decree of 11 March 1941, which limited the use of steel, until the approval of the MV-101/1962 standard on “Actions in Building”, which repealed the previous limitations, the use of iron in building was restricted, giving rise to the corresponding regulation detailing the prescriptions in this respect during the design and execution of the work. (BOE nº 214, 2-8-1941). These regulations were based on prescribing technical solutions that would help to save iron, explicitly prohibiting its use in construction elements that could be built with other materials. In the rest of the constructive elements, the project design was urged to make the greatest savings in iron.

This affected the structural typologies, leaving aside the evolution made in previous years in the use of metal structures, frequently employed until 1936 (Lahuerta, 1965), as well as the construction of high-rise buildings. Therefore, with regard to vertical structural systems, during the entire period of the restriction, practically coinciding with the predominance of RENFE as a developer of housing for its employees, the ceramic brick load-bearing wall, without any quality control of the manufacturing process, was the structural system almost exclusively used as part of the misnamed “traditional construction” (Azpilicueta & Araujo, 2012).

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FROM QUANTITATIVE TO QUALITATIVE: INVENTORY OF NEWLY BUILT RAILWAY DWELLINGS IN SPAIN (1939-1990)

In 2019 we had the methodological approach and organisation of our inventory of newly built railway housing in Spain during the second half of the 20th century (Cuéllar and Martínez-Corral, 2021). The results of that proposal have been totally satisfactory and have been the methodological framework on which several publications and participations in congresses have been made (Cuéllar and Martínez-Corral, 2018a; 2018b; 2019a; 2019b; 2020; Martínez-Corral and Cuéllar, 2020; 2021), and the edition of this academic blog to contribute to debate and disseminate all the information we are handling.

From the outset, we have conceived this inventory more as a methodological project than as a simple ordered list of data, although this is also very important. In other words, we have been interested in establishing a methodological support that gives greater rigour to data collection, as well as the use of as much data as possible in order to obtain a wide range of information on what has been studied. The statistical vocation and the dissemination of the data are the other characteristics that we have tried to imprint on the inventory from the outset. It is a “microbigdata” of social railway housing. Sigue leyendo

CONSTRUCTION OF RENFE HOUSING. FILES AND PROJECTS

The public company RENFE (Spanish National Railway Network), created in 1941, was granted the status of “construction company” for the purpose of promoting subsidised housing by Decree of 26 April 1944 (BOE, no. 128, 7 May 1944). This enabled RENFE to be the owner of the files to be promoted before the National Housing Institute (INV) and allowed the company to only have to contribute a maximum of 10% of the budget or, alternatively, the plots of land it owned where the housing was to be built. This consideration also allowed it to qualify for interest-free advances and loans at the legal interest rate (around 3 %) and for a term of 20 years granted by the Institute.

The process began at the INV with the application to build on a specific plot of land, accrediting ownership, and the state of encumbrances, if any, and justifying the suitability of the land, normally due to its location near a station or railway enclave. Once the authorisation to build and the transfer of the land had been obtained, a preliminary project and a brief report were presented, detailing the number of occupants, valuation of the land, construction period and budget, as well as the contributions and benefits requested. Sigue leyendo

ELECTRICITY SUPPLY INSTALLATIONS IN RAILWAY SOCIAL HOUSING: STANDARDS AND FEATURES

“The light came from a bulb in the center, with its white lampshade, hanging form some muddy cables”. Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, El Jarama, Ed. Destino, p. 162, 1955

The approach to the everyday is an exercise of great interest for the social science researcher, as it acts as laboratory evidence to which more generalist studies cannot reach. In our case, when we studied the characteristics of the electrical installations in the dwellings built by RENFE between 1939 and 1975, we were able to observe, on the one hand, the progressive improvement of these installations, and on the other hand, the abysmal difference between then and nowadays, brought about by a normative regulation that has introduced minimum comfort in dwellings, the first steps of which were taken around the middle of the 20th century.

Knowledge on the regulatory regime is a valid clue to study the process with a certain degree of order, which allows us to see how these regulations, with greater or lesser rigour, have been reflected in the construction projects, which in turn have evolved and, under the influence of new demands derived from an evident economic development, have increased the efficiency and quality of the installations, which had to be prepared for the entry of new household appliances and other additional installations in dwellings. In this sense, during the period under study, three standards were in force that regulated the electrical installations in the dwellings to be built: the 1933 Regulations on Electrical Reception Installations (RIER), the 1955 Low Voltage Electrotechnical Regulations (REBT) and the new 1973 electrotechnical regulations (REBT), which represented a qualitative leap in the characteristics (capacity, quality, safety, etc.) of the electrical installations in newly constructed buildings. As can be seen, each standard was in force for about twenty years, which shows an accelerated modernisation of these installations. Sigue leyendo

RENFE (1941-2021): HISTORY AND DOCUMENTARY SOURCES FOR THE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING

The Law on the Bases of Railway Management and Road Transport of January 24, 1941 established, among other issues, the creation of a new public company, the National Network of Spanish Railways (RENFE). This company assumed, through the rescue, as of February 1, 1941, the assets and operation of the broad-gauge railway lines, until that moment operated under a concession regime by private companies, although previously they had already been produced some partial nationalizations (Muñoz Rubio, 1995).

The new political regime born of the triumph in the Civil War of Franco’s troops, called in the law itself the National Movement, proposed a political and economic system akin to the fascist dictatorships that had developed in Europe from the 1920s, and whose main models and supporters were Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. Thus, in addition to the establishment of a single party and a leader, the intervention of strategic production factors was proposed, which should be governed by the autarkic principles of the new State. The most relevant industrial production was integrated into the recently created National Institute of Industry (INI), including some transport activities, such as Iberia, however, RENFE was not included in this structure and it functioned with its own legal personality, but with a strong direct control of the Presidency of the Government (in those years also exercised by Franco) and the main ministries, which had representatives on the company’s Board of Directors. In addition, other bodies were created that exercised strict control of the activity of the company, such as the Commissioner for Railway Material and the Government Delegation for the Regulation of Transport (Cuéllar and García-Raya, 2015). Sigue leyendo