By Ricardo de Sousa Moretti*
O The inspection process of the buildings occupied by the housing movements in São Paulo, with a view to improving the security conditions existing in them, triggered by the fire and the tragedy associated with the ruin of the Wilton Paes building, gives rise to a discussion on the qualification of the old buildings of the City. This is not about historic buildings, but about buildings built several decades ago that did not have adequate preventive maintenance.
São Paulo is a metropolis whose buildings and urban structures were almost entirely produced in the last 100 years – its population reached just over half a million inhabitants in 1920, after a true explosion of growth from 1872, when it was about 26 years old. thousand inhabitants.
Metropolises such as Tokyo, Rome, London and Paris have gone through several maintenance and reconstruction cycles and, naturally, the technical knowledge about the renovations and restoration of the built heritage was valued. In São Paulo, the construction of new structures has been the hegemonic initiative in the last 100 years and the technical training of our professionals has adapted to this context of great demand for new constructions. Topics related to the recovery of existing built heritage, such as construction pathology, techniques for maintenance and recovery of structures and infrastructure, improvement of accessibility and safety conditions of old buildings were forgotten or relegated to the background.
The definition of techniques and norms for the production of the new was atonic – the maintenance, recovery and criteria for qualification of the existing one was not a priority. Benedito Lima Toledo, in his book São Paulo, three cities in a century, describes how the city of clay (taipa and adobe) was destroyed to make way for the city of bricks, which in turn was destroyed to make way for the city of concrete that today marks our landscape.
100 years ago, the rapid multiplication of the construction of large buildings in São Paulo began. And today there are hundreds of them abandoned in the city, as if their “useful life” had ended. The durability of a building depends a lot on care and maintenance and recovery strategies. Its service life can be extended for a long time.
The research carried out by Edmur Arantes on buildings in the Santa Cecília neighborhood, for example, shows the importance of public policies and strategies for maintaining old buildings before their decay, which makes recovery much more difficult.
The excellent state of conservation of buildings from a few centuries existing in the “Old World” is backed by public policies and technical effort involved in the maintenance and recovery of the built heritage. From a sustainability point of view, it is clearly interesting to recover existing structures and buildings. However, a century of prioritizing the “new” has made us neglect the aging of existing structures and today there is a real vacuum in the policies of qualification of the built heritage.
There is a lack of experience reports, public policies, knowledge and technical guidelines for adapting and improving these buildings. The qualification of an existing building cannot be a simple process of “adapting” to the technical standards currently applicable to new buildings. If that were the case, it would be necessary to almost completely demolish the old and historic part of Paris.
Over the past eight years, we have had the opportunity to take undergraduate and graduate students from Universidade Federal do ABC to visit old and abandoned buildings that were occupied by housing movements. These visits were motivated by the need to bring our graduates closer to the reality of the central area of the city and also to the difficulties faced by the low-income population to enforce their constitutional right to housing.
During this time, it was possible to follow the initiatives of cleaning, maintenance, adaptation and recovery of buildings that were abandoned and that constituted a true environmental liability in the city, places that were transformed by the efforts of the residents. These initiatives practically did not count on the financial and technical support of the public power. It is considered that the tragedy that recently occurred gives rise to the reversal of this situation, in the sense of technical and financial support for the qualification of old buildings, in a comprehensive way and of qualification of the buildings occupied by the housing movements in an emergency way.
In addition, policies aimed at encouraging and supporting both preventive maintenance and the recovery and adaptation of our built heritage are considered to be of unequivocal public interest.
In the case of São Paulo, for example, this involves a large part of the buildings in the central area of the city. When the population benefiting from the initiative is vulnerable in multiple dimensions, this policy takes on special contours: it includes the creation of subsidized lines of financing, in some cases non-refundable, for qualification, adaptation, recovery and improvement works to be carried out.
In general terms, this policy includes the review of norms and laws, which need to better address the specific issue of adaptation and improvement of existing buildings, as it is absolutely impossible to apply criteria for new buildings in the qualification processes of existing buildings. . It also includes the expansion of the experimentation and research effort, considering the low priority given to the area of preventive maintenance and building recovery.
The potential and also the risk involved in the initiative to inspect buildings occupied by housing movements in São Paulo are great. The fact that we already have 28 families in the rental grant initiative awaiting a definitive solution for their homes, and that we have more than 15 homeless people, demonstrates the impossibility of removal processes for residents of these buildings. Removal can trigger even greater risks than those that this vulnerable population is already forced to experience.
It is evident the importance of an approach that seeks to identify possibilities of gradual qualification of housing conditions and security of these buildings. The process needs to be gradual, it needs to have the technical and financial support of the government, and it is essential that there is transparency and humility to recognize that we do not have a large experience accumulated in improving the quality and safety of existing buildings, even more in this context. specific area of great vulnerability and social conflict.
- Ricardo de Sousa Moretti is a Civil Engineer, professor at the Federal University of ABC, retired, working at LabJuta- Laboratory of Territorial Justice, Labgris- Laboratory of Risk Management and the Postgraduate Program in Planning and Territorial Management. He was a researcher and professor at the IPT- Instituto de Pesquisas Tecnológicas do Est. São Paulo and the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at PUC Campinas.