Enhanced life quality in municipal housing

by Renate Billeth, Stadt Wien - Wiener Wohnen

Enhanced life quality in municipal housing

Social housing has a long tradition in Vienna and its history is inextricably entwined with the history of the city and its residents. The city regards it as its duty to meet the need for living space that is affordable and, above all, life-enhancing.

At present residents in a municipal residential complex pay an average gross rent of EUR 6.28/m². And the thoughtfully designed courtyards and green spaces of Vienna's municipal housing complexes highlight the fact that quality of life doesn't stop at the residents' front doors. This is one of the reasons why Vienna is still rated one of the world's best cities to live in. For one in four of Vienna's residents currently live in a municipal housing complex. The Austrian capital's approximately 220,000 municipal dwellings, 5,400 business premises and over 47,000 garages and parking spaces are managed, cleaned and serviced by the Stadt Wien - Wiener Wohnen company. These numbers make it the largest municipal property management company in Europe.

 

Annual investment of EUR 1 million in playgrounds for municipal housing complexes

Vienna's municipal housing complexes provide attractive homes with a host of recreation facilities and attractive open space. 610 hectares of green space ‒ the equivalent of 855 football pitches ‒ with around 67,000 trees and 1.8 million shrubs enhance the life quality of young and old residents alike. These extensive green and open areas provide vital inner-city recreational opportunities for Vienna's residents and adequate space for play and movement, two key factors for the healthy development of children and young people.

"Central aims of Vienna's housing policy are therefore to provide sufficient space for movement and large, high-quality play areas in residential complexes. In addition to the City of Vienna's clear criteria for residential buildings generally ‒ and for social housing in particular ‒, open spaces for children and young people are also prioritised in municipal housing complexes," stresses the Executive City Councillor for Housing, Dr. Michael Ludwig.

Stadt Wien - Wiener Wohnen therefore invests around EUR 1 million per annum in the inspection, cleaning and ongoing adaptation of its playground facilities.

 

1,360 playgrounds with 3,500 items of play equipment

Vienna's municipal housing complexes boast a whopping 1,360 playgrounds with over 3,500 items of play equipment. That is around half of all the playgrounds in Austria's capital city and more than twice as many as in all Austria's other regional capitals combined. But this impressive figure represents a major logistical challenge for Wiener Wohnen as well as a fantastic benefit for the residents of the city's municipal housing complexes. For in addition to ensuring that 1,360 playgrounds are kept clean and in good working order on a daily basis, the company must also comply with Vienna's strict playground inspection requirements!

 

More efficient maintenance with the mobile playground register

To conduct the legally required inspections more efficiently and therefore more economically, for the last few years Wiener Wohnen has been using an electronic playground register which it developed itself. In 2013 this innovation garnered the ECM Award for the best user-friendly Content Management System. The playground register clearly identifies every playground location with a transponder disc. In addition, the location is plotted in a bioinformatics system that records individual playgrounds using digital photos. The playgrounds and all items of play equipment are managed via a central database which can also be accessed during inspections and maintenance procedures using tablets.

The external experts who carefully scrutinise all 1,360 playgrounds on the four legally mandated dates also have access to the Wiener Wohnen playground register and can call up the information recorded about the playgrounds at any time when on site. The results of these inspections and all changes to the playgrounds are also recorded via the mobile register.

Damage is documented using digital cameras and immediately sent to Wiener Wohnen, while orders for new items of playground equipment are also documented in the register. Rapidly transferring data enables Wiener Wohnen to have faults promptly dealt with by specialist firms, with the time that items of playground equipment are out of use kept to a minimum.

Electronic data recording and transfer also enables Wiener Wohnen to keep external supplier costs to a minimum. This is reflected in lower costs for the legally required playground inspections, for example, which under Austrian tenancy law are charged to tenants as operating costs. 100% of the savings made here are passed on to the residents of municipal housing complexes.

 

New customised playgrounds

As well as conducting legally-required inspection and maintenance measures to ensure the cleanliness and, in particular, safety of playgrounds, Wiener Wohnen also constantly invests in attractive new play facilities. Above all within the framework of wide-ranging municipal housing complex renovation projects, open spaces and playground facilities are also often redesigned.

"If new playgrounds are built, we strive to ensure that they are protected against wind, excessive dust pollution, excessive sunlight and immission," explains Hans Heider, Head of Wiener Wohnen's gardens department, who has overall responsibility for all green spaces and playground facilities in Vienna's municipal housing complexes.

The size of new playgrounds also reflects legal requirements, the needs of the respective target groups and the corresponding standard specifications. As far as possible, playground equipment reflects the wishes of residents, though here again legal requirements must be adhered to. "Under Viennese playground regulations, Önorm standard B 2607, for example, our infant playgrounds must always feature a sand pit, irrespective of the actual need in the municipal housing complex," says Heider.

 

Modern standards improve life quality

Adaptations of playground facilities to reflect modern technical standards improve the life quality not only of children and young people but also of residents. "Low-noise surfaces and soundproof fences around ball-game courts are now standard features when Wiener Wohnen redesigns playgrounds. The level of noise that ball games naturally generate is then kept as low as possible for the nearby residents," explains Josef Neumayer, the Director of Wiener Wohnen. 

When redesigning playgrounds, Wiener Wohnen does all that it can to take residents' needs into account. In particular in municipal housing complexes with active tenant representatives – so-called tenant councils – it is possible to work closely together when choosing play equipment. "As mouthpieces for the residents, the many committed tenant representatives make sure that we are aware what is really wanted in a municipal housing complex!" says Executive City Councillor for Housing Dr. Michael Ludwig, hailing this collaborative approach.

 

Example: Karl Marx Hof renovation – EUR 220,000 for playgrounds

The Karl Marx Hof complex has long been a Viennese landmark. And with good reason, for it is not only impressive in architectural terms but also exemplifies the long history of social housing in Vienna. The listed Karl Marx Hof complex stretches for over 1,100 metres along Heiligenstädter Straße, making it the world's longest contiguous residential building. This flagship municipal residential complex, which contains 1,300 homes and 46 business premises, is not only famous among housing experts and specialised journalists but has also become a must-see attraction on the classic Vienna tourism trail. Home to around 3,000 residents, it covers an area of more than 150,000 m², of which just 20% is built-up. The remainder is taken up by green space, footpaths and children's playgrounds – entirely in keeping with the municipal housing complex principle of "light, air, sun".

As part of a comprehensive revamp of this complex, Wiener Wohnen also commissioned the redesign of three playgrounds within the Karl Marx Hof complex.

"In keeping with the principles of Stadt Wien - Wiener Wohnen, every effort was made at the planning stage to take into account the interests of the different user groups and tenants," emphasises Dr. Ing. Heider. Investment in the redesign of the playgrounds amounted to a total of EUR 220,000. The playground offering in municipal housing complexes is a boon for families with small children in particular.

In the revitalised Karl Marx Hof complex children in the 1+ age group can now enjoy a sand pit, a playhouse, a swing and several springers. Meanwhile, pre- and elementary school children can play on tower slides, swing equipment, a hopscotch path and a demanding climbing frame.

However, the opportunity to move and play wasn't limited to the smallest residents, as illustrated by the fitness course that was also installed in the Karl Marx Hof complex. Young people and adults in Vienna's most famous municipal housing complex can now work up a real sweat on a rowing machine, steppers and leg muscle equipment!

 

Intergenerational playgrounds bring young and old together

Wiener Wohnen has already enjoyed success with the "municipal housing complex fitness centre" concept in another district of the city. The Franz Koblizka Hof complex in Vienna's 20th administrative district has had its own intergenerational playground catering for the different demands of its residents for the last two years. Here there is sufficient space for steppers and a rowing machine for adults, a ball-game court with low-noise surface for children and young people and springers and water play equipment for toddlers and pre-school children. When planning this play area great care was also taken to provide sufficient seats in the shade for the youngest and oldest residents. And what’s more, granny and her grandchild can also play a game of chess or Nine Men's Morris on fixed tables in these areas.

A versatile and harmonious recreation and relaxation facility has also been created with active input from residents at the Alfred Klinkan Hof complex in Donaustadt, Vienna's largest district with an area of 102.34 km².

The 533 municipal dwellings here house over 1,000 people. This complex experienced many intergenerational disputes arising from the different needs of users of its free space. As a result, an innovative intergenerational facility with play, rest and communication zones for all age groups was developed in partnership with residents, the Wohnpartner neighbourhood service, the Donaustadt district council and local youth organisations. 

The facility covers an area of approx. 3,900 m². In the southern section a climbing apparatus and a stand for music and dance events with soundproofing were erected. In the formerly flat area in the centre of the complex there is now gently undulating terrain with lots of rest and movement areas where facilities include a water play area, a drinking fountain and communication areas for young and older people.  

The redesign of the playground enabled noise to be reduced, with soundproofing measures helping to improve the life quality of residents. In addition, binding rules for use of the intergenerational playground were agreed with the different user groups. This means that all interests are taken into account and also that the various offerings are accepted by residents.

"I think that the appropriateness of this approach has been demonstrated," says Neumayer, the Director of Wiener Wohnen, assessing the project's success two years down the line. "With measures such as intergenerational playgrounds and the redesign of the play area in the Karl Marx Hof complex, Wiener Wohnen is illustrating how life quality and community relations in municipal housing complexes can be significantly improved through the carefully considered redesign of courtyards."

 

Photo: Stadt Wien - Wiener Wohnen

 

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