North Remembers How to Build

North Remembers How to Build


Good news for the residents of Norilsk, an industrial city in the north of Siberia above the Arctic Circle, east of the Yenisei River and south of the Taymyr Peninsula. The city will be included in the renovation program. In the permafrost zone, the housing fund of the northern capital of the Krasnoyarsk territory is rapidly dilapidating. However, despite the high salaries of potential participants in the shared-equity construction it was impossible to lure developers there.

The majority of Norilsk's residents are not going to live forever there. Given the natural and environmental conditions, only thrill-seekers might enjoy living in the city. The main tasks for the authorities are to keep the housing stock in acceptable conditions and to guarantee people’s resettlement to other parts of Russia in the future. In fact, it will mean the end of their careers.

However, every year it becomes more and more difficult. As the press service of Norilsk city administration told, according to the latest data, the city housing stock included 860 blocks with the total floor space of more than 4.6 mln square meters. This is about 87,500 apartments where 181,000 residents live.

Climate conditions are severe. Therefore, the houses deteriorate very quickly. Mainly, deformation of building footings as well as physical wear and tear of wall panels and building blocks leads to the emergency conditions of residential buildings. On average, one apartment building in Norilsk is dismantled annually. The only way to move dwellers out of the crumbling building to vacate apartments that meet the stipulated standards by relocating their former inhabitants to the south. However, the number of apartments of this kind is decreasing every year.

In general, construction industry in the Krasnoyarsk territory where Norilsk is located is quite strong and holds one of the leading positions among Siberian regions. The floor space of houses commissioned last year amounted to almost 1.2 mln sq. m. However, as always, the bulk of commissioned houses with an area of 801,000 sq. m are located in Krasnoyarsk. There are also cities under construction in the central part of the territory.

According to experts of the Siberian Federal University (SFU) who study the problems of the Arctic zone, Norilsk was built from 1955 to 1990. After the collapse of the USSR, the city was practically abandoned. The last block built there was put into operation in 2002. Several low-rise residential developments from lightweight structures based on the zero cycle of previously demolished buildings do not count.

“The permafrost retreat requires new technical solutions for residential buildings, in particular for their footings,” the SFU experts say. “It is necessary to underline that components from timber and wood materials are of greatest practical utility. Under conditions of high latitudes they serve effectively and durably.”

In February, aт event that was historic for Norilsk took place. The Directorate for Construction Foundation was established there. As explained by Rinat Akhmetchin, Norilsk’s mayor, the organization will perform functions of a construction management company and will take part in the program of renovation of the housing stock. The parameters of the program are still being defined.

Officially, there are no funds for “rebuilding” of Norilsk in the federal budget. However, Nornickel (Norilsk Nickel,) a Russian nickel and palladium mining and smelting company, is actively promoting this idea. The city-forming enterprise has estimated that the renovation of the “northern capital” of the Krasnoyarsk territory will cost 85 bln rubles ($1,083,869.)

Nornickel is ready to invest half of this amount provided that it is co-financed by the budget. These plans might be included in the new version of the state program ‘Social and Economic Development of the Arctic Zone.’ Previously, the company already took part in the program of relocation of residents of Russia’s Arctic and sub-Arctic areas to the south on the terms of public-private partnership.

“Consultations with the field-oriented federal ministries are held on a daily basis,” said Rinat Akhmetchin. “In order to obtain federal funding it was necessary to have a developer with a legal entity status. If we take into account that the government of the Russian Federation starts drafting a budget for 2021 in the second half of 2020, we’d like to see our renovation program start working next year.”

Alexander Pestryakov, chairman of Norilsk city council, says that in addition to the federal organizations and Nornickel, other agencies may also invest in the Norilsk construction sector in the future.

Market operators are still cautious in their assessment of the segment that is new for them. There are still too many indeterminate elements in this equation.

“Everything will depend on the level of income at local enterprises,” says Maxim Omelyanchuk, director of development of the Krom real estate agency and market analyst. “Some people move to Krasnodar. The weather is warm and sunny there, and the air is clean. But there are practically no high-paid jobs. Chances are some people will go to the north looking for high income. For example, a family lives in the south, and its household head goes to work on a rotational basis. It is very expensive and difficult to build a new residential house behind the Arctic Circle. As a student, I myself worked in a student construction team 200 kilometers north of Norilsk. So I understand what it is. Although, if Nornickel and the federation invest there, it is certainly a more attractive task than if some construction company was just looking for homebuyers behind the Arctic Circle.”

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