Infrastructure Problems

There are several areas of infrastructure where we need substantial amounts of equipment, parts and materials.

Most of technical problems we can solve on our own, provided equipment, materials and funding will be available. What we need badly are skilled people to lead and coordinate work, and to turn our unskilled people into another skilled people.

On average, squatters do not pay a lot of attention to infrastructure, once bare minimum is provided. In single building squats the whole infrastructure is in, so it is at least visible and people have chance to check it easily. In Prosfygika, as it is a cluster of squatted apartments, there is a lot of “in-between” pieces, which are not properly maintained.

As the technical group, we focus on that part. Helping people in their individual spaces as much as we can, we decided that shared infrastructure is our priority. Because without it, there will be no neighborhood any more.

So, calling all techies! See our short list of challenges (the long one has no end) and consider coming for help!

Electric network.

Last major overhaul happened 3 years ago. Since then, guys here were fixing what was broken, but no coordinated maintenance or development was done. Which resulted, as this winter came, in a series of more and less spectacular breakdowns. One of unseen problems, however, is the lack of grounding. Now we have the tension of 19 V between “ground” and neutral in block #2. Enough to make a shower quite thrilling experience…

Water delivery. click here for more details

At a macro scale, quality of water in Athens is getting worse every season. At a micro scale, we have a problem of thin and inadequate pipes (low pressure) and a huge leak from under Block #2 (broken cut-off valve at the trunk pipe). On the long run we will have to introduce filters and rainwater harvesting, as we expect growing problems, especially with the quality of water.
There is also a need for mass replacement of old cut-of valves (1-3 per flat), that are ancient, painted over several times and leaking hopelessly if anybody touches them. So we need to replace them with new generation ones.

Sewage and draining system.

As far as my survey is adequate, it is mostly the case of clogged pipes, what can be solved by calling a professional service (money!) to waterjet them. As soon as we raise some money (fundraising and sustainable economic projects to be announced soon) this can be taken care of.
We also have to start replacing ancient iron sewage trunk pipes, as they are cracking and the content starts seeping into the walls. Again, we have gathered materials for the first job (one trunk line), but we lack skilled coordinator.

Woodworking and glazing.

Innumerable windows are missing or just glass-less. In newly opened flats and sections, front doors are usually broken (makes sense) and need at least decent, padlockable bolts. We have adequate woodworking equipment and a source of material. Now, we need a Mistress or Master Woodworker to organize the line and to teach people how to make stuff.

Structural problems.

Water seeping through the roofs, crumbling plastering inside, cracked tiles and all possible signs of dilapidation are not a problem for seasoned squatters. However, if they endanger integrity of the building, we need to address them. As the list — in practical terms — has no end, we need help to establish priorities and go ahead with them.

New projects development.

We are NOT in a defensive survival mode. We have to keep the infrastructure going to build upon it. There is an open list of proactive projects, waiting for workaholics to move them ahead. And the list is open-ended, so bring your own ideas if you wish. But to start doing unbelievably advanced things, we have to keep our village alive. This is the first step.

Winterisation, October 2016

Preparation for winter (aka “winterisation”) for squats has some specific material needs, indeed. We need to make buildings windproof and thermoinsulated. We need to provide people with beds (almost 100% sleeps on the floor) or at least with better padding. We need to stop drafts inside buildings (they are mostly public ones, like schools, with huge staircases and corridors — a lot of space for cold drafts).
The materials we use are a bit uncommon, but tested in squatting conditions in Poland and Greece, so if used properly, they provide basic comfort and safety.

1. Making the building windproof.

1.1. Glazing.

This one is a no-brainer. Every broken or missing glass pane has to be replaced. If the crack is minor and we are short in money and workpower (we always are), good old duct tape can keep the pane together and make it airtight.

If the pane is big or there is no way to put the glass on, we can use twin wall polycarbonate, plexiglass, or even clear gardening PVC foil. If possible, we avoid using non-transparent materials. Winter is dark and people are enough depressed already. They will need as much light as possible to get through the season. Also, using cardboard and other non-water-resistant materials is a bad idea. Winter in Greece means a lot of wind and rain.

Whatever we put as glazing, there are several ways to fix it. Standard silicone putty, mounting glue, hot glue — and the tape as well. Tape will also help us cover the gaps between the widow and the frame (remember, if you tape the windows shut, always leave one that can be opened for ventilation — mold is a standing problem in the wintertime).

1.2. Filling the gaps

The best (but expensive) way to keep the doors and windows windproof are rubberfoam seals. You need to measure your average gap to fill and buy the seal of specific thickness. Otherwise, if you can keep the door or window shut until the spring, you just fill the gap with paper, textile or anything and seal with the duct tape.

1.3. Keep the drafts at bay

There are three major ways to stop chilly air streams within the building and keep warmer air where it belongs:

Curtains and partitions. Use heavy tarps to separate big spaces into smaller sections, to block the wind from outside door, to cut off unused parts of the building. If the tarp is metalised, put the silver side towards warmer part of the building.
Wherever possible, raise wooden partitions with door. It provides better comfort and insulation.
Drop ceilings. High ceilings mean a lot of air to warm — and a lot of space for drafts. Spread ropes at some 2.5 m level and put tarps (silver side down) as a false ceiling.
Door skirts. Staple narrow piece of cloth to the bottom of the door, to close the gap.

2. Thermal insulation

There are two challenges in this area. To keep living spaces as warm as possible and to keep people’s bodies as warm as it is comfortable. We recommend three basic ways to achieve it.

2.1. Emergency extra glazing.

The simplest way to keep the heat in is to add insulation layer to the window. We cannot make squat windows double or triple glazed, but we can put bubble wrap on most of the panes (especially those which do not need to be fully transparent). For best effect, use large (~2.5 cm) bubbles. Wash the window clean and apply the wrap flat side to wet glass. Secure edges with the duct tape and wait till spring.

2.2. Beds or extra padding for sleep.

In the winter, sleeping on the floor sucks. Not only the floor itself gets colder every week (the worst situation is in March, when the building is significantly colder than the outside), but also the cold air is heavy and during the night it is highly uncomfortable to sleep low.

Our best recommendation is to get beds for everyone, especially bunk beds. We (LTG) are ready to manufacture practically every amount of them (materials and manpower provided, see For the winter, they need just a bit of thermal insulation as a mattress: camping mat, double blanket or 3-4 layers of bubble wrap.

For those who still sleep on the floor, the best simple upgrade is to put a slab of hard insulating foam under their current bedroll. Use so called XPS (Extruded PolyStyrene) — the greenish-bluish plates, 5 cm thick, normally 50 x 100 cm. They provide adequate insulation and are hard enough to sleep on them all the winter.

2.3. Warm feet.

Instead of ever-present flipflops, during the winter people should wear non-slip socks, made of any material that keep warmth even when wet (wool, fleece, etc.). Not only feet are the most distant from heart (less blood circulation) limbs, but also they will be in constant touch with cold floor. So, keep them warm!

3. Ventillation.

Having a properly winterised building means that we need to deal with mold. Condensation from human bodies alone is enough to make problem, all water splashes and leaks notwithstanding. If possible, every room and space should be ventilated. Extraction fans (window-mounted) are the best. Otherwise, strict window opening regime has to be applied. Use every moment of sunshine to open a window, let the moisture out and fresh (possibly warm) air in.

4. Finally, heating.

Against popular thinking, heating, especially in Greek climate, is the least of our worries. Or at least it should be. People and equipment generate quite a lot of heat, so if the building is windproof and insulated, it does a big part of the job. In squatting conditions, where the electricity is “free”, people tend to overuse electric heating. It causes not only blackouts, but also fire hazard. So, every effort and expense to keep the heat in the living space means less heating — and less danger.