Achievements of Panelised Building Structure

 Of course my first block was the famous WBS 70.

An imposing eleven-floor block, built in GDR’s impressing large-panel method. Others praised the central heating and the hot water supply with thermostatic valves, the flat radiators for a one-pipe systems or the two-stage heating for drinking water. For me as an eight-year-old boy and my brother at the age of eleven, the separate children’s rooms were the crucial factor for moving into a block.

Now I could slam the door into the steel door frame and wasn’t bothered by my sinewy brother any longer. I had only to bear my quarrelsome neighbours because of the reduced sound insulation of concrete and the use of unsuited metal floor penetration sleeves for the heating pipes.

The bathroom unit 

At least in the bathroom I was really undisturbed. The sanitary core was a fully equipped and non-bearing structural component, mounted on rubber granules. Gaps to the adjacent walls were encapsulated only with plaster und so the bath was nearly sound disjuncted. The whole bathroom unit was already casted at the factory and had slightly slanting walls for better form stripping.

The lift 

We lived at the fourth floor. But instead of using the mundane stairs I took the lift. The volume elements of the shaft were built in floor-to-floor height, out of reinforced concrete and were the favourite deposit for my keys, which I often dropped between cabin and outer door by mistake.

When the housekeeper fished the keys out of the shaft again, I reverently looked at the gravity braking system of the lift cage. Two springs, only a few centimetres thick, should protect passengers from the deadly impact. At my tender age it turned out the fragility of human life and improved a temporarily interest for philosophy.

The rubbish cute

However, the most important invention for a niggly eight-year-old boy was certainly the rubbish chute which disposed solid waste through a vertical running refuse duct. Scrap could be discharged comfortably over a springy bedded splash core out of stainless steel plate, directly into the lower receiver.

The fact that there were plugging from time to time wasn’t that thrilling as the deed of my brother who threw burning oil from his chemistry set into the chute. The roof cap fan with plate filter to  avoid bad smell was definitely not up to this development of smoke and for sure was not constructed for that.

The air-raid shelter

In case of emergency, the cellar could be turned into an air-raid shelter where the occupants of the block met among it’s missile and radiation protected ceilings and walls. Though just for occasional skat nights. At times, usually on a Saturday, also for subotniks at the green space in front of the house. The voluntary work, wasn’t really of one’s own accord.

The WBS 70 occupants

Maybe that’s why the golden plaque of honour always past, as far as I remember, one entrance by.
Although our house was full of decent citizens. For instance there was Mr S. living on the ground floor, sitting by the window the whole day and watching the people coming and going. He had all our guests on his list. Second floor Mr F., fellow party member, or at our floor my best friend Oli B. who wasn’t allowed to watch West German television since his new father worked for the state security. 

But for what did we need honouring certain occupants of the block as cultural and cooperative élite?  After all, the socialist achievement of panelised building structure was bringing the classes and all levels of society and their living conditions together. At that time.


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