Call for all Stakeholders to be Involved in Design From the Start

Office Market

H2Offices by Skanska.

Office interiors have become integrated into the concept, design, leasing strategy, and project and facility management of office projects. This is in reaction to tenant and staff demands, increasingly stringent environmental regulations, and health and safety issues related to COVID.

Indeed, as developers strive to deliver ever more highly specified and sustainable office complexes, interior and exterior design have essentially become part of the same process.

Accreditation from an independent, third-party sustainability organization such as the U.K.-based BREEAM, the U.S.-based LEED, and increasingly WELL is now the norm for office market developments and increasingly in logistics.

All these third-party accreditation systems feature interior issues as a central component and award points on this basis. In an attempt by developers to achieve market leadership, double certifications are becoming increasingly common in Hungary.

Many projects choose the WELL Certification as a second commitment next to either BREEAM or LEED. There are already 28 projects registered for WELL in Hungary, according to Regina Kurucz, head of the WELL working group at the Hungarian Green Building Council (HuGBC).

“Sustainability is expected to play a more dominant role also in the interior sector: A healthier environment, more plants and more green, re-used, and upcycled materials and a human focus,” says Zsombor Barta, president of HuGBC.

“All of the internationally well-established green building certification schemes have incorporated holistic ideas of sustainability; therefore, they are a great tool to follow. Further, all of these schemes already have a “Health and Wellbeing” section included within their requirements,” he points out.

“All of the scheme operators quickly reacted to the pandemic situation and highlighted their health and safety requirements. As the WELL system is the one that is providing a framework especially for the interior environment, this scheme has probably become the most relevant requirement related to a healthy and safe internal environment,” Barta adds.

Communal Spaces

With hybrid office use, emphasis is placed on communal areas, collaborative spaces, and meeting rooms. All these processes have changed the look and style of offices.

“The trend had already started before the pandemic to develop or restyle the office to create more interactive and flexible places, where creative ideas can be grown, human interactions are possible, and diverse working places are integrated,” Barta explains.

“This trend is becoming even more important for the future. Also, the time has passed for over-crowded and fully packed offices places, mainly because of hygiene and pandemic issues,” he says.

Skanska has undertaken the development of the first phase of the 67,000 sqm H2Offices on the site of the former Budapest Waterworks, with the architectural design concept created by Arrow Architects of Denmark.

According to Skanska the new building complex will focus on the needs of users. The developers aim to obtain LEED and WELL “Platinum” certifications and a WELL Health & Safety Rating with a wide range of amenities and recreational opportunities for staff, such as a rooftop running track.

“We adapted very quickly to the new regulations and implemented the newest health measurements; we are also helping our tenants to be able to provide secure office space to their workers,” comments Aurelia Luca, executive vice president of operations for Hungary and Romania at Skanska’s commercial development business unit.

“We’ve seen that the WELL Health & Safety certifications that nine of our projects have already received have been very successful and the feedback very positive because people feel safer in the environment that we created,” she adds.

myhive space by Immofinanz.

Catering Options

The complex will include a 1,200 sqm Kantin brand restaurant in addition to a traditional Greek taverna. “The quality of offices and the wide range of services available in a building became very important tools in both recruitment and retention,” says György Losonci, retail expert at VLK Cresa, who advised Skanska on the deal with Kantin.

“A new generation of employees are consciously considering, among other factors, what kind of dining options are available in the building and the surroundings.”

Norbert Szircsák, head of green building agency at Colliers International Hungary, argues that as most developments and even some fit-out is being certified, architects and interior designers meet green building standards during their everyday work.

“What is still missing, I believe, is the early involvement of every stakeholder during the design process. Especially those who will operate (and use if known) the building or space, as sustainable operation is only possible in a building designed accordingly. The more the architect and interior designers know about sustainability and green building certifications, the better,” he concludes.

Architecture and interior design can greatly contribute to energy efficiency and thoughtful use of resources, but also ongoing energy management to reduce consumption and emissions, argues Viktor Nagy, county manager of operations at Immofinanz Hungary. He says, “myhive Haller Gardens office in Budapest will be completely renovated soon, not only the interiors but also the facade and the exterior gardens. In addition to the high-level ergonomic solutions, we are maximizing natural light.”

Industrial developers and park operators are now developing sustainability accredited and more highly specified projects in reaction to changing tenant demands.

As with the office sector, developers are under commercial pressure to recognize the importance of staff well-being, , observe coronavirus precautions, and reduce the carbon footprint of their projects. For example, Prologis has five BREEAM accredited buildings in Hungary, while the CTP portfolio has received BREEAM “In-Use” certification.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of September 24, 2021.

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