Green Architecture Going Further

Office Market

Green is becoming a synonym for cool when it comes to architecture. But why is it important to build sustainable buildings? Does it offer a financial return? And how is Budapest doing when it comes to forward-thinking architecture?

Gergely Paulinyi (left) and András Reith.

Designing buildings with low energy consumption, putting a bicycle storage next to it and placing some nice flower beds on the rooftop is not enough anymore for people with a progressive approach and commitment for the environment, as these things have become the bare minimum even in Hungary by now.  

Green architecture has to look far beyond that. “Who will use the building in five, ten or 20 years’ time? What needs will they have? How will digitalization change our lives and how will it affect architecture?” These are only few of the questions that have to be asked when sitting down at the drawing table for a new project, according to Gergely Paulinyi of Paulinyi-Reith & Partners. Operating under the name of Mérték Group up to 2018, Paulinyi-Reith & Partners is a collection of engineering companies and has been playing a leading role in sustainable architecture in the region for more than three decades.

Meeting future and often unforeseen requirements can only come through interdisciplinary design activity, the architects say. The integrated design process (IDP) refers to a process of creative work where architects and engineers cooperate with social sciences experts and business professionals throughout the entire design process. Ideally, the developers and the future operators of the property also take part in the process from the first sketch on the paper.

International Benchmarks

Advanced Building and Urban Design (ABUD), a consultancy firm empowered by architects, engineers and researchers specialized in sustainable building and urban design. Co-headed by András Reith of Paulinyi-Reith & Partners, it takes part in numerous international research projects and, for example, examines user behavior in completed projects and compares them to international benchmarks. The result of this research helps identify possible future challenges.

It seems undisputed by HR experts that the generations now entering the labor market are usually more environmentally conscious than those who are currently in decision-making positions at companies. It is not only flexible working hours or a trendy office environment that might be essential nowadays to attract young talents, but in certain sectors successful employer branding also has to mean that the company is sufficiently green.

“The competition for manpower is fierce and complex,” Szilvia Bősze, business development director at Paulinyi-Reith & Partners says, adding that it is even more typical in the CEE region where the workforce has a willingness to leave the country and try their luck abroad. It makes the situation more challenging for employers and, as such, for architects and property developers as well.

However, the results of “greenness” can and should be measured. Back in 2012, the Global Buildings Performance Network (GBPN), with input from ABUD, conducted a large-scale research project into the ecological and economic impact of the various energy efficiency measures on buildings worldwide. The study aimed to model the monetary benefits of ambitious building energy policies and analyzed the additional investment costs and the total energy cost savings.

Possible Savings

To get a picture about the additional costs and the possible savings of going greener in 11 world regions in the period from 2005-2050, the study considered three different scenarios – deep, moderate and low efficiency – regarding the level of energy efficiency that is likely to be reached in the future.

The study found that, with the deep efficiency scenario, which is the best among the three, additional investment costs stay well below the cost savings in the case of single-family buildings, multi-family buildings as well as commercial and public buildings. Counting all the three building types in total, building highly energy efficient buildings would cost USD 44.3 trillion, while they would save some USD 99.2 tln.

The study also concluded that implementing energy efficient solutions has the lowest average additional investment cost in multi-family buildings out of the three building types. However, the cost-effectiveness of the investment under the moderate scenario is much lower. Yet, the total cumulative investment needs are only slightly higher than the energy costs savings. Additional costs exceed savings both in single-family buildings and commercial and public buildings. The total of all the three building types show USD 44.6 tln extra spending versus USD 42 tln savings.

Another project made for the European Union between 2015-2018, the so-called COMBI (Calculating and Operationalizing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency in Europe) quantified the non-energy benefits of different energy efficiency provisions in the EU-28 area. The project will finally provide consolidated data on the varying impacts of end-use energy efficiency such as emissions, resources, social welfare, macro-economy and the energy system and so will develop appropriate modelling approaches and tools.

“On top of all the tools, sustainability has to go hand-in-hand with smart thinking, which has to have deep roots in society as well,” Reith points out. However, despite some favorable changes and an apparently growing environmental consciousness, it is still hard to tell when people will realize that “it is not the smart lamps and the public Wi-Fi that makes a city smart.” Paulinyi-Reith & Partners is eager to share its knowledge. “Our aim is to provide information that enables society to place this growing need on professional basis.”

Green City 

“Sustainable design necessarily involves an urbanistic approach, too,” says András Reith. When designing for the future, buildings can no longer be viewed as single, separate projects but should be looked at on a larger, city-wide scale.

Considering that buildings have a renewal cycle of about 100 years, street structures of 500 years and settlements of about 1,000 years, environmentally conscious, sustainable and energy efficient city development is more crucial than ever, Budapest 2030, a long-term and integrated urban development concept approved by the Budapest Municipality in 2013 points out. Reith was one of the architects contributing to the comprehensive planning document, together with leading experts of social studies and economics.

“Budapest has to find its way to the future in a changing – meteorological, economic and political – climate” the city strategy says.

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