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Locational Issues Central to a Sustainable City

Office Market

Location is a central element of sustainability accreditation, as tenants and staff require office developments with direct public transport access that are integrated into the urban infrastructure. City authorities, meanwhile, are looking to attract developments that improve the economic environment, the provision of amenities and the look and feel of their districts.

White House by GTC in Budapest.

Developers are reacting to these demands by striving to improve the architectural design of projects that are located within the urban environment, with proximity to residential areas and direct public transport links. However, suitably-sized development plots with good visibility are becoming more expensive and increasingly difficult to source and new development areas are emerging.  

With regards to locational issues the U.S.-based LEED accreditation system assesses projects on the basis of development density and connectivity, brownfield redevelopment, alternative transportation (public transport access, bicycle storage and changing facilities, electric car parking and charging facilities), protection and restoration of habitat and maximum open space provision.

The U.K.-based BREEAM has the stated aim of enhancing the social value of a project in a given area while mitigating its environmental impact. This system awards transportation points that encourage better access to sustainable transportation for building users. “Issues focus on the access of public transport and other alternative transportation solutions that supply reductions in car journeys and therefore reduce congestion and CO2 emissions over the life of a building.”

The 21,500 sqm White House by GTC has become the second Budapest office development to be awarded LEED’s highest “Platinum” accreditation. The complex is located in Váci út, adjacent to the metro on the site of the 100-year-old former Schleck Elevator Factory and includes a refurbished area.  

GTC are regarded as having contributed to the revival of the area as well as the usage of the former factory building with a complex that integrates old and new. For its part, the local District XIII authority has successfully developed the former industrial area into a thriving commercial center, attracting developers to the so-called Váci Corridor with its excellent metro and road transport links. Indeed, so successful have they been that it is becoming difficult to source suitably large plots.

The conventional wisdom is that office staff who often work flexible hours prefer to be located in locations that are integrated into the city, so that they can utilize amenities and commute by public transport or bike.  

Accessibility is Key

The Belgium developer, Atenor has acquired a circa 5,000 sqm plot for the development of an office project in District III in Bécsi út, near the Rózsadomb area.

“Accessibility and public transport and metro connections are still the most important issues regarding the location for tenants,” explains Nikolett Püschl, development and leasing director at Atenor Hungary.  

“Buda was always and will remain a very preferred location and the Pest outer ring road is one of the most dynamically developing parts of the city; we really believe that it [the office project] will be successful and provide a significant upgrade for its macro and microenvironment as well. Sourcing development locations is challenging, but there is still significant development potential in Budapest: we just need to choose well and carefully,” she adds.   

In the historic center of Budapest, Horizon Development is currently working on the mixed-use Szervita Square Building, consisting of around 12,500 sqm of office, residential and retail space. This is a rare office development in the center where development plots are particularly difficult to source. The Hungarian developer is also working on a hotel redevelopment in central Pest.  

Mellow Mood Hotels has completed Párisi Udvar Hotel, an extensive renovation and redevelopment of the Art Deco Párisi Udvar building dating back to the 19th century.  

The large number of historic buildings in key central locations do provide the opportunity for their redevelopment into boutique and medium-sized hotels, providing a use-value and an opportunity for the renovation of often run-down classic turn-of-the century listed buildings.

Learn From Others

Zsombor Barta, president of the Hungarian Green Building Council (HuGBC) and a sustainability expert, says there is plenty of best practice for Budapest to draw on.

“One of the best examples is the urban development of Vienna. The Austrian capital has a very similar built environment heritage to Budapest and I think, Budapest can learn a lot from Vienna and utilize its rich architectural heritage together with new developments and refurbishments,” he says.

“Also, Vienna is concentrating highly on sustainable city development elements as well as the ongoing development of its transportation network. Further good examples are from the Nordic countries, cities such as Oslo or Copenhagen; these capitals are really investing in sustainable urban development and livability,” Barta says.  

“Tallinn can also serve as a very beneficial example, as the city made huge positive steps in terms of sustainable innovations, smart solutions and urbanization. International examples show that real estate developments and the preservation of the built heritage can go hand-in-hand.”

He argues that making urban public transportation attractive and a real alternative to car-based transportation will be one of the key elements of development in Budapest. A good example is the renewal of Danube passenger ships, which he says are currently very polluting, old and not really attractive for the citizens. Also the further development of the railway system would be needed in order to make the city’s HÉV network really attractive as a fast 21st century transportation option for commuters.

“The long-term development of the Hungarian capital city has lots of good perspectives and opportunities; the question is always whether decision makers and city developers are able to act and to develop the city in a way that has long-lasting beneficial effects,” Barta cautions.

“Sustainable urban development is the only way to mitigate climate change effects, to increase the livability and the health and wellbeing of citizens. Therefore, a citywide and long-term sustainable urban concept is needed, which is developed in consensus with the different stakeholders and groups, and developments should be steered accordingly. As we understand, the city authority is currently working on such a long-term urban development concept and, therefore, we hope that Budapest’s urban development will be more streamlined,” he concludes.

Szervita Square Building by Horizon Development.

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