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Market Talk: Green Building the Only Sustainable Choice

Office Market

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Sustainability or green issues are increasingly impacting building design and property management in response to tenant and staff demands, and ultimately the commercial success of a project. Further, international regulations on CO2 emission reduction and energy use must be integrated. Access to public transport and the provision of cycle facilities and electric vehicle charging are all central priorities. A successful complex now needs to have a reciprocal benefit to its immediate environment in terms of development of the area and provision of infrastructure. With regard to an exit strategy, a project invariably needs to have third sustainability accreditation to attract investors who have a longer-term view of development. Investors are increasingly adopting ESG criteria in their investment strategies. Gary Morrell asked developers, investors, sustainability consultants, and assessors for their thoughts on the future of sustainability and green business in the real estate and property investment markets.

By acting for the city of tomorrow, Atenor is strengthening its commitment to more sustainable, dynamic, safe, united, and pleasant cities to live in, cities where the well-being of citizens is the main priority. Atenor is playing its role in reducing emissions, finding solutions to tackle climate change, reducing pollution and damage to the natural environment, and increasing the use of renewable resources. To achieve this, Atenor can draw on its expertise while investing heavily in innovation and new technologies.

One of the closest the industry has to a solution to minimize carbon emissions is to avoid over-burdening polluted areas (typically residential, office, and industrial) and relocate resource generators to places that face less of the by-products of energy generation (i.e., using district heating in office buildings, etc.) However, with emerging technologies and new sustainability practices, market players are willing to change, which gives us hope for a more carbon-neutral future.

Máté Galambos

Leasing Manager

Atenor Hungary

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of sustainability is the quality of causing little or no damage to the environment and, therefore, the ability to continue for a long time. As we work in the real estate sector, we mostly refer to “green buildings,” which in their design, construction, and operational stages reduce or eliminate negative impacts and can have positive effects on our climate and natural environment.

Sustainability should definitely be the norm in all property sectors, and I think it already is in the commercial sector. Offices were the first, but industrial and retail are quickly catching up. Hotels, too, as many chains already have sustainability initiatives. As for the residential sector, it may take more time, but we see more interest there too. New buildings must anyway comply with strict energy efficiency measures, which is a good direction.

Norbert Szircsák

Head of Green Building Agency

Colliers International Hungary

The importance of sustainability as an expectation will grow further. Therefore, it will incorporate more factors such as technology, material use, planning, and carbon footprint, with new aspects naturally coming along as time goes by. Having sustainability accreditation is undoubtedly the investors’ expectation, but it is becoming increasingly important for tenants as well. Value-add investors are also prioritizing the incorporation of sustainability elements.

I like to think about sustainability as acting in a responsible manner to do our part to achieve a healthy future. I guess most of us would agree with the UN’s way of saying this: Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.

Since experts say the construction and operation of buildings account for almost 40% of energy-related carbon emissions and more than one-third of energy consumption worldwide, sustainability should be the norm in all property sectors, without a doubt.

Csaba Zeley

Managing director

ConvergenCE

It is of the utmost importance for CPI Hungary to maximize the use of renewable energy in our property portfolio, thus significantly reducing the ecological footprint of our buildings. In addition, we are pleased to see that more of our tenants are specifically requesting that we provide them with green electricity. Our company’s conscious building concept, which encourages tenants to act responsibly and environmentally consciously, has been taken to a new level.

CPI Hungary has switched to green energy and, therefore, from 2022, CPI Hungary will supply the electricity needed to run its property portfolio exclusively from renewable sources, taking a major step towards sustainable building operations and enabling tenants to reduce their ecological footprint significantly.

Further, CPI Property Group has strengthened its environmental commitments in line with the objectives of sustainable development and the Paris Climate Agreement. Among other things, it will only purchase electricity from renewable sources from 2024 and aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030. Renewable electricity will be provided through a so-called “Guarantees of Origin” (GoO) from 2022. A GoO renewable energy certificate (REC) is a tradable electronic document that certifies to the user that a certain amount of electricity comes from a renewable energy source or high-efficiency co-generation.

Mátyás Gereben

Country manager

CPI Hungary

In the case of commercial real estate, the green ratings are basically the starting point, which have existed on the Hungarian market for a relatively long time. In the case of new buildings, their acquisition is practically natural. In terms of operation, the most significant aspects are energy efficiency and the development of mechanical systems that can minimize the greenhouse gas emissions of a given building in the long run.

Carbon-zero footprint reduction is basically both a technical and material issue; in any case, the intention is increasingly present on behalf of the owners. Most importantly, there is a significant change in attitude on this topic, with market participants taking ESG aspects more seriously. This primarily requires technical implementation and investment on the part of the owners; on the other hand, by purchasing carbon dioxide quotas, they can contribute to reaching climate protection goals.

Like most organizations, Diófa Asset Management is currently working to find its place in this changing environment and to set standards for sustainable operations. The goal is simple and clear: We want to operate responsibly at the corporate level, to offer our clients sustainable investment products, which we can achieve by investing in long-term sustainable assets, either in real estate or securities.

Roland Bogár

Head of Real Estate Front Office

Diófa Asset Management

As long as construction and a new physical footprint are generated, there is no such thing as a carbon-zero footprint. Developments should be driven towards the re-use of our current building stock, and initiatives should encourage brownfield development primarily. Also, the construction industry must become an integral part of the circular economy. Thus, debris from demolition can have a second life as building material.

Energy use obviously can be reduced, and we already have rather good practices for the extensive integration of renewable energy resources. The harm that construction activities do to our environment can be mitigated. The life-cycle assessment that has become part of the sustainability evaluation is a much better way of showing how a building can contribute to a more sustainable economy.

Our professional obligation is to drive the real-estate development processes and construction activities towards a more sustainable path. Urbanization will continue, which requires strong zoning regulations that enable diversity and social inclusion, as well as bio-diversity, which are the key aspects of resilient urban development. IoT [Internet of Things] solutions will enhance the user experience of our built environment too. Architects and interior designers are critical stakeholders of projects with their comprehensive understanding of the long-term impact of construction.

Ida Kiss

Design director

DVM group

Third-party sustainability assessments should always be independent and transparent benchmarking tools, although these base principles are not always present in all the systems. Further, the adaptation and mitigation of climate change, which is a huge risk, is also something that should be considered if we talk about sustainability. The social element of sustainability accreditation is something that is not always included in the current tools.

I think sustainability will be the most important factor for all of our activities; therefore, designers, architects, builders, etc., are already – and will be even more – impacted by sustainability principles. If somebody nowadays designs a building without implementing sustainability principles, the building or project is already outdated, without any real chance for a successful future.

If our species would like to survive in a healthy environment, we need to take action now. Therefore, sustainability will be the dominant element of all of our activities. We are talking a lot about sustainability. We have had plenty of studies and discussions about its importance; now is the time for action: there is no longer time for any further discussions.

Zsombor Barta

President

Hungarian Green Building Council (HuGBC)

We are at an inflection point right now as individuals, companies, and an industry, and we are being given an opportunity to do something different. We should be addressing not only the issue of sustainability, but all of those things that we know are not working in the office right now and are important.

The era of low ventilated, dark, low-hygiene offices is over. This means that new offices have to be green and wellbeing-orientated at the same time. We have to find solutions to have sufficient light and fresh air where people work, without using more energy than necessary. In the new era of hybrid work hubs, office interiors have to be amazing, so people really want to be there. Lobbies will transform into inviting gathering spaces, and office gardens will flourish with inviting natural scenes. The much hated huge open office spaces will be divided into smaller “neighborhoods” with optical and physical shielding providing a friendlier atmosphere. Places matter for mental health, and the office of the future will provide spaces and policies to help people reduce stress and help them thrive.

Regina Kurucz

Head of WELL Working Group

Hungarian Green Building Council (HuGBC)

Of course, the real estate industry has a responsibility and can contribute to climate protection in many different ways. We have been addressing sustainability trends in our portfolio for many years; our clear goal is to make our portfolio net emissions zero over the long term, and we are currently working on a detailed strategy for reaching it.

With regards to sustainability, there is a trend towards natural materials like wood, and a minimalistic clean and modern touch in retail premises. Our myhive offices in Haller Gardens are an excellent example of how office interiors will look and where the trend in the office field is going. Nowadays, offices need to be a “home away from home” experience for people to feel comfortable at work. Therefore, we have a hotel-inspired interior design with a low welcome desk, signaling a welcoming atmosphere when entering the building.

Viktor Nagy

Country manager operations

Immofinanz Hungary

H2Offices is Skanska’s latest investment in Hungary and our 10th project so far. We have implemented the newest health measurements and are also helping our tenants to provide secure office space to their workers. The “Care for Life” office concept includes recommendations and advice to assist our tenants on new hygiene and safety measures. It discusses four main areas: space planning, air quality, facility management, and sanitizing plan and touch-free solutions.

As a developer, we aim to reduce CO2 emissions in our developments by 75% by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2045, and we are constantly working in this direction. Concerning sustainability, we need to cross the bar compared to previous projects due to COVID and our CO2 aims. We have achieved WELL “Platinum” precertification for H2Offices. These focus on the wellbeing of buildings’ users; in this way, the workplace is not just a place of work, and therefore there are more and enhanced requirements from employees. For example, the project includes green terraces and a large multifunctional garden, which is also accessible to the public.

Aurelia Luca

Executive vice president of operations Hungary & Romania

Skanska Commercial Development Business Unit

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

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