Shedding Light on Environmentally Sound Interiors

Sustainability

Commercial property interiors bring together a plethora of issues regarding the general environment, the internal atmosphere and layout, staff wellbeing (impacting staff retention) and hygiene. Developers are striving to deliver ever more highly specified and sustainable complexes as interior and exterior design and development have essentially become part of the same process.

“Individual work is almost dead in offices, but privacy should not be disregarded. Collaborative spaces will have the lion’s share within the general rentable area. Regulations may become tougher in the coming years, but, overall, demand may fluctuate as companies have still not figured out their real needs,” said Valter Kalaus, managing partner at Newmark VLK Hungary.

János Gárdai, Member of GTC Management Board & COO, GTC, puts the view from the landlord’s perspective. “We are very attentive to the changes that occur in the behavior of tenants because, at GTC, we focus on partnership and the highest possible level of service to our tenants,” he comments.

“At the same time, we remain open to suggestions for changes, as well as the implementation of new services or amenities requested by tenants. Our approach is met with great acceptance by tenants, as reflected in long-term partnerships,” Gárdai adds. 

Well, the accreditation system dedicated to interiors and related elements is increasingly being utilized in the high-end office sector as developers need to react to changing working practices and the use of space and increasingly stringent sustainability regulations.

Leading office developers such as Skanska, Horizon Development and Futureal are committed to developing their projects in line with Well accreditation, in addition to the established Leed and Breeam systems.

According to the Hungarian Green Building Council (HuGBC), around 10 projects are in the process of assessment for Well pre-certification or certification. This system focuses on the wellbeing of staff, the provision of amenities, use of space and accessibility.

Vivid Ecosystems

“We have to create a vivid ecosystem of workspaces that truly address our needs. Well-designed spaces will be more aligned with the specific needs of the users – be that in the office or other environment used for work,” comments Regina Kurucz, head of the Well working group at HuGBC.

“Office design should evolve from fixed to fluid, so they can meet the needs of the users as they evolve over time. The workplace should be inclusive for all,” she explains.

Advance Tower by Futureal, which was sold to the Erste Open-Ended Euro Real Estate Investment Fund, is the third office complex in Budapest to be awarded Well accreditation.

“ESG principles will continue to be a key priority in the operation of our properties. We have solid sustainability requirements, and we are working with our tenants in order to meet them,” says Balázs Pázmány, chairman of the board of Erste Asset Management.

“Advance Tower’s Well rating is also an indication that ESG is becoming more prominent in our investment decisions, and we are striving to increase the ESG compliance of our real estate funds in their day-to-day operations. We intend to continue to play a pioneering role in the compliance of Hungarian real estate funds with ESG criteria,” he adds.

As indicated above, several Budapest office projects are at the pre-certification stage in the Well certification process.

At the Forefront

“Futureal aims to be at the forefront of sustainable development to create healthy, environmentally-friendly, creative and productive spaces that attract and retain talents as well as improve ESG performance,” explains Gábor Radványi, chief architect of Futureal Development, on the development policy of the company.

“This is demonstrated by the fact that two out of the three Well-certified office buildings in Hungary were realized by our company. The building standard will define the next decade of the real estate industry, and we are committed to building all of our forthcoming office projects in line with it, as we focus on advancing comfort, wellbeing and health,” Radványi said.

Sustainability elements are also impacting the role of property and facility management.

“Property management of the buildings will need to be more reactive to the actual use of the building, based on smart metering,” argues Zsolt Jakab, portfolio manager at Diófa Asset Management.

“For example, if fewer people are in the building on certain days, the building’s ventilation/heating/cooling could be adjusted to save on operational costs. It is important to understand, though, that most of the currently built buildings in Hungary are very limited to fit such a flexible use,” he adds.

Kalaus, of Newmark VLK, argues that tenants will welcome any significant change that makes their life easier and healthier. Government regulations will concentrate on environmental issues and energy saving across the EU. This will be a major driver for the upcoming years as the whole continent faces dramatic climate change; the EU has made it clear it is increasingly willing to address those issues.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of September 23, 2022.

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