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Skanska: Going beyond green in real estate development

Fortune magazine’s annual “Change the World” list celebrates companies pursuing socially or environmentally sustainable practices and initiatives through their core business strategy. Skanska made the list this year, being the only construction company to do so. András Schmidt, sustainability manager of Skanska Property Hungary, tells the BBJ more about how Skanska builds a greener future.

András Schmidt

BBJ: Why was Skanska named on such a prestigious ranking?

András Schmidt: We are proud to be change makers and have been proactive on sustainability issues for many years. As a matter of self-interest as well as social responsibility, the company is moving ahead to advance its sustainability performance. Our buildings are efficient in terms of operating costs, and deliver long-term value to investors and occupants. We are fortunate that, as a global development and construction company, we benefit from best practices shared across our markets and projects.

BBJ: Can you tell us more about Skanska’s approach to sustainability?

AS: It is our objective to create futureproof workplaces, having the needs of the tenants in mind. We are continuously developing green solutions, targeting net positive primary buildings. Reducing energy consumption is one of our goals: by doing so, we contribute to curbing climate change, improving energy security and increasing the asset value for our customers. Our local and international tenants appreciate this approach.

We aim to reduce the carbon footprint during our constriction activities, based on continuous calculations of embodied carbon emission, using local and energy-friendly materials and taking into account the carbon emissions caused by transportation.

In our LEED Gold certified Mill Park office building, the green area ratio exceeds the local regulation by 20%. Its 5,000 sqm internal green courtyard is unique of its kind: an outside gym, table tennis and table football, as well as outdoor workspaces with plug-ins and Wi-Fi, support the wellbeing of the tenants.

Nordic Light Trio will be the first WELL-certified Skanska building in Hungary, and we are also aiming for a LEED certification. As part of its sustainable solutions, office users and the public will be able to enjoy a 2,400 sqm multi-activity landscaped garden. The building will be equipped with a rainwater harvesting system, and the rainwater will be used for irrigation. Chillers with natural refrigerators avoiding negative environmental impact (zero ozone depletion potential and zero greenhouse effect) will be used. Bicycle storage facilities and electric car chargers will be available within the complex.

BBJ: Skanska is continuously working on numerous innovations. What are the most recent?

AS: We have launched our own integrated building operating system, called “Connected by Skanska”. The system includes a mobile application for everyday users and a web portal for tenant and building administration, working as an open platform integrating smart and user-friendly functionalities with a social approach on building community in an office complex.

We have also started to introduce smart helmets to increase safety at our construction sites. The helmet detects and gives warnings about all kinds of risks, such as vibrations, impact, falls or changes in temperature. This initiative is the first of its kind in Europe.

BBJ: Skanska is pioneering green and sustainable solutions on the market. Can you give us some examples?

AS: One of these solutions is green concrete. It can reduce nitrogen dioxide molecules in the air into neutral nitrogen through a photocatalytic process. It is a unique product that cleans the air of harmful compounds emitted by cars and has self-cleaning properties. The measurements have proved that the area where it has been installed showed a 30% lower concentration of NO2 in relation to a traditional concrete surface section. Skanska first used it for concrete pavement in Warsaw; this was the first introduction of green concrete in the CEE region in connection with a commercial project.

Skanska’s commercial development business unit in CEE is working with Saule Technologies to be the first developer worldwide to cover office buildings with semi-transparent perovskite solar cells on a commercial scale. We have exclusive rights to use this solution in building façades and noise barriers across all Skanska markets. As opposed to traditional solar panels that only work efficiently while properly exposed to direct sunlight on the roof, these solar cells can work with dispersed light. The flexible, lightweight panels are available in different colors. This is a milestone towards zero-energy and carbon neutral office investments.