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Interior, Exterior Design Carving-out a Higher Profile

With developers striving to deliver ever more highly-specified office complexes that integrate and contribute to the infrastructure and feel of the city, interior and exterior design have essentially become part of the same design process.

Nordic Light Trio

The interior of an office development reflects the need of tenants for a creative and healthy environment for staff, while the exterior design is expected to produce architecturally attractive buildings. More developers are employing architect studios with an international reputation, often working in conjunction with Hungarian architects.

“Design is a key factor of a successful project; therefore we are mindful of the tendering and selections process of the architects. It is very important that the architects need to understand that exterior design is one thing, but even more important is the building interior: its functionality and layout has to be super smart,” commented Nikolett Püschl, development and leasing director at Atenor Hungary

Horizon Development is behind the on-going 15,500 sqm Szervita Square office, retail and residential complex. The project is a rare new-built development in the historic center of District V, where the very strict planning regulations stipulate that developments have to contribute to, and preserve the historic Central European feel of the center of Budapest.

The project involves the demolition of a run-down office building in the location. The LEED “Platinum” certified replacement will consist of office and retail space across seven levels, in addition to high end residential units on the fifth and sixth floors.

The modern structure has been carefully designed to fit into the historic setting of Hungarian Art Nouveau buildings in this heritage protected area of the city, Horizon Development says. A park in front of the building will add a new public space for the area.

High Rise Warsaw

In contrast to Budapest, the center of Warsaw is developing into a high rise business center. Developers are not faced with the same height restrictions as is the case in Budapest or Prague, as most of the city was destroyed in World War II.

“We are witnessing the transformation of Warsaw’s skyline, which is mainly due to the construction of numerous towers,” said JLL. One such, Varso Place by HB Reavis, will feature the tallest office building in the EU.

Not that there are no high-rise developments in Budapest. The BudaPart mixed-use project on the Buda bank of the Danube will include the 120 meter high, 83,000 sqm MOL Campus, designed by the London-based Foster & Partners and the Hungarian Finta Studio.

The work of the Hungarian developer Property Market, BudaPart is described as a “new city quarter” on a 54 hectare site at Kopaszi-gát. While the MOL HQ has been given the go ahead, the debate continues over the pros and cons of height restrictions on buildings in Budapest.

Exterior design is not just about making the grand statement, however; increasingly it is also seen as a major contributor to interior outfitting and property management.

Zsombor Barta, president of the Hungarian Green Building Council (HuGBC), comments that workforce retention is taking on an ever more central role across the region, and that “the provision of a healthy and esthetically appealing working atmosphere has become an important factor”.

He adds: “The efficiency of the leased spaces (regarding productivity but also consumption) is also something that is now on the ‘wish-list’ of tenants. It is highly important to evaluate the project on the community level and not just as a stand-alone project. Sustainable buildings are smart buildings as well and they respond to the needs of the building users, but they also interconnect.”

Human Elements

While pricing and location remain the two dominant decision-making factors, there is an increasing need for “human elements” to serve the comfort and wellbeing of employees according to Mátyás Gereben, country manager for Hungary at CPI Property Group. Almost by definition, design is becoming more tenant-focused.

Ida Kiss, head of design at DVM group agrees, with that assessment. “Budget is always important, especially as fit-out costs have boomed in the last two years. Nevertheless, there are other factors that are gaining more importance since companies are aware that the work-place they are creating is an important employer branding tool. It enhances employee engagement and supports collaboration within the company. It is also acknowledged that the workplace environment has a great impact on the mental and physical condition of employees. Conscious design can reduce absenteeism and help people perform better and focus,” she argues.

Office developers are increasingly seeking WELL accreditation in addition to BREEAM and LEED sustainability certification. Skanska, for example, is developing Nordic Light Trio, the third 14,000 sqm phase of the Nordic Light office center, to meet the WELL Building Standard.

The Futureal Group, meanwhile, has been awarded WELL Building pre-certification for its three current Budapest office projects: the first phase of the Budapest One Business Park, phase one of the Corvin Technology & Science Park, and the initial phase of Advance Tower.

Company Commitment

By achieving WELL certification for his own headquarters in the Buda Hills, Ottó Feuertag, founder of Europa Design, is seeking to strengthen what he sees as the commitment of the company to the work life balance idea in office spaces.

More use of is made of recyclable materials, and high-quality and long lasting materials and finishes, he says.

“The impact of WELL on interiors is much higher ergonomics in furniture design, more alternative working and collaboration zones,” he explains. “A wider choice of materials, intelligent lighting solutions and, most importantly, lots of acoustic solutions.”

He lists the presence of artwork and “other inspiring surfaces, materials” including real green walls. “An office can be only efficient if the content [….] is high quality and good looking. So the optical or visual environment has a huge impact on the physical condition of the worker and therefore on his mood of work,” Feuertag said.

The Europa Design headquarters is a refurbished Bauhaus villa dating back to 1936, the renovation and reconstruction of which took two years.

“WELL accreditation aims to support the wellbeing of employees in the building, inspiring creativity and strengthening the employer branding of the company at the same time,” says Emese Kovács, Emese Kovács, partner and WELL appraiser at MN6 Energy Agency, whose company worked on the Europa Design project.

“The quality and architectural value of the new HQ building is a significant upgrade from Europa Design’s previous office, that better reflects the brand and its core corporate values,” she added.

Europa Design headquarters in Budapest.