Raluca Munteanu, business development manager at Iulius tells Business Review about the company’s role in building communities in the cities it developed real estate projects and how it managed to create hubs where citizens can gather and spend their spare time
By Anda Sebesi
From your company’s perspective, what is the role of your projects in building sustainable communities? – with reference to all your projects, including offices
Reducing our environmental footprint is at the core of Iulius’ strategy and all our projects reflect this focus. The buildings we have developed comply with the highest standards for energy efficiency, materials used, natural lighting, air-related specifications, and water reuse. Sustainability itself means causing minimal to no damage to the environment in the long-term. It stands for better environment and better quality of life, and this is what we had in mind when developing the mixed-use projects Palas Iași, Iulius Town Timișoara, and Iulius Cluj-Napoca. These projects integrate a variety of uses – office, retail, park, and entertainment – in order to deliver a fresh, modern lifestyle to the local and regional communities.
Our care for the environment is officially acknowledged, as all 13 office buildings in our Iași, Timișoara, and Cluj-Napoca based business districts (the United Business Center concept) are either LEED Platinum or Gold certified. We continue firmly on the path of “green” developments with Palas Campus, our new mixed-use project under construction in Iași. It recently obtained the first green credit in Romania, in the amount of EUR 72 million from IFC, a division of the World Bank. This means that Palas Campus will be EDGE certified (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies). Palas Campus is also pending LEED certification. Having a double certification, both EDGE and LEED, is a unique performance for a project.
The added value of sustainability to a project is obvious in many ways. Green buildings yield significant maintenance and operational cost savings because they spend 10% less energy and 20% less water than traditional buildings. Moreover, they carry a 7% increase in asset value over traditional buildings.
It’s not very often that you see a real-estate developer investing in parks, roads, bus stations, and underground parking spaces, and reshaping the infrastructure around the entire project. However, we do just that because it provides overall long-term sustainability for the entire development and, of course, more value and comfort to the community. The key is to not do it all just for profit, but rather to make sure the project will stand the test of time.
Iulius plays a significant role for the communities in major cities in Romania, as they are hubs where citizens can gather and spend their spare time. How do you contribute to the development of smart communities there?
Our mission is to create genuine urban regeneration projects and developments that go beyond the limits of mere shopping centers or office buildings. We like to create spaces and places where communities can be nurtured and destinations that can trigger growth across the region.
Our projects combine a set of various uses, from retail to office, to hotels or conference centers – a mix designed to deliver wellbeing and to make people’s lives easier.
The premium office spaces are integrated in retail and entertainment concepts with a multitude of shops, services, medical practices, food courts, and even schools and kindergartens. All this is designed to bring people together and to make the buildings work for the people, not vice versa.
However, we do believe the highlight of all our projects are our parks and gardens, where local communities now meet and spend time together. I think you could even say it’s one of our trademarks.
The vast parks created in Palas Iași, Iulius Town Timișoara, and Iulius Cluj-Napoca are key to socializing, especially during these troubled times. Designed with utmost care by Italian landscapers, the parks have become the main art scene of these cities during summer. Concerts, festivals, and movies draw people every day to enjoy a safe and pleasant environment.
The latest projects under construction, Palas Campus and Family Market (the latter being a new mixed-use concept at a smaller scale, designed for expanding residential areas) also bear a strong green hallmark. Sustainability-wise, we should add that our projects create an infrastructure for local entrepreneurs and producers.
There is an obvious educational role in all the projects we develop. All our buildings are LEED certified, so we see the people working in them every day being more aware of the importance of protecting the environment.
Unlike other developers, our strategy was to focus mainly on magnet cities of Romania (Iasi, Cluj-Napoca, and Timisoara), which we see as the pillars of the amazing growth Romania has experienced in these past years. The strong universities and highly skilled labor in these cities have been instrumental in attracting the top international employers we see here today. Moreover, adding the real-estate component and the properly integrated mixed-use projects provided these top employers with a platform to build development centers with thousands of employees, having a massive positive impact on talent retention at a regional level.
Due to the complexity of our developments, we believe we can play a huge role in developing the cities of Romania on all levels: economic, social, and cultural. We also remain equally interested in being a real and constant partner for the community, by providing wellbeing not only for employees working in our business districts, but for all the residents, while also being engaged in educative, creative or entrepreneurial initiatives.
Endurance and patience are surely our keys to success. At the end of the day, we realize that our job is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not about how fast you can finish a project, but rather how that project will change people’s lives in the long run.