The pandemic highlighted the critical role of a building in managing people’s health, safety, and well-being

Mihai Cristea 06/04/2021 | 10:46

Project developers and owners are becoming more concerned about safety and sustainability, in the context of the atypical past year that has shifted perceptions and plans for the future. In the past six months, 14 projects have registered for WELL Health-Safety Rating certification. At the same time, 77 new projects became BREEAM and LEED certified in 2020. Overall, this takes the number of such health, safety, and sustainable-certified projects in Romania to over 230, shows the 2020 annual analysis released by Colliers. Furthermore, lots of project developers are planning to obtain their health, safety, and green certification especially nowadays when work environment, sustainability, energy-saving, and digitalization became a must have in the hybrid work system accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Sustainable buildings are increasingly becoming a priority across Europe, especially considering the EU leaders’ commitment to reduce energy consumption and mitigate climate changes. Therefore, in Romania, as in all other member states of the European Union, the end of 2020 brought a major change for new private buildings, whether we are talking about individual homes, multifamily blocks of flats, office buildings, warehouses or other types of spaces. As a regulatory requirement, all buildings that will be built, on the basis of a building permit obtained after December 31, must comply with the nZEB standard that entails nearly zero energy consumption, with energy provided largely from renewable sources. Currently, the construction and operation of buildings generate 40% of all energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, surpassing transport or industry.

As expected, the Romanian real estate market, which greatly evolved in the last years, follows the trend in the green office buildings. For example, Palas Iasi is the only LEED Neighborhood Development certified project in CEE, being one of only five projects across Europe to be awarded this certification, the certification process being coordinated by Colliers. Also advised by Colliers, City Point recently became the first residential complex in Romania certified LEED Gold for Neighbourhood Development: Plan and Design. In particular, LEED ND benefits are distinguished by three main pillars: scale, comprehensiveness & synergies and longevity. In other words, a sustainable neighborhood design, which pays green dividends for generations, characterized by a complete spectrum which allows unique chances to capture synergistic benefits.

The 2020 – beginning of 2021 period saw some players embracing the novelties, including certifications in terms of health safety, more relevant than ever in the Covid-19 context. Skanska’s Equilibrium and Campus 6.2 were certified with WELL Health-Safety, the newest International WELL Building Institute rating standard that attests their adherence to safety standards that diminish the risk of virus transmission. Also, Portland Trust’s Expo Business Park Office Portfolio, comprising 3 office buildings, recently obtained WELL Health-Safety certification. Tiriac Imobiliare is the first Romanian developer which announced that it will implement the WELL Health-Safety standard for its entire mixed building portfolio, consisting of Stejarii Residential Club 1, Tiriac Center office building, but also their projects under construction – Tiriac Tower office building and the Stejarii Residential Club 2. Colliers Romania, the only real estate consulting company with a team of WELL specialists, currently coordinates the certification process of the entire mixed building portfolio held by Tiriac Imobiliare.

“Real estate developers pay more attention to the environment by developing sustainable projects, efficient in terms of energy and water consumption, for which they obtain green certifications that attest higher and higher levels. In addition, the WELL standard adds focus on the impact of buildings on the health and well-being of their occupants. The WELL Health-Safety Rating  introduced by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) helps landlords and tenants adapt their buildings to the post-Covid-19 reality. I see this certification as an investment in people, since it has the power to influence their health, wellness and productivity. But more than that, it offers that increased reassurance that employees may come back to work safely in their office. In order to maintain the certification, the projects must go through an annual process of renewal, which helps to ensure the fulfillment of a high standard of long-term health and safety”, explains Oana Stamatin, Director Green Certification and Building Surveying at Colliers.

Given the growing interest in health and safety at the office, Colliers innovates and responds to current challenges and future needs in the office market with Office 360°, a complete approach of the office with all its touchpoints, carried out in a unique and highly complex process that is tailored to the very last detail to fit the companies’ needs and strategic plans. The team works to improve a building’s reputation and sustainability through LEED, BREEAM and WELL certifications.

Shifting angles, last year saw a downward trend with only 4 office projects reaching the top LEED Platinum, down from 2019. These LEED Platinum titles were given to noteworthy office projects based in Bucharest: the first building of AFI Europe’s project – AFI Tech Park, Vastint’s H building of the Timpuri Noi Square, Ana Tower and United Business Center 3 in Timisoara. Elsewhere, last year saw several BREEAM Outstanding buildings: two of Portland Trust’s developments, Vox Technology Park – Timisoara and Penny Market Otopeni, a retail asset.

“Overall, the majority of certified projects are located in the capital city and its proximity – more than half, but there have been attained quite a few in regional hubs such as Timisoara, Cluj-Napoca or Iași, with main constant accent on office, industrial and mixed-use schemes. However, we estimate that the competition among green building rating systems will intensify and there are still some large developers that may try to certify their retail or industrial portfolios, but also new entrants in specialized niches (such as office interiors) can arise”, adds Oana Stamatin.

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