ECO The key role of the investor

We speak with Katarzyna Zawodna, Regional Director at Skanska Property Poland, about how to persuade the tenant to lease an eco-friendly building and we ask the question: is green building worth the cost?
Katarzyną Zawodną
Katarzyną Zawodną

Investor - the first link in the process of deciding about creating a sustainable building. We speak with Katarzyna Zawodna, Regional Director at Skanska Property Poland, about how to persuade the tenant to lease a eco-friendly building and we ask the question: is green building worth the cost?

What makes your office green?
Green office is quite capacious definition - it describes all the buildings that are designed to allow for solutions to minimize the negative impact on the environment. One of the most important parameters, which says a building is a 'green' building is its energy consumption. Energy savings at 25 percent. by the national standards allows the building to be known as green and to receive an European GreenBuilding certificate. For more precise distinction we have certification systems of sustainable building, among which one of the most comprehensive and popular is the American LEED. This system allows to assess buildings in terms of location, optimizing water use, energy efficiency, materials selection, indoor environmental quality and innovative design. As a result, the building can obtain LEED environmental certification - from the standard one, through Silver and Gold, up to the highest - Platinum. At Skanska we set a high bar for our projects and in such way we carry out our investments - Green Corner office complex in Warsaw and Green Towers complex in Wrocław - are pre-certified with the highest platinum level.
When you began to implement investments in Poland and what was the reason for it (market conditions, growth of the company)?
Skanska is in Poland for a long time - back in the 70's, we built hotels Forum and Victoria in Warsaw, as well as a dry dock for the port of Gdynia. We had the know-how, which was not available at that time on the Polish market. In 2000, after the acquisition of the Grupa Exbud, Poland became Skanska's home market, which means that it is one of our priority markets. Skanska Property Poland acts as an office developer since 1997. Our flagship project is the Atrium office building complex at Al. Jana Pawła street in Warsaw. 
Which one of your first buildings was a sustainable building, and is it true that this was your first office investment in Poland?
When we decided that we introduce LEED in Poland, we decided to start with ourselves. We proceeded to the certification of office space, which is Skanska Property Poland headquarters. By the way - one of LEED system strengths is its versatility - it gives the possibility of certification of various types of buildings already at the design stage and upon completion, where you can certify both the building itself (Core & Shell), as well as office space. In this way, our office became the first certified office space in Poland. Then we started a pre-certification process of all newly commenced projects.
Are all of your office buildings (in Poland and in other countries) certified with LEED or BREEAM?
Since the decision to introduce LEED certification for our operations in Europe, all projects must meet the emerging requirements of a minimum of LEED Gold. We regard this as a necessary condition in order to commence the project.
Are certified office buildings in Poland subject to the same criteria as in other European countries?
Certification systems are international, so certified buildings, such as the LEED Gold level in Poland and the United States will have the same high technical and environmental parameters. In Poland the highest levels of certification such as LEED Gold or Platinum, is still rare, while in the U.S. and Western Europe they are becoming standard. It is worth noting that the certificate is not only a safety certificate for the environment, but also a confirmation of the high specifications of the building, and thus a guarantee of quality.
Is the procedure of investment in eco-friendly office different from dealing with a traditional office?
To create a sustainable building, you have to think about it from the very beginning, which is actually at the stage of site selection. Later, at the stage of creating the concept,a holistic approach is necessary for the project in order to immediately plan a green solution. Implementing them at a later stage would be very difficult and expensive or even impossible. With this approach, you can get the standard for obtaining LEED Gold certification with virtually no additional costs and the level of LEED Platinum will mean about 3 percent. additional costs. The process begins at the stage of site selection. Location with a minimum impact on the environment is one that does not create a separate "heat island" on the open road, and not compelling the future users to commute by private cars, contributing to the increase in greenhouse gases. So a locations in the city center would be better for the environment, with access to public transport and services, to which one can simply walk. Then it is worth to design the location of the building relative to the cardinal directions, and the shape of the body, that on the one hand does not accumulate office heat, because then you will consume a lot of electricity for air conditioning, on the other hand to have maximum access of daylight to the office. Moreover, it is not just about saving, but also about comfort in the building.Further features include the choice of materials and detailed design of all systems and installations that have an impact on operating costs, and indoor environment quality. We can say that green building design requires a slightly different philosophy than it was with traditional buildings.
How to rent a green office? Are there differences in the cost of renting and maintenance? Are these office buildings more popular?
The results of the studies around the world have shown that the buildings that are certified have a higher percentage of leased space compared to standard buildings. For such buildings it is easier and faster to find tenants. Certificate is not only a testimony of the application of pro-environmental solutions. It is also a guarantee of quality - proof that the design and construction process was closely monitored. Rents in certified buildings are comparable to rents in other buildings of similar location, but operating costs are significantly lower. Invoices for electricity will give a tenant significant savings, as will invoices for water. An important element that is difficult to measure is to improve efficiency through better indoor environment quality. It consists of a powerful air conditioning system based on fresh air and adequate moisture content, daylight wherever possible, and the use of low-emission materials. Lower sickness absence rate and higher employee productivity is important for companies, where people are the main expense, so service firms employing highly skilled staff. These companies are typical office tenants in the centers of large cities.
When you talk to a potential tenant, which arguments do you use to persuade him to lease a green office?
We're talking about location, cost of operation and functionality of the solutions used in the building, as well as a very important aspect, which is the high quality of the indoor environment. Our buildings are to be primarily a place for working people, and they need to feel good in them - I think it's one of the most important aspects of sustainable construction, but it is quite difficult to quantify it. These are the elements closely related with so-called greenness, but they also have a practical values for tenants, including financial value.
Should the "green office" users be trained in the proper use of ecologic office in order to take full advantage of its potential?
The tenants' awareness of this is an important issue. On the one hand, it is important that office is arranged and fitted to optimally take advantage of the building itself. For this purpose, Skanska has developed a special guide for our tenants. Another issue is to be aware of the target users. The offices of Skanska have our own system of eco-education -there are tips, hanging by the light switches, on how to reduce energy consumption, the same applies to water, we have very clear signs on recycling bins. We are considering further actions in the education of our building tenants, so that they can best use them, for example, our new investments, screens will be placed in the reception areas indicating the current consumption of water, energy, waste production, as well as advice on how you can improve the results. We believe that awareness is the key to exploit fully the potential of sustainable investment.
When are you planning to build another office building in Poland and in which city would it be built?
At the moment we are in the implementation of three office complexes: Green Towers in Wroclaw, Green Corner in Warsaw, and most recent, Green Horizon in. Łódź Later this year, we are planning to launch the Atrium 1 office building in Warsaw, one in which we want to use the most advanced solutions. The Atrium 1 will not use potable water for purposes other than necessary. We will use a ground heat for energy - it will be fifty 200-meter probes in the ground, which will provide energy for heating and cooling the building. We will not use heat pumps, because they, in turn, consume energy. We will also use  so called Free Cooling, which is a system for the production of chilled water without the involvement of refrigeration compressors and using only low, outside air temperature. Poland because of the climate is ideal for the use of this system, as appropriate temperatures prevail here for almost half a year. In the Atrium 1, we will also apply the adaptive lighting, integrated with outdoor light. The lights in the building will be automatically regulated depending on how much light enters from the outside, rows of lights being located closer and further from the window will respond individually. This would save up to 50 percent. energy. Additionally - we negotiate with the supplier of energy so that the power that supplies the entire building would come from renewable sources. Atrium 1 will be the flagship project of Skanska in Europe, in which we want to realize the idea of ​​building a neutral to the environment.
Do you think that the modern office projects that you have to offer, such as Atrium 1 are adapted to the Polish reality?
Our goal is not to adapt to existing realities, but rather to set new trends. We want to be the pioneer of progress, and the issue of environmental protection was important to us from the start. I think Skanska is known for it for years.
Thank you for your time

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