How do measures related to environmental protection affect the office market?
We have been operating in a new reality for a long time, both in terms of a sense of responsibility for adapting to climate change and taking into account the importance of ecology in making business decisions. In the office market, it is clear that these two perspectives intersect. On a global scale, the construction sector is responsible for about 38 percent of CO2 emissions, so we are striving to transform buildings into zero-emission and zero-energy buildings. Currently, the most important task that the world’s economies are setting themselves in terms of environmental protection is decarbonization, to achieve net-zero emissions in the construction market by 2050. Investors are looking at projects from energy efficiency and carbon reduction perspective. Changes in the market also mean adopting a circular model to reduce demand for building materials and thereby reduce emissions. This approach partially addresses the problem of technologically inefficient older office buildings. Until recently, demolition and preparation of land for new construction seemed to be the only solution, while today it is proposed to reuse at least part of the existing structure and materials. At the same time, ecological certification is developing. Certified buildings are an important part of the new office space supply, it is significant that the number of certificates obtained for the buildings in use has doubled according to the latest PLGBC report. It proves that property owners, as well as tenants, are more aware of environmental issues and are exerting demand pressure on sustainable development principles. As managers, we are at the center of the changes that are taking place in the commercial real estate market, we take the initiative and propose solutions adapted to the climate situation. We carry out certification processes, including the so-called white certificates confirming the improvement of energy efficiency, and provide full support in adapting to climate change. We undertake our actions in line with the sustainable development policy – we have already obtained more than 20 environmental certificates, and in 2020 alone we received 8 BREEAM In-Use certificates for commercial facilities, all with an Excellent grade in the Management category, and in the Asset category respectively 5 with the highest grade and 3 with a very good score.
What trends accompany the adaptation of office space to climate change?
Priorities in office building management are currently cost optimization and related energy efficiency, promotion of pro-environmental attitudes, biodiversity, biophilic design based on emphasizing the relationship with nature and all activities aimed at scoring points in the certification of office space and buildings in LEED, BREEAM, and increasingly also in WELL classification, in which factors affecting the well-being and health of employees are assessed. The 5R principle – refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot – is implemented at the stage of designing and later using office space. Modular solutions, which allow flexible arrangement according to needs and functions, are appearing in office space more and more often. There is a clear return to using ecological and natural materials for finishing interiors, often of recycled origin. Greenery is gaining in importance and is increasingly present in interiors as an expression of care for the well-being of employees.
Offices are nowadays also a space for the realization of zero waste ideas and sharing economy in the formula of space sharing and car-sharing. Ecology is closely connected with technological development. Apart from optimization solutions, applications for sharing parking spaces, desks or organizing shared commuting are being developed. The concept of 15 minutes cities, which consists of concentrating all the necessary functions in one area: offices, services, and housing, to reduce the need to move, is gaining more and more supporters. According to the idea of biophilic design, green patios, terraces, and tilting or opening windows are also valuable.
It’s worth noting that the trends in place today are largely preventative, on the one hand, the office industry is solving current problems while taking appropriate steps to care for the future. We believe that every action, even a single one, is important to stop the negative effects of global warming. By developing an office property management program “The Space. The Place. The People” we have adopted a holistic concept, which also includes projects in the area of corporate social responsibility and environmental protection.
What is the office property management program and how does it fit in with environmental and pro-social activities?
We have prepared several tools which are developed and improved in the internal think tank Apsys Lab. They concern about the technical and financial service of office facilities, as well as cooperation with tenants and taking care of relations and employees’ comfort. According to Apsys, the three most important areas of management activities are: managing office space, creating a good atmosphere in the office, and providing people with the best experience. The Space includes ongoing optimization processes, rational management of resources, modernization, energy and cost efficiency, sanitary safety, and other tasks related to technical building maintenance. In The Place category, we placed projects and actions related to running a socially responsible business and creating healthy, safe office space based on the principles of sustainable development. The People area, on the other hand, focuses on all the needs of office workers. By the idea that the office is, above all, a place open to people, we provide support in eliminating architectural and social barriers, introduce Health&Wellness solutions and customer experience projects.
What is sustainable development according to Apsys Polska?
As an organization that meets the ISO 14 001 standard, we focus primarily on two of the 17 sustainable development goals set out in the UN 2030 Agenda – responsible consumption and economic growth and decent work. These are the basis for actions directly related to the specifics of real estate management. We translate theories into concrete solutions and measurable effects. We consistently strive to increase biodiversity in the facilities we manage, reduce electricity consumption, water efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions, create green spaces, rational waste management, promote bicycle transport and electromobility, and finally increase employee satisfaction.
On the commercial market, we have already developed and implemented our CSR programs Think Green and Spectrum of Understanding. The former promotes pro-environmental attitudes and encourages social change. In addition to educational campaigns and the promotion of sustainable development among city dwellers, the program provides information on specific solutions and technologies and explains how they have contributed to the reduction of carbon footprint and energy efficiency in the facilities managed by Apsys Polska.
Through Understanding Spectrum, we are the first in Europe to introduce in shopping centers facilities for people on the autism spectrum, such as quiet hours in the mall, quiet rooms, and store window signs friendly to customers with special sensory needs. We also conduct information campaigns for consumers and training for mall employees on the subject of ASD. At the same time, we eliminate architectural barriers by adapting buildings to the needs of people with disabilities. The social aspect of our work is extremely important; we must remember that sustainable development also means preventing discrimination and respect for every human being. We implement all programs in compliance with the EU Accessibility Directive, cooperating with such non-governmental organizations as the Integration Foundation, Wheelchair Users, Migam, and Metis, the Regional Methodological and Educational Centre in Katowice, among others.
I am convinced that each of these activities and forms of cooperation, which have worked well in shopping centers, we can adapt to office buildings.
What results have already been achieved thanks to the sustainable development policy of Apsys Polska?
We have set ourselves very specific objectives which required the introduction of state-of-the-art solutions such as advanced building systems, LED lighting, CO2 sensors in ventilation systems, energy monitoring which enables the building’s efficiency to be checked on an ongoing basis and makes it easier to introduce the necessary changes, motion sensors which activate lighting or control the operation of escalators depending on the level of traffic, aerators, as well as systems for managing heating, cooling, and photovoltaic installations. We have implemented tools and strategies thanks to which we consistently obtain significant savings and take care of a healthy microclimate. In 2 years, among others, the amount of water consumed in shopping centers has been reduced by 5.5% per visitor, with a water demand of 0.68 l/GLA in 2019. Also, we reduced electricity consumption at each facility by 10 percent per year; in 2019, electricity use fell to 0.129 MWh/GLA space. We have reduced CO2 emissions by 6.5%, and we have already collected more than a tonne of products for recycling through the selective waste collection. In this way, we achieve the same effect for climate protection as planting 360,000 trees per year. Besides, in 2018, the Posnania Centre was awarded the title of Accessibility Leader awarded for, among other things, technical solutions that make it easier for people with various disabilities to move around the buildings. We are also currently focusing on expanding the reach of our CSR programs to include more shopping centers and, in the future, office properties. We are systematically implementing projects and achieving our goals within the sustainable development policy.
What will the future of the office market look like with the changes taking place?
Environmental awareness will translate into a strengthening of the role of technologies to protect the environment, there will still be a need for solutions to ensure healthy and safe working conditions and access to natural greenery. In a broader market context, when making business decisions by investors, investment funds, international companies looking for a place to relocate offices, as well as banks granting investment loans, in the coming years, the importance of the so-called ESG indicator will certainly increase. This acronym is understood as environment, social responsibility, and corporate governance. In each of these three aspects, Apsys Polska acts extensively as a company focused on delivering value.