Green Standards to Dominate the Office Market
When climate change is a real threat affecting directly the quality of work and everyday life, focus on environmental aspects of property management is a sign our times.
It is necessary to redefine current standards in the office industry, introducing circular economy aspects as an inhibitor for global warming effects. A circular business model aims to keep products and materials in use for as long as possible, thus improving the productivity of these resources. According to the classification of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the ReSOLVE framework (accepted by the European Commission), we can define 6 areas of such actions: Regenerate, Share, Optimise, Loop, Virtualise, and Exchange.
Considering that no more than 12 per cent of the European economy is of such a “closed” nature, we are only in the early stages of the process. However, we have come to a place where all actions defined in the circular economy framework can be noticed in an office space.
Offices Save Energy
In 2015, UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The document covers 17 goals which are a kind of an obligation and a road map for global economies. What is more, the Directive 2010/31/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 on the energy performance of buildings lays down requirements on all EU Member States to construct nearly zero-energy buildings (specified by EN 15603:2008 standard). Since December 31 the condition must be met in all public buildings, and it will be obligatory for all new construction projects with effect from 31 December 2020.
The regeneration actions, based on renewable energy resources and on the reuse of raw materials, aim at building self-sufficiency. Some facilities are at least already partially powered by solar energy (photovoltaic panels are placed on roofs and facades), some investors decide to install heat pumps using geothermal energy from the ground, and rainwater harvesting systems are a daily occurrence in new investments. Responding to ideological changes, sharing economy has gained importance, too. The thoughtful space management, next to the functional one, has taken on a new, green dimension. Thus, we can observe increasing popularity of flexible office spaces and the services reducing energy and financial costs, such as car-sharing, company bike rentals and group transport systems for employees.
“In the facilities under our management we promote green transport, encourage to use public transport means, and place great emphasis on various conveniences for cyclists. We provide them with an appropriate number of bike stands at parking spaces outside and inside, as well as fully-equipped changing rooms. Within the premises we also provide access to charging stations for electric vehicles and electric bicycles or scooters. In these ways, we react to market demands and also encourage those who still are unconvinced to change their transport habits, because even the smallest change can make a difference,” says Magdalena Błądek, Office Management Department Director at Apsys Polska.
Managers Reduce Costs
The pandemic times require cautious budget planning hence the ability to optimise maintenance fees is one of the most desired competences for property managers. The priorities of green property management cover low carbon emissions, reduction of electricity and water consumption, as well as waste reduction. The solutions applied by Apsys Polska include replacement of traditional lighting with LED systems, surface sensing and automation of installation management.
“After over 20 years of activity in commercial industry, Apsys Polska has started providing its management services to office real estate market. Analogies between these two markets allow us to use some already developed and proven solutions in the field of office property management. Environmental sustainability and the quality of the space where consumers or employees are invited to, are equally important in both industries. Apsys Polska has long- standing experience in promotion and implementation of green practices, drawn directly from the commercial market. Concentrating on the needs of shopping centres, we have already created a “Think Green” sustainable programme. We inform about various green solutions applied in our facilities, introduce technologies that limit the negative impact of the infrastructure on environment, and cooperate with tenants and local governments to focus our actions on sustainable development and green functioning. The intelligent and efficient use of resources is of significant importance also in office buildings, which need substantial amount of electricity,” says Magdalena Błądek.
First Recycling Offices
When the first office building in Poland was constructed using mostly recycled materials (75-80 per cent,) the idea to design with a minimum degree of interference into the ecosystem, as a way of closing a loop, has become a real fact on the Polish office property market. The green approach towards energy and product use (through, among others, constant analysis of the carbon footprint,) has formed a 3R rule: reduce, reuse, recycle. The materials used in the almost totally green office included natural cork, biodegradable foil, tabletops made of recycled plastic bottles, and second-hand furniture.
“Strong emphasis on functional and ecological aspects has resulted in the current situation and now we can increasingly observe the so-called Backward Design process. Architects start with materials and analyses of their environmental impact, and then they elaborate concepts of their applications in office layouts. The ecological awareness of employees is another growing factor – they expect not only some plant arrangements in offices, but also advanced waste separation devices, rainwater harvesting systems, compost bins or faucet aerators. Thus, as the manager and developer, we, for example, promote rainwater harvesting systems, showing how the circular economy works in practice,” says Magdalena Błądek.
Green solutions become a priority in commercial space designing. Natural plants in offices are obviously decorative elements, but their air purifying properties that count most. Taking care of healthy workspace, now is a standard that the office fit-out requires a careful selection of air purifying plants. Careful planning refers also to outside common space, and Apsys Polska company has elaborated its own business model related to this aspect. It promotes reduction of paved surface in the building area in favour of greenery and biodiversity understood in accordance with guidelines of green certificates. A “back to nature” vision, which is in line with the biophilic design trend, is so attractive that it has been quickly reflected in employees’ satisfaction and their effectiveness.
Virtualisation and Exchange in Favour of Environment
More and more companies are shifting from printed materials to their electronic versions, and more and more processes are transferred to virtual space. Considering ecologists’ point of view, virtualisation limits production and encourages environmental balance. In this context, the technological development goes hand in hand with the environmental awareness development. A modern understanding of smart workspace means better work effectiveness with reduced ecosystem exploitation at the same time. Nowadays, technology is supposed to serve the environment, instead of threatening it.
Exchange in the circular economy framework is the category which covers implementation of new standards, replacing old solutions with the ones that do not affect the natural environment. Elimination of plastic packaging and dishes in the office space is only one example of this approach. Following the rule that each material can have its green substitute, we will witness gradual rejection of other products in the nearest future.
Future of Green Buildings
There is no doubt that green solutions are the future of Polish office market, which already does not give in to European standards in this respect. It has been 10 years since the first green building certification in Poland was achieved in BREEAM and LEED systems. One of the latest certificates, WELL Building Standard, elaborated in 2014 in the United States of America, is also becoming more and more popular. It focuses on well-being, health and comfort of building users. The system evaluation is divided into 7 criteria: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. The parameters related to creation of healthy microclimate are evaluated in every detail, including elimination of all possible organic and chemical pollutions in the water, access to natural light, acoustics, and food quality in canteens for employees.
Currently Poland is leading in BREEAM and LEED certifications in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, having the largest share of office facilities. An increasing number of investments in the commercial sector is also awarded BREEAM-In-Use and LEED EB O+M certificates, which confirm that the buildings are managed in accordance with the principles of sustainable development. Apsys Polska is the leader in green certification. Most of the facilities the company manages have the BREEAM certificate at “very good” or “excellent” levels. Posnania, owned by Apsys Polska, has achieved the BREEAM New Build certificate even at the construction stage, with “excellent” evaluation in the area of “property functioning” and “outstanding” evaluation in the area of “building management”.
The organisation operates on the basis of ISO 14 001 certification.
“We always remember that decisions made at the stage of property management are a part of a larger, long-term and complex process. Taking care of the areas, defined in our own programme and designed especially for the office market needs such as “The Space, The Place, The People”, we take active part in actions for sustainable development. The real estate sector faces such challenges as minimizing urban negative impacts on environment, creating sustainable infrastructure, managing green certification processes, ensuring sanitary safety, climate protection, ensuring energy access and wise energy management. I perceive our role in a very broad sense, so next to implementation of our own solutions, we carry out educational activities on climate change to increase awareness of the users of the buildings under our management and the awareness of the local communities,” – adds Magdalena Błądek.
Last Updated on December 16, 2020 by Karolina Ampulska