Certified buildings – as standard? - Robert McLean, Editor in Chief, CEE Construction & Investment Journal

ABB has signed a prelease agreement with the Austrian developer S+B Gruppe for 3,000 m2 in its new office scheme Qubix in Prague’s 4th district. It’s an interesting deal, in part because this is not a classic new build project, but rather the complete refurbishment of an existing, but obsolete building near the Vysehrad metro station. The building will be stripped down to its core, before being rebuilt as a modern office building that is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification.

This is interesting because it illustrates a trend that’s caught some market observers off-guard. Before the financial crisis, sustainable development and energy efficient buildings were viewed either as a luxury few could afford, or as clever marketing strategies. Certifiably efficient buildings were doomed, most felt, because tenants would refuse to cover the extra costs involved.

The tables appear to have turned, however, and most international corporations are now requiring that their operations around the world work in LEED- or BREEAM-certified buildings. Not only does this fit in with their corporate social responsibility programs, but it saves money too. And with preleases now playing such a crucial role for developers, it borders on suicidal to alienate the very demographic they need to attract.

To their credit, the best developers appear to be embracing change by trying to get out in front. Hochtief Development, for example, is currently developing a major suburban office park project at the edge of the city. It will be built right by a metro station and offer good access to the city’s ring road, but it’s also been pre-certified for a silver certification under the LEED regime. “Gaining silver-level LEED pre-certification confirms the correct orientation of the Office Islands project which considers the environment and at the same time minimises the costs of operation”, Peter Noack, General Manager of HOCHTIEF Development Czech Republic.

Skanska Property too is building its City Green Court, also in Prague’s 4th district, which it has actually pre-certified as a LEED Platinum project. The eight-storey office building will offer 16,400 m2 and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2012.

If multinational corporations are demanding certified buildings, and the international developers are providing them, this looks like one trend that’s going to become a standard.

Robert McLean is Editor-in-Chief of CEE Construction & Investment Journal, the region’s leading property magazine.. To read more, visit the CIJ blog.

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