Only in the last two years a dozen new office buildings appeared on the map of Warsaw. Today they are fiercely competing for good tenants. Where is the place for older buildings in this battle? How to maintain the attractiveness of a building being several years old?
Maciej Duda, Operations Director of Tétris, answers:
One of the most important elements is the entrance hall. It makes the first impression, shows prestige, and – if neglected – it may negatively influence the visitor’s opinion on the tenant. Not without reason the largest Warsaw office buildings are able to spend budgets of 8-10 million PLN only to increase the attractiveness of this type of area.
First of all – do not skimp on due diligence
We should always keep in mind that even a small cosmetic change can entail gigantic expenses, because the refurbished space must comply with the current building regulations. It often turns out that a change to one wall results in changes of existing infrastructure, which can take up to 80% of the planned budget (!).
Analysis of technical constraints and costs should be enough to dispel the slightest doubt. It is not something we should skimp on. Already in the initial concept stage of a fit-out project it is worthwhile to involve a construction company that has through knowledge of current standards and regulations, to verify the cost estimate and confirm whether the assumptions are correct. Many times I had to change the detailed design (significantly) because its implementation would have entailed astronomical budgets, not adequate to the size of the planned changes.
Second – look ahead
Even the most stunning design will not provide a complete set of tenants if there is a lack of technical amenities, such as security. Modern entrance gates, IDs, touch screens or intelligent elevator systems, all those things increase comfort of use. Great example is the Rondo 1 building, which was considered the best office product in Poland for a long time. It is now 16 years old and is still very popular. It offers very attractive shared areas where all elements, like the stone or patio finishes are immediately replaced if damaged.
In the future buildings will certainly develop towards technology offering lifts with face recognition, information addressed to the guest according to his needs – there is plenty of possibilities. Surely even now it would not be a problem to arrange the ground floor spaces to facilitate short meetings and intimate conversations instead of using the space for giant lobbies That could be arranged using designed boxes or special furniture to create more private atmosphere. Office buildings are often equipped with fitness areas, common kitchens for various tenants with semi-finished products or kindergartens. All of that is to make the office more attractive.
It does not have to be expensive though. The method of “lifting” the entrance hall without incurring huge expenses may be achieved be using the existing finish as a rack. For example, in the Marynarska Point 2 building, we cut the stone floor to install lights indicating passage routes, and in the patio (which is like a “well” in the middle of the building) we installed hanging decorations giving great visual effect.
An extreme example of renovation of the building is the Renaissance townhouse by Zbawiciela Square in Warsaw. The owner – GLL, has decided to completely refurbish the whole rea for new tenants from scratch. Tétris demolished and redesigned the entire interior, including all installations. The creative entrance hall concept – based on murals – allowed this space to be delivered within a reasonable budget.
Third – predict the movements of tenants
Maintaining attractiveness is a process where the focus is on tenants’ comfort. On average, every five years companies need to refresh their interior, increase or reduce their rented space. New regulations constantly require from building owners to upgrade their installations. It is not a bad idea to use these breakthrough moments to quickly implement the necessary changes. A good system for this process is when there is a space released by one of the tenants. Then it is possible to relocate there employees from other areas that require repair. That’s how we worked repairing the EY office in Rondo 1 or the Stratos Office Center.
Every few years the team responsible for commercialization of the building should verify its technical and visual parameters taking into account abiding regulations and standards of their competition. Then they can plan changes – from the easiest ones like replacing of luminaries, refreshing walls or floors, to comprehensive repairs and new design. BREEAM or LEED certification of the building is another great way to keep rental rates – of course, only as long as the cost is not too high. In Poland, these certifications are often seen as prestigious. However, it cannot be denied that such buildings have lower operating costs and guarantee greater comfort of use. For example, the rate of employees absence in those buildings is lower.
Stratos Office Center is an example of a building the owner of which has decided to modernize the reception hall and elevator lobbies. In order to prepare for the BREEAM In Use certificate some parts of the installations also had to be updated. According to the investor, the renovated lobby influenced the whole image of the building. The renovation and modernization works were a significant factor why the majority of tenants decided to remain in the building for subsequent years, and also why new tenants decided to rent spaces in that location.