Warsaw Business Journal discusses constructing sustainable office buildings in line with ESG principles and the market practices that create a competitive advantage with Jarosław Zagórski, the Commercial and Business Development Director at Ghelamco Poland.
WBJ: ESG is currently a leading trend in all real estate sectors. The key elements of ESG include sustainable development, energy efficiency, and CO2 emissions. Why is ESG currently such an important part of company strategy?
Jarosław Zagórski: ESG is today no longer a choice but a necessity. Listed companies are already bound by EU regulations governing ESG reporting. Many companies are still not aware that they will be obliged to do this. What's more, they are also not aware of when they will be required to report ESG, because it will result from the verification of the company's business activity against the requirements set. At Ghelamco, we are fully aware of this and have firmly orientated our strategy towards ESG. The health and safety of our buildings’ users remain our priority. For us, sustainable development and the environment are the most important issues, which is why we are taking concrete steps to reduce our CO2 emissions and achieve energy neutrality through investment in renewable energy sources. Both tenants and investors expect this from us. These days, it just simply doesn’t pay to build in a non-ecological manner.
How do you intend to achieve energy neutrality? Surely this is a huge challenge for a
Indeed, and up until now, no developer in Poland has succeeded. We intend to achieve this through our program to construct solar farms, which we launched last year. This is the first groundbreaking project of its type in Poland, and it is both a part of our ESG strategy and an answer to the energy crisis in Europe.Since 2015, we have been buying green-certified electricity, but this is not enough for us. We wanted to take the next step to significantly limit our carbon footprint, so we decided to generate clean energy. Our strategy is to generate electricity from our own renewable sources to power our office buildings, projects under construction, and own office. In the first stage, we will build a total of eleven systems with a combined generating capacity of 10 MW. The first three farms were built in the autumn of last year. Our ambition is to achieve energy neutrality as a business by 2025. The Warsaw UNIT will be the first office tower in Poland to be entirely powered by clean energy. Freeing ourselves from conventional energy and returning to clean energy from renewable sources is not only an ecological but also a strategic move to ensure the uninterrupted operation of our business. We are already planning the development of our next solar installation and looking at other renewable energy sources.
How well does [Poland] match up with the rest of Europe in terms of green construction?
I think Poland is one of Europe’s leaders in green construction and modern solutions. The office buildings constructed here meet the highest standards, and their certifications under prestigious systems such as BREEAM and Well have already become the standard. Warsaw UNIT undoubtedly is an example of one of the most environmentally friendly and technologically-advanced buildings in the entire CEE region. With a height of 202m and 56,000 sqm of the highest standard office space, the building is the first tower block in Poland to be certified under BREEAM with the highest rating of “Outstanding.” Every day, the super-modern Building Energy Management System (BEMS) uses 40,000 sensors and 800 meters to ensure optimal energy use. As a result of this and many other technological solutions, energy usage is almost 30% lower than in a comparable high-rise office building. Because of our program to build solar farms, the building will also be the first office tower in Poland to be powered 100% by clean electricity. By using power from renewable sources, the building’s CO2 emissions over its entire life cycle will be lowered by over 50%, while its usage of utilities will be 70% lower. Warsaw UNIT is also to feature Ghelamco’s own patent operating system, Signal OS, which comes with its own app to help tenants monitor utility usage in real-time. Moreover, we have applied anti-pandemic solutions to the building, including virus-killing UV disinfection in the lift shafts and ventilation system.
Currently, two new Ghelamco office buildings are under construction in Warsaw. Will they also follow ESG principles, and what technology are you implementing in them?
I would say they are examples of the standard of ESG real estate. The Bridge on the European Square is currently the largest building under construction in Warsaw. It will provide users with a total of 47,000 sqm of the highest-class office space. The Bridge is the first development in the CEE region to have received the prestigious SmartScore and WiredScore certificates awarded to the most intelligent and technologically advanced buildings in the world. We are going to use low-emission materials to construct the tower block, including low-emission concrete for the foundations, which will considerably reduce carbon dioxide emissions in comparison to standard concrete and, by this, limit the carbon footprint of the building under construction. We are currently working on implementing technology to minimize water usage in The Bridge. By the end of last year, we also began construction on the VIBE office complex, which is to be the first office building in Poland to be given its own musical identity. This will become part of how this project communicates, but it will also reverberate throughout its space. This complex has also been designed in line with our ESG strategy, and it is to be certified under, among others, Well, BREEAM, SmartScore, WiredScore, and Green Standard Building. For the first two certificates mentioned, our goal is to gain the highest possible ratings of “Platinum” and “Outstanding.” The Bridge and VIBE will ultimately be 100% powered with clean energy and equipped with a BEMS.
At the beginning of this year, Ghelamco joined the Science Based Targets initiative, which supports the most ambitious industries in their fight against global warming in accordance with the principles of the Paris Agreement. Why did you make this decision?
This is another extremely important part of our ESG strategy, demonstrating our ambitions and targets in this regard. We are the first real estate company in Poland and one of only 15 other companies in the country to have joined this worthy initiative, which over 4,000 companies across the globe support. It is led by the United Nations Global Compact, the WWF, the Carbon Disclosure Project, and the World Resources Institute. SBTi bases its activities on knowledge and science, and it promotes the best practices for decarbonization and reducing average global temperature rises on the Earth. Thanks to our joining the initiative, we will be able to act even more effectively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat global warming since we are allied to some of the largest international organizations.
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