Everything’s coming up green

Everything’s coming up green
We want to eat organic food, wear eco-friendly clothes, and spend more of our working and living hours in buildings that are friendly for people and for the environment.

Developers are now trying to meet these demands by building facilities that meet the requirements of environmental certification systems.

Environmental certificates for buildings have been popular in Poland now for almost a decade. Office buildings were the first structures to be swept up in this new trend. As time went on, certification has become more popular in the retail center sector, although it’s popularity still has yet to catch up to the office building market. A similar scenario occurred in the residential property market, where only a fraction of buildings have obtained green certificates. Only recently, environmental certificates caught the attention of construction companies developing industrial property. Currently, certified warehouses are something we have been hearing about more and more. It is likely that property developers have not spoken their last words on the subject.

A vast array of options

Nowadays, certificates are not only a trendy way of increasing the competitiveness of facilities and making them seem more attractive to customers. Oftentimes, the decision to obtain a certificate for a building stems from the environmental awareness of its owner, administrator, or even the tenants themselves (in the case of buildings that have already been developed).

There are two certification systems that are currently duking it out to be the most popular in Poland. The first, originating from the UK, is BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) and the second, developed in the US, is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Both certificates are awarded by independent organizations that promote environmental awareness and have a similar objective – to encourage good environmental practices in the construction sector. The institution behind BREEAM is the Building Research Establishment (BRE), while LEED was developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). Two certificates that still have yet to get a foothold in Poland are HQE (High Quality of Environment) and the German DGBN.

The most popular system, both in Poland and worldwide, is the one developed in the UK. It is generally felt that this system is flexible and easy to adapt to the local conditions in a given country. According to data presented by the Polish Green Building Council (PLGBC), in March 2016, 328 Polish real estate projects were awarded 437 certificates (a single piece of real estate may receive several certificates). Of all the certificates granted during this period, as many as 80% were BREEAM certificates awarded to 247 real estate projects. 77 facilities were also awarded LEED certificates. The remaining four certificates were HQEs.

In the two most popular systems, certificates may be awarded to facilities still in the design stage, already built, and in use, as well as brand new projects. Still, most certificates in Poland are awarded to buildings that are under construction or have recently been delivered, i.e. facilities which were intended to be certified from the designing stage. It is more difficult for existing buildings, especially older ones built before these certifications became popular in Poland, to meet the relevant criteria. This often requires an overhaul and complete refurbishment of the facility.

A closer look at BREEAM

To better understand its success, let us take a closer look at the most popular certification system. Why has it left its competitors behind? We have already pointed out that BREEAM is easy to adapt to the local context and its criteria largely reflect domestic construction regulations. Furthermore, BREEAM covers the entire product development cycle. By supporting local methods and practices, it is also the most cost-effective certificate. Therefore, investors are more willing to choose BREEAM over other certificates.

Each investment applying for a certificate is rated in ten main categories, which include: project management and the construction process, the level of user comfort, electricity consumption, location and transportation to and from the building, water and sewage management, the materials used for construction, waste management, land use and environmental impact, protection against pollutant emission, and innovation.

In each category, facilities receive points (credits) which are later converted into percentage points, multiplied by weighting factors given to each category and then added together. The final grade depends on how many criteria have been met. The last stage of the process consists of awarding each project a general grade: pass (meeting 30-44% of the requirements), good (45-54%), very good (55-69%), excellent (70-84%) or outstanding. This last grade has been introduced for extraordinary facilities that meet over 85% of the requirements. No facility developed outside of the UK has ever been awarded this grade.

A green certification is undoubtedly an excellent solution for savvy investors. They will be aware that any costs put into making a building meet certification requirements will be recovered in the long run.

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