Pavel Sovička remembers the surprised reactions Panattoni got from Amazon eight years ago when from they proposed to build a green certified building in Dobroviz, just outside Prague. Today, of course, Amazon wouldn’t do it any other way, but sustainable credentials were only beginning to look like a major issue for commercial properties back then. Sovička’s says his approach was a pragmatic one.
“We were looking at it as a product that had a 15-year lease, potentially a 30-year lease,” he says. “And looking at its ability to be traded in the future, it was likely that there would be certain criteria from investors.” Environmental criteria, it seemed clear, would be among them. Back then, going for a certified building was a form of future proofing the asset. “It gives you liquidity of the product, meaning better value, and if it brings better value and a better price then. It’s all interconnected, but it has to make sense economically. And then if you have more money to spend you can invest it into the green and sustainable things.”
Nothing is built without some type of certification anymore. And you don’t have to look ten to 15 years into the future to reap the benefits of sustainable choices anymore. “The whole world is changing. It makes the sustainable also economical and viable, and this is really speeding up the implementation of sustainable development for all the sectors,” he says. By way of example, he mentions something that came up while working on a building in Brno for Coca Cola. The beverages giant was mapping its CO2 footprint at the time.
“They did their analysis, they looked at the entire chain from sourcing the materials, producing it, all the way to delivery at your door. They found out they shouldn’t focus first on transportation but rather the refrigerators to reduce their CO2 footprint.” This led to investments in new equipment that made economic sense even before the recent wave of inflation.
But Coca Cola is just one of the many corporations now committed to slashing their CO2 output and to eventual neutrality. And CO2 neutrality cannot be achieved simply by jumping through the hoops of a BREEAM certificate. In today’s environment, you have to go further if you want to future proof new buildings.
One solution Panattoni is now employing is recycling construction materials. The lack of greenfield sites for industrial parks has forced developers to target brownfield investments more often than before. Sovička says that when dealing with sites that have existing buildings, Panattoni always explores how much can be reused. “We have to discuss it with the Czech environmental offices because the rules here are not favorable to reusing the materials on site directly.”
For the most part, concrete and bricks can be used again for groundworks. It doesn’t turn out to be cheaper on a purely cost basis, he says, but you do save on CO2, since along with recycling the materials, you don’t have to truck the old bricks to a dump site. “At the end of construction, our customers want to know what the CO2 footprint of the building is they operate — the embodied carbon which is done through the construction. So, we monitor how much CO2 we generate by transport of the material.”
The fact that greener business can be smarter business should provide food for thought for the ESG critics we’ve all heard muttering about the new rules of doing business. “Those rules push you to think how to do it better,” says Sovička. “Not to spend more money but to do it in the right way. Maybe it means spending more time preparing the project. Combining sustainable elements with the economical impacts.”
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