Liviu Tudor, Chairman of Genesis Property talked to Property Forum about the new IMMUNE Building Standard and the hybrid future of work that will shape the development of the office industry in the years to come.
How has Genesis Property managed its portfolio since the onset of the health crisis from the perspective of occupancy rates and lease costs?
At Genesis Property, our extensive 20-year experience and vast expertise in the Class A office market segment placed us in a strong position to navigate through the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the overall economy. Over the years, we have built strong partnerships with all our tenants and we constantly focus on delivering best-in-class services and amenities, while having in mind all the valuable learnings from the financial crisis over a decade ago. All this represented a great foundation for our flexibility and adaptability going forward, allowing us to be there for our tenants and to focus, more than ever, on creating the offices of the future and accelerating our business for the post-pandemic world.
In the past year, we kept close contact with our tenants, listened to their needs and strengthened our partnerships, responding with measures to support the return to the office. As a result, our business has been very resilient to the pandemic context, with a stable occupancy rate, no significant changes in terms of lease costs and even lease extensions with long-standing tenants like Yokogawa or PPD Romania, which recently reconfirmed their commitment to their offices on Genesis Property premises for the next 5 years.
When do you expect a larger number of Romanian employees to return to office buildings? Will the hybrid work system become mainstream?
A large number of Romanians has already returned to the office for several days a week, reflecting the companies’ strategies for their workforce during the pandemic. Employers are in the process of defining the way of working of the future and are transforming their office spaces to create the post-pandemic workplace.
The hybrid work system is already mainstream and is shaping as the model of the future. The pandemic changed people’s professional lives, accelerating trends that were already visible around the world. Now, the way people perceive their workplace is shifting from a space where they spend every day, from 9 to 5, into a creative space where they can work, interact and collaborate with their colleagues and where they can access opportunities for their development. The office of the future will always play a key role in people’s lives, providing a platform for complex, multi-level human interaction, supporting innovative actions with great added value.
You decided to transform one of your office buildings in western Bucharest. How is this process going and do you have other plans in this field?
Building H3 in the West Gate Business District, fully occupied by Ericsson, earned the IMMUNE™ - Resilient label of the IMMUNE Building Standard™ for healthy buildings, becoming the world’s first office to achieve the highest certification level. This achievement follows a nine-month implementation project initiated by our company Genesis Property, transforming H3 into a healthy building that limits health risks and gives employees trust they can safely return to their workplace.
Our priorities right now is to continue the strategic initiatives to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on the built environment by promoting the IMMUNE Building Standard™ and to deliver our tenants and their employees the best services and experiences.
What’s your take on the future of work and how are you adapting your offices for this evolution?
The office will always be an essential part of the workplace. We’re closely looking at what companies and employees expect from their post-pandemic office and our market surveys confirm that most employees want to work from the office, at least a few days a week, even if the work model changes and the office becomes more of a multifunctional space. Over 60% of respondents say that it is important for them to continue having a dedicated office space, according to one of our surveys. Moreover, nearly 37% of the respondents to the Genesis Property survey expect the office of the future to be redesigned in order to include safe collaboration and socialization spaces. This is why we see offices transforming and adapting to employees' expectations from their workplace and their future way of working.
What has been the response of the commercial real estate market to the new IMMUNE Building Standard™ developed by Genesis Property?
Since April 2020, when we launched IMMUNE™, we have welcomed a high interest from numerous prestigious entities in the realm of real estate development, technology and facility management from the USA, Europe, UAE and Asia that have manifested a great interest in collaboration - Woods Bagot, C&W Services, Epstein - just to name a few. Moreover, we already have IMMUNE™ certified buildings in the UK and Romania and more are underway.
Will the health of the buildings remain a priority on the agenda of developers once the impact of the health crisis diminishes?
If there’s something the pandemic taught us all is that health should always come first. This not only reflects on people’s interest in their health and the health of their loved ones, but also on the companies’ strategies for their employees’ health protection. Building owners and developers are now at a stage where they are reshaping and redesigning existing indoor spaces to adapt to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and, looking forward, they will focus more and more on developing new buildings that respond to the future way of working and have built-in health measures.
The office sector in Bucharest is dealing with lower demand at present. Can the IMMUNE Building Standard™ provide a boost in the competition for tenants?
IMMUNE Building Standard™ is not only a way to ensure healthier buildings for healthier people but can become a competitive advantage for owners and employers. Our surveys show that, in the post-pandemic world, employees will look more and more at the health measures and amenities their workplace provides, factoring such criteria into their decision to accept a job. This means that certifying a building’s resilience to health threats can become a part of the employer’s HR strategies, helping the company to attract, motivate and retain talents.
Does Genesis Property have investment plans for the local market in the next few years?
Genesis Property has significantly invested in the local economy in the past 20 years, and we continue our mission with long-term investment plans. Our priority and key area of focus today is to provide employers and employees with the workplace of the future.
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