Ștefan Tudos, Vice President of Genesis Property, talked to Property Forum about the hybrid future of work and the way in which the company’s flagship YUNITY Park office campus in Bucharest is covering emerging demands coming from companies and employees on sustainability and work-life balance.
This interview was first published in Property Forum’s annual listing of "The 50 most influential people on Romania’s real estate market”.
What are Genesis Property’s plans for 2023 and how did your property portfolio perform last year in terms of occupancy rates and leasing transactions?
At Genesis Property, our unwavering commitment for 2023 remains to provide exceptional conditions for those working in or visiting our properties whilst adapting to the latest global trends. A testament to our commitment is our own major project, YUNITY Park.
We take pride in creating a sustainable environment that enhances the quality of life for the entire Genesis Property community. With over 17,000 sqm of green spaces, pedestrian walkways, and waterways, YUNITY Park is a manifestation of our vision. We will also be planting 1,200 trees, shrubs, and decorative plants to further contribute to the surrounding environment.
Spaces that facilitate social interaction are increasingly important, and we have taken this into consideration in the design of YUNITY Park. More specifically, we included a large outdoor amphitheater and a conference centre, where both employees within the park and visitors will enjoy the atmosphere and community vibes in our network of new destinations.
What has been the reaction of the market to your new development YUNITY Park? What is your strategy for this project?
The pandemic has undoubtedly reshaped people’s perceptions of workspaces, and it appears that this new approach is here to stay. The demand for Class A office spaces remains strong, as these environments foster interactive and inspirational workspaces that encourage vital human interaction. Responding to these trends is our clear goal, and the YUNITY Park project is a major endeavor that concretely responds to these needs.
This unprecedented period has also presented us with opportunities to make a positive change in people’s lives.
One such instance is the growing interest in co-working and co-living spaces, especially within the Class A office areas. At YUNITY Park, we recognize this need and have designed the space to cater to these demands.
As we move forward, the labor market trends suggest that more employers are rethinking their approach to work, placing greater emphasis on employee well-being. Balancing their personal and professional life remains a top priority for many, and this remains the central focus for 2023. Despite the ever-evolving situation, we remain optimistic about the market outlook.
Is hybrid work being adopted by large tenants that you have in your offices, or does it depend on the specialization of the firm?
According to our latest study on the local market, over four out of 10 Romanians believe that a hybrid system, with 3-4 days per week of work from the office will dominate the year 2023, and more than a quarter rely on the system with 1-2 days per week at the office. At the same time, a quarter of employees believe that working exclusively from the office will be prevalent this year, and only 7% bet exclusively on remote work.
The study confirms that the future of work is hybrid. Employees want the flexibility of working from home or the office, depending on their unique needs and preferences. At the same time, we understand the value of in-person collaboration and socialization for driving innovation and building strong team relationships.
Are you rethinking the office design considering the alternative work arrangements that have emerged after the pandemic?
Over the past few years, there has been a fundamental shift in the way both employees and employers view workspaces. Class A office spaces are no longer simply places to work, but interactive and inspirational environments that foster real human interaction. The demand for work areas with state-of-the-art design that support creativity and socialization has become a key factor in promoting employee well-being.
As we move towards a hybrid work model, there is an increasing need for flexible office solutions such as co-working and shared spaces.
How are you embedding ESG elements in your office projects and are you planning additional investments in this field?
Genesis Property is committed to achieving zero carbon emissions for the buildings within its portfolio by 2030, by increasing its investment in energy efficiency and production from renewable sources, but also through sustainable building management and the efficient use of resources. All seven buildings within YUNITY Park are already Class A energy efficient.
Along with the investments in energy efficiency and the 1,080 photovoltaic panels installed on the 4,000 sqm of the rooftops of buildings, the business park complies with the nZEB criteria as of this year, an essential step for all buildings within its portfolio to become Zero Carbon Buildings (ZCB) by 2030.
What is your outlook for the office market in Bucharest in the medium and long term? Are new locations going to attract more investment and are you looking to develop new projects in the city?
The pace of the market remains a slow one. Among the causes, we can list the increase in the price of materials, the labour force crisis, increased inflation, delays in supply chains, and the difficulty of issuing town planning permits and certificates.
The current situation affects companies to varying degrees, but in our client area – that of Class A offices, the effects are not felt so strongly, as our large corporate clients have already signed medium to long-term contracts.
Although the situation remains fluid, we remain cautiously optimistic about the market’s outlook. The real estate sector has a proven track record of responding to changing realities, and we anticipate that 2023 will be a year of adaptation and adjustment as we navigate the shifting economic landscape.
What are the most important certifications within your office portfolio that are key in securing lease contracts?
All the buildings in the Genesis Property portfolio already hold the BREEAM - Very Good certification since 2013 and are in the advanced process of obtaining the BREEAM - Outstanding certificate.
We are excited that all seven buildings in YUNITY Park will also have the IMMUNE Building StandardTM - Resilient, five out of five stars. It is a major step in our mission to create healthy indoor spaces for both our employees and our tenants. We are able to demonstrate that IMMUNETM is an innovative, essential option for any organization that puts people first and is prepared for the challenges of the future.
In November 2021, Genesis Property also became the first real estate company in the country to join the select community that supports the 10 Principles of the UN Global Compact (UNGC).
From your perspective, what are some of the competitive advantages of Bucharest’s office market compared to those in peer cities from the CEE Region?
Bucharest offers a lower cost of living, compared to other major cities in the region, making it, among others, more cost-effective for businesses to operate there. The Capital has a large pool of skilled and educated workers, with many graduates from local universities in fields such as IT, engineering, and business. It also has a well-developed infrastructure, which is constantly improving, including modern office buildings, a growing public transportation system, and an expanding airport network.
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