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The Warsaw Voice » Business » June 30, 2011
Business & Economy
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Green Offices in Green Buildings Conference
June 30, 2011   
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Green construction is one of the most rapidly expanding industries in the world. Architects and engineers are outdoing each other in their attempts to create new and innovative technologies that will minimize energy consumption, water usage and waste in environmentally friendly, or “green” buildings.

Leaving aside the environmental benefits, green buildings make good business sense. The operational costs of green buildings are significantly lower than those that use traditional technologies. Hundreds of buildings around the world have LEED, BREEAM, and DGNB certificates as a sign that they meet uncompromising environmental standards. Several office buildings in Poland have these certificates and dozens more are in the process of getting them. More and more developers are considering investing in green office buildings.

The Warsaw Voice held a conference at the Copernicus Science Center May 31 entitled Green Offices in Green Buildings. The conference was the first in a series of meetings that come under the rubric of Innovative Poland. These get-togethers are intended to popularize the latest trends and advances in sustainable development. So, it was no accident that the conference was held in the Copernicus Science Center, a building that stands for innovative concepts and new technology. So what came out of the conference?

Those who attended the talks and who took part in the panel discussions were mostly familiarized with the LEED, BREEAM, DGNB and EU Green Building certification systems. Possession of a LEED or BREEAM gold or platinum certificate means that the building in question uses significantly less energy than a comparable building utilizing traditional technology. The LEED and BREEAM systems use several criteria—energy efficiency is just one of many that have to be met to qualify for certification. Right now, there are only 16 people authorized to issue green building certificates in Poland but interest is steadily increasing and some developers are even expressing a desire to obtain such certification at the design stage.

“The best results are obtained when the investor works with the body that issues the certificate at the design stage,” said Magdalena Stretton, a BREEAM assessor and country manager for WSP Enviro. Agnes Volbrodt-Szurma, President of the Polish Green Building Council (PLGBC), in her lecture, demonstrated that by using the technology now available, green buildings can reduce energy consumption by 30-50 percent, carbon dioxide emissions by 35 percent, waste production by 70 percent, and water usage by 40 percent. Greg Katz from Good Energies conducted a study of 170 buildings in the U.S. and 10 in other countries that revealed that green buildings only cost 1.5 percent more to put up and that this is recouped in the first few years of use. After that, it’s all savings.

Poland is still on the starting blocks as far as green buildings go but there are a few developers willing to take on the challenge. Skanska Property Poland can be justifiably proud of its green projects. Green Towers in Wroc³aw deserves a special mention as this was the first LEED Platinum certified building in Poland. Buildings like Marynarska Point and Deloitte House in Warsaw and the Grunwaldzki Center in Wroc³aw are undeniably energy efficient and they are all certified. Their Green Corner project will strive for the top LEED platinum certification.

“We’re trying to make use of the latest technology in our buildings, for example heat recovery ventilation, that is systems that can take warm air from inside offices, and use it to heat the parking areas,” said Katarzyna Zawodna, environmental manager at Skanska Property Poland, a Polish leader in utilizing energy-efficient technology. “Another idea is the application of free-cooling, that is using cold air from outside for cooling purposes. Instead of using electrical energy to cool air, we can make use of the cold air already available. And, in Poland’s case, outside temperatures are low enough for this system to be applied effectively for a fairly lengthy part of the year,” she added.

But all this does not stop with buildings. “Green offices are sprouting up like mushrooms in green buildings. These sorts of projects are so far mostly the province of international concerns establishing their environmental bona fides by implementing green standards in all their departments,” said Joanna Mroczek, head of research and consultancy at CB Richard Ellis Polska.

Solutions like these are definitely worth a second look. What is a green office? How should it be designed? Beata Osiecka, president of Kinnarps Polska, had a go at answering this in her presentation. Kinnarps is a Scandinavian company that has been furnishing environmentally friendly buildings for nearly 70 years. “There is more to a green office than FSC certified furniture [the FSC is a certificate verifying the origins of the materials from which furniture is made], ecological floor coverings, the latest remote controlled lighting, and segregated waste,” she said. “It’s mainly about a healthier workplace where people can be more productive.”

Designing such an office requires knowledge in a lot of different fields, such as ergonomics, acoustics and lighting. Osiecka believes that the level of awareness among investors and workers is hugely significant and so it is vitally important that the topic be thrown into the public arena.

The staff of Skanska Property Poland, Deutsche Bank, and the Gdynia office of Norwegian company DNV all work in certified green offices. And these are not the only examples.

The next Innovative Poland conference will aim to deal with the topic of renovating existing offices and office buildings in Poland. These are also in the running for certification.

On behalf of the organizer, I would also like to thank everyone who sponsored or participated in the event for their commitment and for the many words of thanks we received afterwards. We were gratified to see that the topic aroused so much interest.
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