Responsible workspace design: A marathon, not a sprint
Since founding HB Reavis in 1993, we’ve worked hard to account for the impact our work has on the world around us. In all our projects, it is important that we have a positive impact on people, the environment and the wider community.
A lot has changed over nearly three decades of our growth. As a business, we’ve evolved from a traditional brick-and-mortar real estate developer to an international workspace provider. The world around us has changed too, with new challenges to consider and technologies to address them.
This has given us more opportunities to control our impact on the world and improve our people-centric philosophy. And it’s been our goal throughout to ensure our projects exceed market standards and local legislative requirements.
Over almost 30 years of history, we have discovered even better ways to put people and their health at the heart of what we do. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that getting this right is a marathon, not a sprint.
With that in mind, here’s a brief history of how we got there, in the context of what else was happening around the world at that point in time:
- Eva Diesková, Viliam Pancik, Mikulas Spál and Sarlota Stosová start AB Reavis (this is before we were even called HB Reavis). At the time, we were a traditional brick-and-mortar developer focused on Slovakia.
- Around the world, interest grows among companies to become more sustainable, drive wellbeing and improve their impact on the local community. However, these goals are siloed and not addressed by a unified strategy. At best, these objectives are just an extension of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
- We rename ourselves from AB Reavis to HB Reavis.
- CSR and connected initiatives are treated more seriously. Though they have been around since the 1970s, it is now becoming less “amateurish” with growing interest in new trends like sustainability reports and renewable energy.
- Over the next ten years, increasing maturity around CSR will lead to new ways of thinking about how businesses affect the world around them.
- The term ‘Environmental Social Governance (ESG) strategy’ is popularised. It helps businesses provide greater transparency into their processes and composition, and how this affects their environmental, social and governance responsibilities.
- As attitudes have developed since the 90s, businesses are recognising environmental and social responsibility as a factor affecting future financial performance. This makes ESG an important consideration from the outset.
- We expand out of Slovakia and into other countries, which forces us to realign our goals to match our new scale. Different countries have different levels of maturity when it comes to sustainability, social responsibility and wellbeing strategy (and will continue to even in 2021). As such, we have to consider what the needs are of each region on a case-by-case basis.
- We also learn that true responsibility isn’t just thinking about our own sustainability goals but enabling the businesses we support to act in the same way. To achieve this, we have to find a way to achieve our goals in line with each businesses’ own values and those of their employees. To realise this, we need to bring all our efforts together.
- Seeing the need to consolidate all our environmental goals under one umbrella, we decide to get BREEAM certifications for our projects. The certification looks at sustainability and building performance (as measured through sustainable land use, improvement of biodiversity, access to sustainable means of transport, waste management, etc.) At this time, BREEAM is not common and isn’t used by many other companies. By 2021, people will expect businesses to have BREEAM (and other sustainability certifications like LEED and DGNB) as the market standard.
- We build upon this with the BREEAM Communities certification, which focuses on integrating sustainable design into our neighbourhood-scale developments through community engagement – making it a good fit for our beliefs. We feel it is important that our business is not reviewed building by building, but as a whole. This certification ensures we make a positive impact on each community that’s built.
- Wanting to push ourselves even further, we put together a multidisciplinary team to bring new insights into the way we work. The team is made up of sociologists, researchers, psychologists, architects, and sustainability and wellbeing specialists. And they are all looking at how we can deliver the highest quality experience for our clients and their employees. By pulling together all the activities happening across the company, we begin to generate actionable goals to help our customers.
- To help us think systematically about designing the user experience, we launch the Space and Experience Toolkit (SET). By grouping the needs of our clients and their employees into four pillars – be well, be efficient, be inspired, and be responsible – we develop an internal research-based knowledge library of more than 300 tools. These tools are implemented into our projects to deliver people-centric buildings and offices that support health, wellbeing, and productivity.
- We develop our Value Creation Process. Through extensive research and analysis, this process ensures that our projects reflect the needs of our clients, their employees, and the local community.
- We also create our Environmental Code of Practice. This ensures our projects are delivered to the highest environmental standards, and that our construction sites have a minimal negative impact on the surrounding environment and people nearby.
- Varso Place gains its WELL pre-certification. It will later become the first building in the CEE region to get the pass registration for WELL certification, and will play an important role in pioneering the WELL building standard in the CEE region. In 2021, the WELL certification will become more common and eight of our buildings will be pre-certified, with one (Twin City Tower) achieving full WELL certification at the Gold level.
- This year, we set out our roadmap defining the scope and trajectory of our net zero carbon commitment – for operation by the end of 2021.
- We are also implementing new, objective measures for evaluating the performance of our buildings in terms of water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions. Based on this data, we will set improved targets for next year by the end of 2021.
- Varso was also provided with its WELL Health and Safety rating.
Throughout our 28-year history, we have developed a set of key principles to guide our responsible approach.
- Overachieve. Do not settle for the minimum required legislation, norms, or certification preconditions. Do more than is required and hold yourself to the highest standard.
- Understand the needs of your stakeholders. No matter if it’s a client, an investor or future building users, ensure that your approach takes their needs into account. This helps you truly understand what their objectives are when it comes to responsibility and more effectively address them.
- Be authentic. Do not just follow the trends led by other businesses. Find the methods or actions that best reflect the culture and values of your business. You will achieve more meaningful results when your actions align with your values, rather than simply following the process.
- Build your internal expertise. Always try to improve your knowledge about environmental sustainability, user-centric design, peoples’ health and wellbeing, and community engagement. Only by keeping up to date can you ensure that you are maintaining your standards and values.
- Innovate. New processes, ideas and practices are needed to meet many sustainability goals. And many can only be achieved with active participation. In fact, goals such as carbon reduction or neutrality, are impossible without everyone considering their role in making it a reality.
By following these principles over the last few decades, we have maintained the highest standards of sustainability and environmental responsibility. This is something we will continue to share with our customers, even as our standards increase in the future. Our solutions, such as Qubes and HubHub, achieve this by offering customers the flexibility and community spaces they need to support their own initiatives. And so, through a combination of our expertise, experience, and solutions, we actively help our customers to meet their ESG goals quickly and efficiently.