The real estate group Urbanity focuses on building modern production campuses. This spring, we wrote about their project in Tachov. Now, the company is preparing yet another project situated on the other side of the country – in Bruntál.
The project was introduced to us by Roland Hofman, CEO and co-founder of Urbanity Group.
You build industrial campuses, but your company is not a typical developer…
When we founded Urbanity Group, we set ourselves a goal to try and move industrial development forward so that it is once again desired and sought after by the public. For instance, for a very long time, we often heard objections and resentment that we only create grey boxes occupying arable land, which only differ from one other by some coloured strip under the attic referring to the developer’s logo. People don’t like such an impersonal concept, and neither do we. We decided that we should return architecture and design into industrial development and prioritize the comfort of its users.
Was it the only impulse?
At Urbanity, we made a list of what we don’t like about industrial development: no architecture, often uncomfortable working environment, insufficient services for people, being environment unfriendly, burdening local transport and social infrastructure, the fact that workers must be transported to the emerging locations from remote areas en masse, and the social tension resulting from all that. The real and long-term impacts of industrial development on people and the environment remained a question. We decided be the first to do something about it. To create campuses that would represent an integral part of a pleasant lively city.
What can this represent for the particular location?
We create production campuses that do not burden urban infrastructure, but rather complement or further develop it. It means that we do not just create a production function without any continuity, but on the contrary, we also create other related services provided not only to local employees, but to the entire community. For instance, a nursery school or a quality area for catering, a cafe, a hotel-type accommodation, a company doctor, sports and community facilities and others.
What do you consider important in this context?
First and foremost, the fact that we want to focus on revitalization of urban brownfields, both so that arable land doesn’t get seized, and also that people from the regions do not leave for larger residential cities just because they don’t have adequate employment within their area of residence. We want to bring attractive job opportunities back to the regions, connect global opportunities with local talent and thereby positively influence the development of cities and regions.
That must also arouse other positive factors.
It is also influenced by the fact that our campuses are situated right in the city and people do not have to commute far for work. This corresponds with the fact that they have job opportunities virtually behind their house, which also has an impact on traffic – there is no unnecessary traffic burden. People can get to our campuses on foot or by bike, or public transport. Thanks to the additional services offered, people are able to satisfy more of their needs at once and in one place. This is definitely yet another benefit going even beyond.
You are currently preparing a revitalization of the industrial area in Bruntál, which is 300 m from the bus and train stations. So, it is perfectly accessible as it is not somewhere in the middle of a field. The campus will become part of the city. Can you reveal anything more specific?
Accessibility and proximity to people certainly play a big role, especially in production companies where there is a greater number of employees. Car transport of employees to remote workplaces, on the other hand, leaves a more significant carbon footprint than freight transport associated with production activities or supply and distribution. This is associated with dustiness, noise and safety. These are certainly other factors from a perspective of sustainability.
Tachov has a unique certification. How will it be in Bruntál?
We naturally want to have the production campus in Bruntál assessed with comprehensive certification as well. We want to apply for BREEAM Communities. In this case, the subject of the certification is not only a separate building, but it is the entire location and the effects of the entire project on the region that are assessed. We do not go the standard way of certifying individual buildings separately in the classic BREEAM form, but in fact, we focus on broader relations. This approach is much more comprehensive and complex from the point of view of the overall functioning.
Can you briefly describe the entire complex?
The campus will comprise four industrial buildings. The smallest of them has an area of 3,500 sq m; it is aimed more at regional production companies. The other two have approximately 5,000 and 10,000 sq m. The fourth one is exceptional for its size, as it has 35,000 sq m, but at the same time for its clear height of 20 m, which allows for a placement of automated and robotic operations.
In Tachov, you set the principle of revitalizing the complex practically on the fly. Will it be the same here?
It will be easier for us in Bruntál, because there are not that many buildings intended for complex revitalization. The existing operations will mostly be impacted by the revitalization of the campus infrastructure, including new connections of utility services and a new substation, which will also proceed during full operation.
In older campuses, there is often a problem with high energy performance. What is your plan for solving that?
All our buildings are classified as exceptionally energy efficient. With regard to our approach to energy, we use the relatively robust know-how of our internal energy team. We will certainly maximize the involvement of local renewable sources. All roofs will naturally be equipped with solar panels. From our experience in Tachov, we know that we can cover approximately 40–50% of production clients’ consumption. The advantage of the Bruntál project is that, like in Tachov, the ČEZ Distribuce substation is virtually outside the fence, so, we are not fundamentally limited in terms of capacity.
How will you handle other important issues?
We will use local sources of drinking water through our own boreholes; thus, we will be able to be 100% self-sufficient. The possible use of heat pumps will depend on the type of production. What has proven very successful for us in Tachov is the use of emission heat from the production process, with which we can cover 100% of hot water consumption and up to 80% of heat consumption for heating the building. We will also work intensively with the colourful elements of the blue-green infrastructure.
Do you collaborate on the project with Bruntál municipality?
Yes, we do. This can be seen, for instance, in the cooperation on a new traffic solution for the access road. The existing access road has, for more than 50 years, led rather ineptly through a villa residential area. We signed a cooperative agreement with the city claiming that we will build a new driveway, which will quieten down the residential area. The new transport solution will also better follow in the emerging urban ring road of Bruntál, which is fully under the responsibility of the city management. The city management has been working on the ring road intensively for many years. Today, they already have a building permit and should commence the implementation next year. As part of the new campus transport solution, we will also build a new bus stop, which will be right at the entrance to the campus. This will further improve the already very good accessibility of the area. In general, I would say that cooperation with the council is very constructive and effective. We were able to identify problems and find their solutions together, which is very important.
Does the entire site remain in your possession?
Exactly. We are not only a developer, but also an investor, manager and landlord. Our investment horizon is not as much long-term as it is permanent. Which can be seen in our approach. We can afford to look at the investment from a slightly different perspective than we would if knowing that we would sell our projects to someone else – whether in one or five years. By wanting to keep our projects permanently, we also know that we want and will live in symbiosis with people and communities for decades to come. That is a big commitment.
The last question is what is the time frame for completion?
We are now at the stage where we have received all the necessary statements and we anticipate that by the end of this year we will have obtained a valid permit for the entire site. We plan to commence construction next year and will be able to deliver the buildings in 6–12 months. We plan to complete the project in three years. The individual buildings will be built turnkey to clients’ specific requirements in order to best suit their needs. Tenancy agreements are signed for 10–15 years, which, for instance, also enables us to adapt energy solutions to clients much better.
Photo: Urbanity archive
He specializes in investment, management and development of commercial real estate. He is the co-founder of the real estate group Urbanity, where he holds the position of CEO. He is a graduate of the finance department at VŠB-TU in Ostrava, he received his MBA degree at the University of Greenwich in London, where he also gained experience from working in top management. In the past, he worked in high managerial and statutory positions in companies belonging to the investment company M.L. Moran, where he also set on the Supervisory Board.