Jindřichův Hradec has long struggled with the absence of a city architect. Last year, a selection procedure was finally held and was attended by 13 candidates. 

The winner was Ing. arch. Lukáš Soukup, a graduate of the Faculty of Architecture of the Czech Technical University Prague, who worked there as a lecturer in doc. Rothbauer’s studio. Since 2011, he has been authorized by the Czech Chamber of Architects. He has experience from an architectural studio, a development company and also experience gained during an internship in Tampere, Finland. He currently works for the international real estate and consultancy company Knight Frank, where he manages the construction of office buildings and specialist opinions from the areas of architecture and urban planning.

How did you convince the committee that your vision of a city architect’s activity is best for Jindřichův Hradec? Did you bet on tourism where there is the third largest castle complex in the Czech Republic following Prague and Český Krumlov?

I think Jindřichův Hradec as such is not a classic tourist destination. You can apply double standards there: On the one hand, the town potentially loses income from the tourist trade but, on the other hand, it was spared the situation in Prague centre, for instance, which is considerably damaged due to the number of tourists and stalls with souvenirs with no relation to the city and the place (for instance Russian fur hats and other items that, in my opinion, have nothing to do on the Royal Route).

So, where do you perceive the potential of the town?

The town centre is romantic – with many historically valuable and well-preserved buildings. But at the same time, more conceptual interventions in individual, mostly public spaces, are needed. I myself have an idea for a better background for residents as well as tourists. According to statistics, their visits mainly lead them to the castle grounds and the rest of the town seems slightly neglected.

And other fields aside from tourism?

I have a feeling that the town offers relatively few pleasant outdoor places that would allow for just sitting quietly or for some other activities even when it comes to its inhabitants. There is no comprehensive system of greenery, no suitable orientation system, etc.

What do you consider to be the most important thing at the moment?

There is no comprehensive transport system or parking in the town centre or in its wider surroundings. The cycleways do not have any logical connection to individual peripheries, especially to the Vajgar and Hvězdárna housing estates, which requires long-term care and conceptual thinking. If we start to look into it now, we will be able to leave something to our children and grandchildren. Something that we are able to prepare within the scope of just a few years.

How did the selection procedure actually proceed? Can you describe it further?

The first round of the selection procedure consisted of meeting formal prerequisites, such as university education, authorization and some practice. The second round included personal interviews with the presentation of a common task, which was to design a solution for the Ladislav Stehna Embankment on the bank of the Vajgar Lake. The next subject for discussion was the applicant’s awareness of Jindřichův Hradec and his ideas as to how to utilise the town’s potential. For instance, the chateau brewery – right next to the chateau – is situated in the protected town centre and is difficult to access. This is currently one of the biggest problems in historic centres of other Czech towns as well. Any function you place here will require an access. At the construction stage, it will require the availability of equipment, supply of material, etc. Even the subsequent operation can cause a disproportionate burden on the protected centre, if not even maybe collapse. This needs to be taken into consideration at the beginning when setting up the building programme. Reconstruction as such is expensive but that is nothing atypical. What I see decisive is a correctly chosen function and naturally project funding, ideally divided into stages.

Let’s go back to your proposal for the use of the Ladislav Stehna Embankment.

It’s a huge opportunity. However, the idea that the embankment will be reconstructed and that tourists will thus start going there is wrong. We need to take a step back and think about the concept of transport solution within the town and its surroundings. I think that that is the most important, not only here, but in most Czech towns. As for Jindřichův Hradec, renovations took place in the second half of the 20th century where many of which were not entirely pleasing. One of the less successful is the road along the Vajgar Lake, the Ladislav Stehna Embankment. According to traffic statistics, several thousand cars go through here daily in latter years. The traffic load is disproportionate to the location and if traffic is not prevented and reduced to a necessary minimum, the embankment will remain cut off from the town centre.

What do you find crucial then?  

Considering the solution and concept of transport in the centre, the wider town centre and its surroundings. To try to adapt the centre more to the needs of the population in the form of gradual measures. Let’s realize that it is very easy to walk in a town of this size. I consider this to be one of the main qualities of a town such as Jindřichův Hradec, where there is also an optimal terrain for cycling. That is what I really enjoy about it.

Does this mean a priority modification to the transport solution and the embankment as such?  

It will certainly be necessary to amend urban greenery – part of the town does not even hold the status of green area but, according to the outline plan, it is ‘insulating greenery’. That means that maintenance of the areas and access to them are subject to this. This is a matter that should also be addressed. Residents need to be more involved in this process and where possible, it is also necessary to come up with other barriers than the existent steel railings between the Vajgar Lake and the sidewalk for cyclists and pedestrians. As you walk through there you will probably realize that pedestrian crossings are not in places where it is logical in connection with pedestrian routes, but are located in places common from the point of view of comfortable driving.

How is it related to the historical centre?

From my point of view, the transport solution used in a town with more than 20,000 inhabitants corresponds conceptually with the 1960s. However, from today’s point of view regarding the use of public areas I think that this solution is outdated, obsolete and needs to be modified.

So, how should a town of this size work optimally – including visitors?

I would certainly not build the quality of the town and life in it on tourism. I don’t think it is the most important thing for such a town. I believe the city as such should first and foremost be a pleasant place for its inhabitants. In this respect, Jindřichův Hradec is smaller than Prague and Brno, etc…, but still experiences similar trends as West European towns, this being the displacement of the centre. Based on available figures I know that in the last few decades, the number of permanent residents has reduced to approximately one third. And then comes the classic issues – it is difficult to park here, it is difficult to shop, there is noise at night, which is something you do not want for family life. These issues bother your life so you would rather move to the outskirts where you can have a bigger house, bigger garden and perhaps also a garage. And the town centre as such can easily become a kind of mausoleum in the future, especially with the strengthening of tourism. This needs to be carefully thought through because the steps we take today will reap fruits for future generations. That means that the town cannot do without a more fundamental concept of tourism solution.

How do you personally see the total concept?

As soon as we manage to successfully plan and implement one public space, which can be, for instance, Míru Square or the Ladislav Stehna Embankment, I am convinced that we will set the standard for other public spaces within the town. If the residents identify with this space, we will be able to extend the quality solution to at least the rest of the centre. Another thing that I consider important is the solution of parking in the centre and the transport connection between the town periphery and the town centre. Therefore, it is a matter of solving the functioning of the combination of car traffic, cyclists and pedestrians. Building a town for cars, as we can, for instant, see in the town of Most, which today looks like a 1960s small American town, where walking through the centre on foot is difficult due to long distances because there are motorways, is a long-overdue model. It’s something that can be aesthetic for some, mostly architects, but research has long shown that the most pleasant are winding streets, pleasant nooks – and that’s why historic town centres are popular.

However, panel housing estates were built here on the outskirts, just as in other Czech towns. How do you see their inter connection with the historical centre?

A part of the centre was preserved thanks to the new prefabricated housing estates located outside the historical centre because in the 1960s, it was a great time to demolish twice as many houses as eventually happened. Of course, I’m sorry about those houses, but I can be relatively satisfied that no more was destroyed. I don’t want to perceive the housing estate negatively, especially when you see how many inhabitants in the Czech Republic live in panel houses. It’s a huge amount. And housing estates as such do not always have to be solved as so-called ‘rabbit hutches’, if you look at Brno – Lesná or other good examples, such as Prague – Pankrác with lower-storey houses, cultivated greenery, etc. The parterres of some buildings at the housing estates are lined with stone, somewhere there are works of art, accessible civic amenities and lots of greenery…

What do the housing estates in Jindřichův Hradec look like in this comparison? 

Unfortunately, they are not that nice, but, on the other hand, there is greenery and it is close to the centre. I would not perceive it completely negatively. If they need anything, it is more cultivation of public areas and better connection to the centre for cyclists and pedestrians. What bothers me most in housing estates, not only those in Jindřichův Hradec, is the fact that they are often only visible from the historical centre. And it was enough to build two floors less or design the whole development in a different fashion.

Where do you see the real basis of each town?

In the locals and I think they are the ones who should be involved in what is being prepared by the town, especially with regards to long-term plans and investments. I think that it is a priority to give space to discussions in the form of panel meetings and present upcoming projects … everything must have a clear plan and the specific responsible person who is preparing the project must be determined. However, it is necessary to involve both the public and town residents because as a weekend visitor, I cannot have the same point of view as the locals and I am interested in the opinion of both children and youth, university students, mothers on maternity leave, pensioners and workers. They are the inhabitants of the town and they all have the right to have their say on these issues. How the concept will work once completed, what the town takes into account – all this can determine residents’ satisfaction with the town’s plans and gradual transformation and improvement. I don’t like to say problems, but the use of the potential that is there at the moment.

How do you yourself see the function of a city architect?  

The main task is to actively participate in the concept of town development. At the same time, it is also important to popularize architecture and to convey the council’s plans to the inhabitants. At this time, Czech society lacks discussion as such. When someone disagrees with us, we take it as an invective and a personal attack. I myself got used to discussion when defending projects as an architect. I am convinced that when a logical counter-argument is heard, it will force me to rethink the solution. The issues that had not occurred to me till then can also be termed in this way. I see two options: You either defend the concept and confirm your opinion, or you do not defend it and therefore have to rethink the solution and rework it.

Is this about better communication then?

Communication is generally required: I do not yet know how the public will be involved in the discussion, but I hope that it will be as much as possible so that their views can be taken into account. The worst scenario I can imagine is that in a year – when you walk through Jindřichův Hradec – you will see residents laughing at the prepared solution and feeling that the person who came from elsewhere and never lived here spent their money and that they are not to be identified with the concepts and plans. That’s wrong and it certainly shouldn’t work that way. Towns are different, but problems recur. It is important that local people adapt to the upcoming projects. That is the key to success.

How do you want to help with regards to the solving of these difficulties?  

In the future, I would like to address my former colleagues from the Faculty of Architecture and together assign selected tasks within the town as term work for students. This is the experience I had when working as a lecturer in the studio of Mr. Rothbauer, the senior lecturer, where we processed similar assignments of randomly selected towns. They were projects of individual buildings and groups of these buildings, but often also more extensive urbanism.

Arnošt Wagner / Photo: archive

CA Immo appointed Alexander Rafajlovič as new Head of Market Research & Data Analytics

Alexander Rafajlovič (39) joined CA Immo as Head of Market Research & Data Analytics on January 1, 2021. Based in Prague, Mr. Rafajlovič and his team will be responsible for coordinating, structuring, and analyzing all macro and market related data across the region, as well as tracking, analyzing and interpreting trends affecting CA Immo’s business, both for future investment and development opportunities, as well as the existing portfolio. Mr. Rafajlovič and his team have a leading role in providing a perspective on economics, capital market, and real estate market analysis to support strategic decision making, and research into forward looking underwriting. The team will also lead the expansion and enhancement of CA Immo’s analytical tools and dashboards.

 

According to Keegan Viscius, Chief Investment Officer (CIO) of CA Immo: “We are delighted to welcome Alexander to CA Immo, and look forward to his leadership in this newly created role. Alexander is a highly experienced real estate professional, with an impressive track record which we believe will significantly enhance, and uniquely position our business across the region. Today more than ever, analysis and insight into secular and structural themes that can affect our markets and assets when considering strategic decisions, as well as capital allocation, is required. Alexander’s depth of experience and insight will support our business as we advance through an uncertain global environment.”

 

Alexander Rafajlovič adds: “I’m excited and honored to be joining CA Immo at a time when accurate and intelligent insight can give a company like CA Immo an edge in an uncertain market environment. With an impressive foundation in terms of high quality assets and market positioning, I look forward to leveraging my experience to enhance the company’s capabilities.”

 

Alexander Rafajlovič is a senior real estate specialist with over 15 years´ experience in the sector. Most recently he was a Partner in Cushman & Wakefield’s CEE Capital Markets team based in Prague where he had a leading role in portfolio and single asset transactions exceeding € 2.7 bn of total volume. Previously he was Head of Research (from 2007 to 2012) for the Czech Republic at Cushman & Wakefield, and started his career as a Research Analyst at Siemens Real Estate in Prague and Munich.

 

About CA Immo

CA Immo is an investor, manager, and developer specialised in modern office properties across the gateway cities in Germany, Austria, and Central Europe. The company covers the entire value chain in the field of commercial real estate including a high degree of in-house construction expertise. Founded in 1987, CA Immo is listed on the ATX index of the Vienna Stock Exchange and holds property assets worth around € 5.2 bn in Germany, Austria, and CEE.

We continue developing certified solutions

JORDAHL & & PFEIFER Stavební technika, s r. o. was founded in 1998 and represents the German producers Jordahl, H-BAU (Pohl-Con) a Pfeifer.

We asked Ing. Michal Voplakal, Ph.D., MBA, company director, for a short review of the finishing year.

How do you see this as a very different year?

When I look at all the varied realizations – offices and shops, the Bořislavka Centrum, the footbridge in Svatošské skály, visitor’s centre Bernard and the State Regional Archive Louny – I see that the most important thing is to find a quality solution and supply it in time. We are able to accommodate the need for the soundproofing of foundations, staircases and lifts as well as thermal insulation for balconies and the suspension of modern facades. We have a longstanding experience with the realization of so called white tanks, that being waterproof structures against ground and pressured water. What is also successful in the market are elements that can save on floor areas, such as the Hybridbeam girder. Our large production facilities and constant development allows us to find solutions that are consequently cheaper than traditional processes for investors. There is a lack of qualified workers on building sites so it does pay to reserve their energy. It is necessary to provide them with a quality ‘building set’ from which they can build safer and quicker.

What has lately made you pleased?

When I was, as a member of a committee, assessing competing dissertation work under the auspices of the Czech Concrete Society, some of them were so good that I would offer their authors positions in the JORDAHL & PFEIFER, Stavební technika, team.

Are you able not to lose track when you have more projects on the go?

The work on the construction of the new headquarters of ČSOB in Hradec Králové was commenced in co-operation with Syner and last week we fitted the Hybridbeams for the Senior’s Home in Karlovy Vary – is it sufficient proof? At the end, I would like to give thanks to our partners and wish them good health and unrelenting energy for future development!    PR

Economical solution for carpark management

GREEN Center has a broad portfolio of technologies for carpark management, which includes sophisticated online systems and autonomous solutions. And that is what is very popular amongst customers due to its easy use and possibilities for future expansion.

Parking system GPE4P Economy represents an economically advantageous parking solution for simpler projects with one or more entrances and one exit. The system provides basic security for the premises and effective operation of the whole carpark.

Easy installation and operation

The GPE4P line underwent significant design and technology changes that provide customers with higher usable value whilst retaining a positive purchase price for the product. Thanks to an attractive design, the parking system can become visually interesting and functional equipment for carparks. The utilization of modern technologies and overall quality of realization guarantee high reliability and long lifespan of the system.

The advantage of the GPE4P parking system is in an entirely autonomous operation, which doesn’t require any permanent connection to a superior control server. The individual components are independent of one another and have no need to be interconnected with communication cables, which allows for the achieving of significant financial savings. Installation is really fast and simple – the system is prepared for direct operation only once the components are connected to a power supply. The accuracy of information between the individual components of the system (entry and exit terminals and automatic pay station) is secured by printed parking tickets with a bar code, which has two advantages: First, the material used by the information media is, in comparison with other types of media, less demanding financially and can efficiently reduce the common operational costs of the carpark; second, the bar code technology secures high operational reliability and system security. The solution developed for the remote control of the parking system allows for comfortable surveillance of the condition of the individual equipment and setting of certain functions simply via the application. The system also includes reports from action in a particular place.

A superior advantage of the system is the possibility of a simple upgrade to a fully-fledged online system. Only a few slight modifications (complementing the system with a server computer, interconnecting the individual components, updating of the software) can provide operators with all necessary advantages and advanced functions and possibilities the online system offers.

Utilization in both the private and public sector

The parking system allows one to choose different price tariffs and therefore to adjust the level of parking to the carpark operator’s pricing policy.

Based on the set tariff, the system provides a fully automated choice of parking fees. That can help to efficiently prevent financial losses caused by dishonest individuals involved with the collection of money. Human error is minimised as only authorized persons can come into contact with collected cash. Other employees only secure operative issues of a user and/or operational character, for instance the changing of till roles used for printing parking tickets and receipts.

The parking system was developed with consideration to the needs and requirements of operators of smaller carparks. “We were developing the parking system in co-operation with several operators of small carparks with a limited capacity. Based on their comments, we had to adjust the original concept a few times. The result should, however, be a product that would satisfy the overwhelming majority of our partners from both the public and private sectors. Thanks to its properties and functions, you can find it being used in corporate carparks, accommodational establishments, supermarkets, sports centres, cultural establishments, tourist attraction and monuments,” says Tomáš Zdobnický, technical manager at GREEN Center, one of the initiators for the development of the new parking centre.

PR

Casua still optimistic 30 years later on

By the end of next year, it will be 30 years since CASUA was entered in the Register of Companies. Nevertheless, the real co-operation between Oleg Haman and Aleš Poděbrad commenced a bit earlier, on 1st July 1990. That means that this year is also a jubilee one.

The company has, over the years of existence of the architectural and planning office, expanded – from a two-member consortium to a limited company for which 70 architects and civil engineers work.

So, you had a reason to celebrate all year…

AP: We have actually been celebrating the whole 30 years… De facto, we started before 1st July 1990 when we both left our jobs – Oleg from Karel Prager’s studio and me from Karel Koutský studio. We both each came with a contract. I needed an architect and Oleg needed a civil engineer. So, we sat down together and started designing claiming that we had gained our freedom and could decide for ourselves. We enjoy freedom with regards to the choice of commission, clients and work. Starting with the 90s, we commenced drawing something that was later stratified. Both work and people were piling up (we didn’t look for it). We really enjoyed the work we did during those 30 years and we enjoy it still.

Can you remember the first procurements?

OH: Aleš was supposed to do the first BMW showroom in Průběžná in Prague 10. When I was leaving Karel Prager, there was a condition upon my leaving: to secure the project for the completion of the primary school Jitřní in Prague 4. So, we both needed to finish our commissions. One was looking for an architect and the other for a civil engineer. We knew each other so we had already started working together some time in March 1990. The name CASUA had already originated then.

What does CASUA actually mean?

AP: We didn’t know what to come up with so the name emerged abbreviated from the Consortium of Architectural Building and Urban Studios. And as Coca Cola was better than Kofola, we turned Kasua into Casua.

It sounds quite exotic…

OH: We knew we couldn’t put full stops there as we wouldn’t be able to register it as an abbreviation, but in the world today, it is possible to register a name but it cannot have a geographical significance and this was not the case. And also, we also found it pleasant from a phonetic point of view.

What was your mutual vision for the future after the first projects you had realized?

AP: I will try to sum it up from my point of view. The two of us complement one another quite well: firstly, we are both different from a character point of view and secondly, we both have our own profession. Our aim was to produce pleasant architecture, bring it to the building stage and ideally be present at the construction. This took the first five to six years until a turning point on my side. In 1996, we started talking with our client about a commission and a year later we concluded contracts for a project in Prague 10, Na Vinici. That really made us shift. We worked on it from the stabilization of the outline plan (there used to be white places in the outline plan then) up to 2004, that being the last final building approval. This project educated us professionally resulting in the expansion of our studio. Then we said that the company wouldn’t have more than 25 people. When we got the procurement, we made the first mistake in our professional life as architects and planning engineers as we focused on one client and didn’t deal with other commissions. We had a lot of work at that time and didn’t have time to think of the future – what was going to happen once the client built it. So, sometime around 2000, we were a little stressed and started expanding our client portfolio in order to always have a principal procurement and some smaller ones to go with it. From a personal point of view, the years between 1996 and 2000 were crucial for me with regards to the growth of the company.

Let’s get to current projects. You participated in the tender for the hospital in Zlín. What else is, figuratively speaking, on your desk?

OH: We won a public business tender in Zlín for a new regional hospital as a member of an association of four entities. Such large procurements always need some sort of co-operation. We were, in this case, the guarantor of the BIM structure, co-ordination of the project and consequently we guaranteed about half the buildings there. More or less, we went through all appeals, confirmations from the Office for the Protection of Competition. We won, which we are proud of, but the political situation has changed and we are awaiting the signing of the work contract. Building a hospital on green land is something you don’t see every day. What is absurd is that they have a shortage of beds in Zlín due to the epidemic and Covid patients are being transported to Brno. So, everything that is going on is just politics…

How were you better in the tender than your competition?

AP: The assignment of the project for the hospital stated the use of BIM. Our advantage was, that in 2004, without having an idea what it was actually about, we had one IT visionary in our company and he brought to our attention the fact that there is software, which can design in 3D. And we bought 27 licences then. We started designing with this software and now, 16 years later, we are able to harvest the fruits of our work where architecture unites technology and information in a model. They are procurements that originated thanks to the fact that we started working this way. That is why we can do projects such as the one for Zlín Hospital or the Bořislavka project. We are working on this with the Aulík Fišer architekti studio. As planning engineers, we are working on the Bořislavka project for KKCG in BIM.

Let’s get back to the issue of your studio’s specialization…

AP: Classically we emerged as an architect and civil engineer – and as we kept gradually expanding the studio, there are about 70 of us there now. We have a particular number of architects and a particular number of civil engineers. They all design on computers with full licences. The architects come up with projects and we draw them. We also accept service procurements, which means that we work for clients and companies who have their own architects.

What projects have you recently realized?

OH: This year, we completed Waltrovka North, a residential complex, including family houses. The residential Project Karlínské dvory II, an interesting project situated between Křižíkova and Sokolovská Streets underwent final building approval and one project in Stodůlky changed hands and we redesigned it completely. This year, we participated in many tenders and with 70 people in our studio we also have many smaller procurements where some are successful and some are not. Which can also happen when a developer is unsuccessful. We, for instance, designed the reconstruction and conversion of a prison building in Mladá Boleslav, turning it into a new centre with a high dominant point. The project is simply lying fallow, but not because of us. So, sometimes we also face frustration that something is not working out, but everyone goes through that. We must be strong and keep going and be able to bear these losses that we experience along the way.

What do you expect in a short-term horizon?

AP: I would stem from this year as what happened at the beginning of the year, February – March – April, because Covid has shaken the projects. They were delayed, some large developers even terminated work and apart from one came back into operation a few months later yet again.

What type of project was mostly affected?

AP: Residential projects as well as one administrative one, which were launched this September. Apart from that we worked on other contracted procurements, so, this year looks better than last year for us. We are slowly growing upwards. And our plan for next year? We always prepare that in advance and stem from tenders we had won or procurements contracted with clients over the long term. Or they are projects that have been agreed upon but are not secured by a contract yet. That means that the prospect outlook for next year still looks positive, whether in our authorial projects or in service activities. We hope that we can succeed in some big tender where we get to the final round. We are currently careful optimists.

Will you mainly focus on residential projects?

OH: There is generally a shortage of apartments. Apart from the large complexes, there are many smaller items whereby the city structure is being completed by construction in gap sites, some buildings are being demolished, others built… all this has always been here and always will be here. The question is what housing quality is to be like. Many developers first have an analysis done and only then do they make decisions. I don’t think we have to worry that we wouldn’t have work in residential projects, providing nothing fundamental occurs.

Your projects don’t only apply to Prague…

OH: Zlín proves that. We also have some smaller projects outside Prague and in Slovakia but not a large project like the project of Bratislava airport as we did in the past.

The CASUA studio is involved in a number of foundations and professional organizations. You also often take part in trade fairs and not only in the Czech Republic…

OH: In 2007, we received an offer to become a member of the Equator Europe Architects network, which included some 13 studios from 13 countries. We accepted that offer. We saw sense in that co-operation; one of the main moments is the fact that we participate in trade fairs, for instance MIPIM in Cannes, together. We are basically the only Czech studio with our own – though small – stand. The 2008 crisis naturally saw a depletion of companies from Western Europe so some studios don’t exist anymore or have withdrawn. This resulted in the reduced size of Equator. Now, it is mainly dominated by Scandinavian countries and us. Surprisingly, all countries that play hockey – with headquarters in Stockholm. What is interesting is the fact that Swedish Equator Stockholm is a member of the Swedish Green Building Council, ie. a recognized leading institute in the world of permanent sustainability – and we have the opportunity to draw on the latest knowledge from them. The fact that local developers are not that interested in such knowledge, or at least making it seem like that, is another issue. Nevertheless, this gives us access to very valuable information. We are also a member of the Czech Green Building Council and the Czech-Israeli Mutual Chamber of Commerce. When looking for an opportunity as to how to contribute to charitable purposes, we picked what attracted our attention – the Arnošt Lustig Award for courage, bravery, humanity and justice. The condition allowing for the support of this award was the entry to the Czech-Israeli Mutual Chamber of Commerce where we found that it works very well and that members include many skilful people and is also interesting for us from a business point of view. Which means everything fits in nicely.

Arnošt Wagner / Photo: Casua archive

What will happen now with road infrastructure and bridges

The quality of transport infrastructure in the Czech Republic belongs, according to the report by the World Economic Forum, among the worst in the EU. Nevertheless, its development plays a key role in the development of the state economy.

That is why the National Investment Plan for 2020–50 registers investment requirements of CZK 6 billion for the department of the ministry of transport. That is 77% of the whole plan, which would require about a doubling of the current level of departmental investment. It is evident that this amount considerably exceeds the possibilities of public investment in the Czech Republic and it is probably unrealistic to find financial sources to such an extent. The road network forms one strategic complex and it is necessary to plan its development and maintenance as that, regardless whether it is under state, regional or municipal administration.

Maintenance needs investment

The transport department also has a task to develop the so called smart transport system, that is to equip the transport infrastructure and vehicles with modern technologies, which are to increase transport safety significantly, contribute to the continuity of transport, improve quality of the provided service and support alternative fuel powered vehicles (the so called clean mobility). Everyone can see more dense traffic on our roads and motorways, overloaded railway services on suburban lines and full carparks on the outskirts of the capital. Apart from the expansion and quality improvement of the network of spinal roads and motorways, the priority in the Czech Republic is also to attend to the intensive modernization of railway infrastructure and construction of new high-speed lines in a trans-European network. The condition of bridges often decides about the quality and functionality of the individual sections of the network.

In the Czech Republic, a sophisticated system of registration and management of bridges was introduced, which  is based on legal regulations and technical  standards. Nevertheless, the main problem is in the lack of stably allocated financial resources for bridge administration, maintenance and rehabilitation, which should be linked to the value of transport infrastructure within the administration of the individual owners. It is necessary to expect average costs in the amount of a 2% per year of the original investment updated with annual inflation. That means that within 100 years of the planned lifespan of bridges, it is necessary to spend twice the original investment costs for their construction. This area has been considerably underestimated in the long term and the condition of bridges, especially those in regional and municipal administration, keeps getting worse and worse. Nevertheless, road infrastructure will still be expanded considerably. The table states the share of bridges in bad, very bad and emergency conditions, whose load-bearing capacity is reduced by 40, 60 and 80%.

Shortage of specialists

Another problem lies in shortage of human resources. Up to one third of professionally qualified staff  have been lacking over the long term. This can be due to the salary situation in state administration, high level of responsibility and considerable requirements with regards to technical education and experience as well as a shortage of civil engineers in the labour market and a declining interest in studying civil engineering at university.

Part of the construction industry financed from public resources might  have a stabilizing effect in times of crisis – this opportunity should not be missed. The Czech construction industry has an approximately 8% share in total gross added value; it is comparable with the European level and with a multiplication effect of 3.5, the building industry has a big influence on domestic production. Following the last economic crisis after 2009, the construction industry was the one to take longest time to recover from the crisis again. One of the most important conditions for positive development of construction industry is the long-term stability of public investments. The public sector acquires the majority of works from private contractors. The private sector needs the existence of a long-term investment strategy and financing in order to plan their capacities and investment effectively for at least five years ahead. Education, research and development in this area also urgently needs a counter-cyclical policy for public investment.

Qualitative criteria are not a priority

This year, there are obviously enough funds for the preparation and implementation of structures. The question is whether they can be used meaningfully. Recodification of the building law will perhaps be completed next year before election but the professional public is already doubtful that this will contribute significantly to the speeding up of the process of building permit granting. What is more important for transport, water, energy and telecommunication infrastructure is the change to Act No. 416, which is to come to force at the beginning of 2021.

Nevertheless, there are many examples that demonstrate ineffective financial management. I will state at least two. Planning engineers are still selected on the basis of the lowest bid price whereas qualitative criteria are secondary. Providing a design is not optimal for a particular  structure, the contractor has virtually no possibility, within the present system, to submit a successful proposal for a significant variation that would lead to the improvement of construction. This concept is based on the European Directive 2014/24/EU and the judicature of the Court of Justice of the European Union. A year ago, the State Fund of Transport Infrastructure did publish the Methodology for construction improvements, which allows one to proceed in compliance with the international contract conditions of the FIDIC, but it hasn’t been applied in practice yet. It is still complicated from an administrative, legal and time point of view. In the past, proposals for construction improvement were, however, commonly implemented and it was possible to submit them in the phase of a contractor’s submission of a bid. Quality proposal could save costs and speed up construction.

Offering versus final price

Architectural design competitions allows for a choice of aesthetic, layout, functional and structural solutions of a required structure from many variants with a well-balanced construction price and design quality ratio. In the case of significant bridges and footbridges, they could be utilized more often then. Nevertheless, a result of architectural competitions for bridges often evokes great hesitation in the Czech Republic and the culture of tenders for a proposal lags behind other European countries. The problem lies in the competition’s terms and conditions, which are formulated for the engineering structures only by the Czech Chamber of Architects without any relevant share from the Czech Chamber of Authorized Engineers and Technicians in Construction. In 2013, the International Association for Bridges and Structural Engineering issued a regulation for competitions for bridge design, which specifies that at least half of the members of the committee were bridge engineers. In our country, half of a ten-member jury usually covers architects, another half politicians, and one or two members are structural engineers. No wonder that selected designs are perhaps exclusive but difficult for implementation and also very expensive. The situation, when the winning price of the works  is a multiple of the price anticipated in the architectural competition or when contractors are not found is not an exception. If the original price estimate does not work out, it is sometimes possible to obtain grants.

In our system, political and legal reasons unfortunately take priority over technical and financial ones. The complexity of the building law and the considerably limited possibility of enforcing it during approval processes is partly the result of the fragmentation of competences amongst the individual ministries, where there is no conformity in the systematic approach to the recodification of public building law. Another problem is the process of assigning public procurements and its consequent checking; in the real world, it should use market consultations and competitive dialogues with a professional public more often, especially in infrastructure projects. The Design & Build assigning system should also be used more for technically demanding engineering structures.

The Ministry of Transport of the Czech Republic, the Railway Administration and the Road and Motorways Directorate attempt to deal with the aforementioned issues but it is not a society-wide priority yet. Hard to believe that more bridge failures are expected.

Ing. Milan Kalný

Market predictability is essential

The Czech development group CRESTYL is one of the market leaders in building multi-purpose projects – residential, commercial and office real estate.

We spoke with Viktor Peška, Chief Commercial Officer at Crestyl, not only about how a successful developer is doing in these turbulent times but how much the real estate market has changed in 2020.

We meet at a time where people plan and life changes. At a time that mainly encourages one to balance things. What were your plans and expectations for Crestyl in 2020?

With regards to the fact that our business is built on three pillars, this issue needs to be addressed on three levels. From the perspective of the residential market, we planned to develop one already running project and commence the construction of two new projects. We planned to sell the remaining units at the Berounská Brána and Marina Boulevard projects. In the segment of lease of office space, we planned to complete the lease of the remaining premises in the DOCK IN FOUR building and start construction of the last stage in the DOCK IN complex – the DOCK IN FIVE building. As for retail projects, our plans were clearly focused on the successful pre-lease and lease of retail units in the NR7 and Savarin projects and in the Dornych project in Brno.

That sounds like a lot of work and investment. To what extent do your plans meet with reality?

In the residential segment, we initially experienced a temporary slowdown, but it really only shortly overawed us. Demand soon returned, but we suspected a change in clients’ priorities. The project in Vysoký Újezd, where we offer houses with gardens and plots, is experiencing a boom and there is also interest in luxury real estate in the Šárecký dvůr and Marina Boulevard projects; in both cases we are talking about apartments with larger layouts. This part of our activities went very well. I must admit that at the end of the summer, we reached sales numbers as planned and expected. What, however, slowed us down was the more complex financing negotiations. Discussions with banks are longer and more complicated. This factor is also reflected in the other two segments. With regards to the construction of offices, we were forced to postpone the start of construction of DOCK IN FIVE by several months due to Covid-19. The interest in administrative premises is generally smaller, but there is still great interest in new offices in DOCK IN. But the retail market shuffled its cards quite significantly. Despite all unforeseen events, we managed to complete the sale of the Central Kladno shopping centre, which is an incredible success. It should be noted that negotiations began before the coronavirus crisis and ended successfully after the first wave.

You mentioned that there is still a lot of interest in the DOCK IN FIVE project. What is its added value at a time when office rental costs are more of a burden for employers?

Its biggest advantage is, undoubtedly, the fact that construction is at the very end. The project is almost completed and apart from the infrastructure of shops and services, the DOCK IN location also provides a park and facilities for sports activities. The second important argument that plays into our hands is the dispositions. As one of the few, we are able to offer large areas on one floor. We are talking about A class offices, with the offer of which we target large and corporate companies.

What are your expectations in the coming months?

In months to come, we expect a certain slowdown in negotiations and agreements, as well as a growing interest in both luxury real estate and land.

Will you offer any new services or a new type of business in connection with this?

For us, the business model basically remains unchanged. We don’t belong amongst those developers who would minimize space and maximize profits. We have always had 10–15% larger apartments and higher standards. We believe that people will continue to demand larger apartments with terraces and/or gardens. In our case, it is not about adaptation to the situation or trend, but one of our main principles, with which we work on projects quite naturally. Worth mentioning is also the fact that after the successful and speedy sale of 32 family houses in Vysoký Újezd, we are launching a follow-up project with 54 spacious family houses and bungalows. As for the business and office unit projects, we look at developments over a longer period of four to five years. And we believe that at that time we will live completely normally again, without any major restrictions.

We talked about the residential and administrative markets, so, let’s move on to retail units. You are ahead of construction of, in many ways, truly exceptional and at the same time investment-intensive projects. What are the prospects?

The market will change considerably, not only next year, but especially within the horizon of the next few years. Standard sales will move more to online platforms and customers will expect much more from brick and mortar stores. Good traders will be forced to offer not only goods and services. It will be a game with emotions of experience and fun. We assume that stores will primarily turn into showrooms or concept stores and will perform a different function than before. This change will, of course, also affect the so far exclusive online retailers who will want to build a physical presence. The store will not serve a priori as a place where people leave with shopping bags. It will also serve as an exhibition and presentation of brands and companies. Having such premises will be a matter of prestige. The second trend that can be expected will be the emergence of multi-brand stores. Multi-branded retailers that still sell through separate retail units will more often go for a multi-brand showroom where they would sell more brands in one place, under a single identity. We, as a retail developer, must meet them halfway and build not shopping, but multi-purpose community centres, where a clearly defined purpose, public space and curation is to play a crucial role in shaping the destination. There will always be a very limited number of such places, and therefore will always be of interest among traders and tenants.

As a leader in the real estate market, you don’t need to worry about talking openly about opportunities these times offer…

What is being discussed a lot is the development of residential projects for rent. West of the Czech Republic, this form of business works quite well. It certainly has interesting potential in our country but we are not considering this business model in the near future. We still see real possibilities in multifunctional projects, which offer housing and premises for work and relaxation in one place. This helps the developer to increase the level and quality in a particular place much more as he is be able to invest in the surrounding infrastructure in co-operation with local administration and associations. As for the administrative and retail segments, emphasis will be put on the construction level, gadgets and technologies that were previously considered ‘nice to have’. Now they will become a matter of course.

Is there anything you would like to wish the development market and developers for 2021?

I wish everyone a more transparent future. At least to the extent where we can plan with more accuracy and security. This also applies to the building law and regulations.

PR

The labour market has changed dynamically

Centra a.s. provides comprehensive services in property management – from cleaning through greenery maintenance, transport and real estate services to engineering and investment activities and facility management.

We asked the Operations Director of Centra a.s., Ing. Jan Fichtner, Ph.D., what the year 2020 was like.

How do you assess this rather atypical year from Centra’s point of view?

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly hit the operation of our company. With regards to the portfolio of services we provide, the impacts of the pandemics can be divided into two groups by fields of activities. The first big group covers the area of administration. We had to take on new measures and change the management system for administrative staff in order to ensure the continuity of the company’s operation. We have implemented preventive protective measures for our employees, equipped them with disinfectant material and protective aids. At the same time, we divided the teams and introduced home office where possible. Online teleconferences, document sharing, established electronic systems and other measures confirmed to us, during the pandemic, that we are able to provide our clients with services even in such a state of emergency. The second group is the area of ‘production’, that is the direct manual output. If there were no workers’ professions, then administration would be useless. We very much appreciate the cleaning staff, security guards, gardeners, drivers, electricians, etc., who could not ‘hide away’ in a home office during the pandemic and continued coming to work in times of increased emergency and desolate streets, thus not only supporting our company but contributing to the operation of municipal services.

You provide various services specializing mainly in facility management and real estate activities. Which field is doing best?

In general, the best performing fields are those that benefit from the current boom in construction production. That means divisions that provide design activities, investor construction supervision and related services, such as the principle element of our company – facility management. In this regard, we try to fully meet our customers’ requirements and the market and constantly improve the quality of services provided. We know that we still have shortcomings in some respects, but we are constantly working to eliminate them and provide our clients with maximum possible care.

Which fields were mostly influenced by the Covid pandemic and in which way?

We have noted a positive impact on the volume of provided services in the areas of hygiene, cleaning and disinfection. These are the services our clients order and we are able to respond to their requirements swiftly and at the same time to guarantee reasonable and competitive pricing. During the pandemic we have introduced, and currently dispose with, several kinds of new technologies in the area of disinfection and continue developing them. We believe that thoroughness and dutifulness represent the right way in the fight against negative economic impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has as well as the way to achieve the best results of co-operation between the client and provider of the services.

How did you have to change the cleaning regulations in the buildings you manage due to stricter hygienic and anti-epidemic measures?

As a result of anti-epidemic measures, our services are more demanding, both when performing cleaning and when it comes to using protective work aids. In some medical facilities, we perform cleaning directly in areas with patients with COVID-19, where we must follow strict and well-defined procedures in order to protect cleaning workers’ health. The frequency of cleaning, including the application of disinfection plans, has also increased significantly at individual workplaces. We offer clients a new service – disinfection of premises based on nanopolymer technology using the so-called foggers. We are also thinking about cleaning robotics. In the near future, we would like to implement this solution for fully autonomous cleaning of common areas, for example in Na Homolce Hospital.

There is a lot of talk today about redundancies in some sectors – and conversely about labour shortages in other sectors. What is your experience?

The mentioned situation corresponds with the nationwide situation. The labour market has changed dynamically vigorously in connection with the coronavirus crises. Some 34% of companies confirm the deep and serious impact of the crises. Surveys and analyses by recruitment agencies show a major impact on working conditions for more than 37% of people. On the other hand, 23% of large companies expect an increase in recruitment. There are two extremes. There is still a huge shortage of candidates for the positions of drivers, storemen, welders, electricians, locksmiths and masons. But hundreds of CVs come, for instance, for one advertisement for assistant administrative positions. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of laid off chefs, waiters, maids or saleswomen lack the essential – the capacity for new work. Companies are naturally interested in professionals. Unemployment is still kept low artificially by government allowances to employers within the Antivirus programme. Experts predict a more dynamic increase in the number of unemployed in the coming year, which will bring further changes in the labour market. And we can confirm the same experience in the field of recruitment. There are more people in the labour market, which is seemingly better for employers, but the quality does not always meet our requirements. Compared to the situation half a year ago, the interest in work is much greater. The current situation is much more difficult for recruiters with regards to selecting the candidates. On the one hand, a large number of candidates respond to any position offered. On the other hand, the relevance of the responses sent is debatable. We note that job seekers respond to all the positions we offer, whether it is an administrative, managerial or blue-collar position. As a humorous fact I can mention lorry driver’s, pilot’s, film director’s and cook’s respond to a management position. Despite the increased difficulty in selecting candidates, it is positive that we have a greater choice of job seekers than before the crisis. It also brought a certain settlement in the areas of wage and benefit requirements. Previously, applicants had exaggerated requirements. Now, job seekers are more aware that it is important not to focus only on benefits, but especially to work in a stable and financially sound company.

It is, of course, difficult to plan with the unclear development of the epidemic situation. Do you propose to set any goals for next year?

We face the challenges of modern times, such as electronic services, automatic document processing, software and mobile applications, communication and direct connection of customer requirements with our systems or archiving and easy online availability of all documents. And, of course, to expand the number of satisfied clients.

PR / photo: centra, a.s.

Penta isn’t afraid of urban planning tenders

The residential district of Waltrovka with the administrative buildings Aviatica, Dynamica and Mechanica, the administrative buildings Florentinum and Churchill – those are just some of the projects from Penta Real Estate’s portfolio in the Czech Republic.

Petr Palička, director of Penta Real Estate, briefly assessed the year 2020 for us.

The end of the year is approaching and with it a period of reviews. What was this year like for your company?

It was actually quite good. We managed to complete buildings that we planned – Maison Ořechovka, Churchill, and received a planning permit for Nusle Brewery whereby we approached commencement of the development. I believe we were doing quite well all year except for certain exceptions caused by the coronavirus.

To what extent did you have to change your plans due to the pandemic?

The coronavirus naturally has a negative influence. Firstly, spring brought an overall slowdown – the situation took us all by surprise, we weren’t used to working online, administrative processes stopped for a while and it took some time before everything got back to normality again. And then, the pandemic had a relatively significant influence on the administrative market as it was negotiations with new tenants that primarily slowed things down. The question is, how long will it take but it certainly did have an impact on this year’s results…

How are individual projects currently progressing?

The administrative building SmíchOFF is finished and represents a typical example of what I was talking about. We get quite a few interested clients who like the premises but hesitate with final decision. They don’t reject it but they say they cannot make any decisions at the moment… So far, we have about 40% of the building unoccupied – three storeys. Waltrovka – in the original location – is completed, all the apartments are sold and the only thing we still own there is the nursery school. We are currently negotiating its sale to the city district of Prague 5. We are preparing construction of Waltrovka III, an area situated between the completed part and ČSOB. We have a planning permit and the relocation of a sewage system and other ground work is currently in progress there. As for the Churchill building, we are negotiating a purchase with aclient and I believe that we will then conclude the transaction before the end of this year. We are building Maison Ořechovka; the first phase has undergone final building approval and the second should be completed in about half a year’s time. We have, so far, sold about 50% of the apartments. Another relatively interesting project with about one hundred apartments is the Victoria Palace project in Vítězné Square in Prague 6. We have already held aplanning permit for two years but it was opposed by alocal activist. The settlement is hopefully heading to the end and we will therefore be able to commence. Otherwise we are preparing different issues associated with Masaryčka and amongst others both architectural and urban tenders and competitions. We have plenty of work.

Projects in preparation also include the new district that is being developed in the brownfield of Nusle Brewery. At what phase is the preparation?

We have a planning permit for the northern part and the process for a building permit is in progress; as for the southern part – it is the one with a listed building and adjacent buildings – the process for a planning permit is in progress. The complex will comprise approximately 450apartments and some commercial premises – shops, cafés, services and perhaps also atypical offices. The construction is to proceed in two phases. The timing will depend on the sale. By the way, we have recently launched the sale of the first phase. The buildings should also be interesting from an architectural point of view. The northern part was prepared by the studio CHYBIK + KRISTOF, whilst the southern one, the one with the reconstructed historical building of the brewery, is by David Chisholm and CMC Architects.

You have recently announced that the original plans in the Masaryčka project will be changed. What are they to involve and how will to influence the overall image of the area?

There are certain specific modifications. When we nowadays speak of Masaryčka, we think of two buildings that should be built in Na Florenci Street. There we have a planning permit and have applied for a building permit. This project developed in accordance with various technical observations, possibly in accordance with the results of participation until they got to the stage for which the planning permit applies. A change of outline plan is subject to change in another part of the project and it is impossible to clearly predict as to what it will look like at the end. Moreover, we agreed with the council that a public international urban-architectural tender will be held within the framework of this change and we would like to announce this next January or February. This should lead to a solution for the rear part of the area, which is mostly situated in Prague 8. We will stem from aconcept, especially the transportation part, designed by Zaha Hadid. There, Imainly refer to the construction of asquare and roads situated on the boundary of Prague 1, 2, 3 and 8, which must reflect the current situation, whether it is about the ownership of the plots – part is owned by ČSAD, which is also building there, or the agreement with the council for a new development according to which there should be at least 40 % of apartments. This will, no doubt, also influence urbanism of the area.

You are also planning to announce the urban-architectural tender for the landscaping of the area between Havlíčkova, V celnici and Na Florenci Streets within the vicinity of a station building.

The aim is to complete this square, or rather the public area, so that it gives a pleasant impression. Many buildings are, however, clearly determined there, whether they are those existing ones, for instance underground exits, or those that need to be built there in accordance with aplanning permit. It is be an open tender, which will probably be announced before the end of this year. Anyone interested can enter.

In the past issue of Development News, we published an article by Tomáš Kadeřábek from the Association of Developers regarding development taxation. Do you have asuggestion as to how to allocate the money transparently so that it goes where necessary?

A methodology or recommendation for city districts on how developer’s contribution for development should be calculated is currently being prepared at Prague Council under the lead of architect Hlaváček. The methodology takes into account different aspects, for instance whether it is a location for which the outline plan presumes development or whether the outline plan has to be changed due to development. Deep discussions are held on this topic; individual city districts require different issues from the developers – requirements for square meterage, contribution, allowances for schools and nursery schools, infrastructure and others. Hardly anyone is aware of the fact that huge sums from taxes paid for residential development go towards public budgets. This is, for instance, done through VAT and with the present-day prices, it is basically CZK 1 million from every apartment. City districts also complain that building activities progress in their areas and that they have to invest in infrastructure, etc., but that they don’t get anything directly from development projects. And that is why they want developers to contribute to one thing or another. This arises the question as to whether it would be just to transfer part of the taxes collected back to the budget of the city district – or at least the city – and use these for costs that arise due to development activities. The only income that goes to the budget of a city district from development is currently the property tax, which is quite low in our country. Nevertheless, this is a matter that applies to the budget allocation of taxes, which is beyond the competence of the capital city.

What is the situation in Slovakia from this point of view? Is it similar?

Approximately two years ago, they introduced charges that stem from the overall area of newly built apartments. But that doesn’t solve the funding of infrastructure either. It is basically a new tax.

You have mentioned co-operation with the council. How does it proceed?

I would definitely like to acknowledge and appreciate the positive development at Prague Council with regards to politicians and office workers’ approach to our business. This is mainly evident from co-operation in the area of planning when dealing with individual changes or when organizing urban tenders. It is a transparent process, which leads to a particular result, though it does not eventually need to be positive for us. What is important is that things are developing and are not just stagnating, which is a significant change compared with previous administration. For instance, changes to the outline plan took too long or were not discussed at all. The council’s approach has changed considerably and they represent a respectable partner for discussion. We can only be pleased about that.

AK

Slatina will be even greener

The Slatina complex in the largest industrial zone Černovická terasa, Brno, provides leases of commercial premises, especially offices, storage facilities and outdoor areas, including comprehensive services and facility backgrounds.

Now there are 12 rental buildings for administration, storage, light industry, retail and services. Nearby the D1 motorway, there is a carpark for approximately 1,100 cars, a petrol station and several smaller buildings. In total, there are some 23,000 sq m of offices, 16,000 sq m of warehouses and 36,000 sq m of outdoor areas leased. Ing. Luděk Beneš, a member of the Board of AREAL SLATINA, a.s., with whom we last spoke at the beginning of this year, answered our questions.

When we last met, nobody had the slightest idea that the economy would be slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemics. How did it influence your plans?

The existing building GREEN BUILDING (hereafter referred to as GB I) remains stably occupied, reaching, by 1st December, coincidentally 99.8% occupancy yet again. The second building GREEN BUILDING II (furthermore referred to as GB II) will undergo final building approval on 10th December. This does correspond with the original plan from September 2019 but the meeting of this deadline required, and still requires, using our team’s and supplier’s total strength. I must also point out a very forthcoming and flexible approach from the workers of the financing bank, Sberbank CZ, a.s. considering the fact that the completion of GB II was fully commenced this year, on 2nd March. The projects, co-ordination, financing, supply of equipment and work were all negotiated and agreed prior to this date. We did account with reserves in the schedule of the development but not with the coronavirus pandemic. What caused us most problems in the spring stage were delayed supplies of equipment from abroad. The building’s technically and technologically advanced level that depend on units and components from Finland, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland and the USA delayed the schedule of the development. This time delay was biggest in May, arriving at a five-week delay. Thanks to increased contractor capacity, we managed to balance the schedule of the development but not completely. What was, however, encouraging was that all the supplies from abroad were here with us or at suppliers’ in the Czech Republic. When the second wave of the pandemic hit, it had a considerable influence on labour. As at the end of September, the construction is managed operatively, literally from day to day, according to the availability of the individual professions.

Did you consider stopping the construction or to postpone the final building approval?

It is certain that if the situation associated with the coronavirus epidemic required it, we would have no other option. Nevertheless, we have taken many organizational and material measures so that we didn’t have to stop or considerably restrict construction via the infection. But we did not discuss the ceasing of the construction or the postponing of the deadline.

Did clients’ requirements regarding the size or layout of the offices or common areas change due to the pandemic?

Yes, they did. There are no requirements for large open office areas. The layout and sizes negotiated last year changed due to the pandemic. The smaller open areas partitioned with screens, cupboards, partition walls and flowers turned into fully-fledged offices. The requirements for common relaxation areas also reduced considerably.

What development do you expect? They speak of the option that many companies will continue to place some or part of their employees (20–25%) to a home office…

We don’t arrive at these ideas with our clients, perhaps because our clients are often companies from the area of mechanical engineering, civil engineering, TZB, logistics and state administration institutions.

To what extent can the demands or requirements for space be changed operatively and to what extent are you prepared to do so?

Our buildings are designed in modules with practically the largest possible level of segmentation without the need to increase costs for safety, servicing, heating, cooling, air exchange, lighting, regulation, control and cabling. This excellent segmentation allows for the creation of individual 17-sq m units. So, we are prepared for it.

With regards to the unclear future of the administrative market: are you planning to continue designing buildings as administrative or is there also a possibility of another variant?

We haven’t dealt with this issue yet. We have contracts for the leasing of 62% of rental area in the GB II building, so there is still a lot of work awaiting us in the following period. It won’t be until years to come that we will see what the future of the administrative market is or isn’t. I believe that the trend will be rectified downwards but only within percentage units.

The Slatina Complex project became known to the public due to the broad utilization of ‘green technologies’. Nevertheless, the development progresses very fast. What do you think can still be improved?

Every solution or detail can still be improved. But if we are to remain in the level of economic return, then the varying of GB II from GB I brought us to the top of the reversal curve. With the minimalization of the overall carbon footprint, energy efficiency and water management and the current level of technology and their costs, it is impossible to achieve any further improvement. We see large reserves in the utilization of renewable resources in combination with energy storing. Under our conditions, it is mainly about locating solar panels above parking places or carports and about small vertical wind power stations. We have accounted with carports from the beginning but this unique solution has no support in comparison with other locations of photovoltaic panels.

Today’s clients are more demanding. They put more emphasis on particular bonuses. In the first building, you provided the tenants with further services via catering establishments and others. What can tenants of the new building expect?

There will be an extended range of services available for tenants from GB II, GB I and other premises, as well as visitors to the whole of the Slatina Complex. The number of public transport routes, which stop in front of the main entrance to the complex, was extended to eight lines. We responded to the increasing interest in online sales via Zásilkovna’s hand out place and an Alzabox. In January 2021, Tesco will open the grocery’s Žabka. A GP’s surgery and surgeries of specialist doctors and two cafes will be set up here during the first half of next year. One of the three main gastronomic operations, including an outdoor seating area with fast-food stand will be considerably expanded. We will also increase the number of charging stations for electric cars to six.

What is the situation with rental prices in Brno? Has there been some progress?

We naturally monitor the competition’s prices but we don’t know the exact price inclusive of all allowances and incentives. A significant aspect lies in location, realization, quality, transportation services and preferences. On our behalf I can confirm that A class administrative premises in our part of Brno do have clients. Our concept of buildings, which puts the emphasis on the quality of the interior environment, space variability, ecology, sufficient number of parking places and services will allow us to increase rental prices in GB II on average by 6% in comparison with GB I.

The impact of the first wave of the pandemic can be fully seen within the real estate market now. Is it possible to define the trends that will show up in months to come?

We can see that the administrative market froze. The market of office rents will not begin until the pandemic is supressed and the economy is fully functional. The situation will gradually return to normal. Home offices will play a more significant role in some segments but administrative work will continue being mainly done in offices. Working and social contact is important in order to achieve excellent team work results. Moreover, home offices require a certain type of environment and background which not every employee has.

The moving of Czechs into rental housing is a current trend. Isn’t it an opportunity for its development? How do you see the current situation?

Development of residential housing is very attractive these days. We are also considering complementing our portfolio with rental housing but we consider it a natural part of space where one lives, works and relaxes. Space for living.

Arnošt Wagner