Companies are searching for ways to cut costs, which provides an opportunity for the construction of energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly buildings, a survey has shown. The first such buildings are being built already.

The current economic crisis seems to be teaching Czech businesses to have a better attitude toward the environment. Only three years ago, a mere 11% of managers at Czech companies wanted to invest money in energy-efficient buildings. In the latest survey by the consulting company Cushman & Wakefield, as many as 77% respondents said they were wiling to pay extra money for environmentally-friendly offices.

The survey proves that managers are searching for new ways to reduce costs. And environmentally-friendly buildings can slash their expenditures on heating, air conditioning and lighting by dozens of per cent.

No fully environmentally-friendly office building has been built in the Czech Republic yet. After all, it is a relatively new phenomenon even in the rest of Europe. In Vienna, for example, a house called Energy Base is now under construction, which will have solar heating and cooling equipment on the facade. The equipment will cover an area of four hundred square metres on the south wall of the building.

“Energy costs in a standard building of this size reach as much as EUR 90,000 a month. Here it will be a fifth of the sum – around EUR 18,000,” said Sepp Rieder from Vienna’s city hall that is financing the project.

The office building WestendDuo in Frankfurt am Mein, Germany, offers similar cost-cutting measures. It has, for example, a geothermal heating system and a facade composed of two panels, where the air between the panels works as an insulation layer.

Environmental surcharge

Companies that want to save energy by moving into environmentally-friendly buildings, however, have to count on higher construction costs.

“Construction costs for green office buildings are about 30% higher compared with the standard ones,” said Radomír Němeček from the developer TriGranit Development.

This is one of the reasons why demand for environmentally-friendly headquarters is not big in the Czech Republic, he added.

And although managers are starting to think seriously about energy-efficient buildings, a mass construction of such houses is not likely to come in foreseeable future.

“We are still in the first stage of the economic crisis, with companies searching for instant savings. And environmentally-friendly headquarters would not bring such savings,” said Arnošt Hejduk, director of the agency Rooney & Bennett that monitors the property market.

“If it turned out that this is not a crisis, but a long-lasting state of the economy, then we could expect a boom in this field,” Hejduk added.

Big corporations will be the first to buy environmentally-friendly houses, he said. “They can afford a longer return on investment,” said Hejduk.

A green building in Prague’s Radlice

ČSOB is one of the first Czech businesses that opted for the “green” way in architecture. Its headquarters in Prague’s Radlice, where the bank’s 2,500 employees started to work last year, is one of the most environmentally-friendly buildings in the Czech Republic.

The five-storey house designed by architect Josef Pleskot has, for instance, Venetian blinds that react to light automatically.

“In summer they let less light in so that the inside temperature is lower and the air conditioning does not have to run at full capacity,” ČSOB spokesman Ivo Měšťánek said. In winter they let more light come into the offices, which helps the company reduce costs of electricity needed for lighting.

There is also a system that uses rainwater to irrigate the garden on the roof of the building.
Thanks to details like these, the CZK 3 billion building is the first building in central Europe to obtain the LEED gold certification, a prestigious US certificate for energy and environmental design.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor