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edition 6 (221)
June 2017

Apartments for the not-so-young

Interviewer: Tomasz Cudowski

Apartments for the not-so-young
Bartosz Kalinowski, the managing director of Skanska Residential Development Poland

Is the construction of environmentally-friendly estates profitable? In financial terms, I mean.

Bartosz Kalinowski, managing director, Skanska Residential Development Poland: Our sales results clearly confirm that it is. We are currently experiencing a boom on this market, with virtually every project selling out – but buyers have also become more demanding. They are not only interested in the size, the view from the window and the price, but also the materials the building is made of. And so compliance with construction standards or assurances that the materials are free from harmful compounds are not enough – buyers are asking whether they are safe for people with specific allergies or conditions. So the best approach is simply to build healthy homes.

But every developer would insist that they build homes that are both healthy and in harmony with the eco-system.

The difference is that our clients do not just have to take our word for it. We were the first developer in the country to insist upon BREEAM certification for all our new residential projects, which involves the assessment of each project by authorised auditors according to stringent criteria. We minimise the carbon dioxide emissions from the very beginning of the construction and, for example, in the case of the Jaśminowy Mokotów estate in Warsaw 100 pct of the power used on the construction site comes from renewable energy sources. In April we contracted Innogy Poland to supply our building site exclusively with power generated by wind farms – and this is the first contract of its kind in Poland. And the EU has a clear commitment for 20 pct of the power generated in EU countries to come from renewable energy sources by 2020.

You also commission audits of your estates to establish their friendliness for the disabled. But what is this for? After all, if you dont you design them in line with the existing regulations in this area, you wont get a building permit.

The provisions of the construction law are not sufficient in this area – they represent the absolute minimum of what is required and do not cover many of the conditions people have to live with. We are not fully competent in this respect either, which is why we order such audits from the Integration Foundation. It is they who identify the various or potential problems at the design stage, giving us the time to make the necessary corrections.

What kind of problems might they be?

For example, the buttons in the lifts: the glass, smooth touch panels used to be popular, but they could not be operated by the visually impaired. Buttons that protrude and that are clearly labelled are definitely much friendlier for them. Having contrasting wall colours in the common areas are also desirable because they make it easier for the visually impaired to move around. Our Holm House estate in Warsaw was the first project in Poland to obtain a ‘No Barrier Facility’ certificate from the Integration Foundation – this is a guarantee that disabled residents will not have to contend with any architectural barriers.

Still, more convenient common areas might not be enough for the disabled shouldnt apartments also be friendlier in this respect?

This is why in each of our projects a number of apartments are designed for people with a variety of physical ailments – for instance, 40 pct of the apartments in the second stage of the Mickiewicza estate. The amenities include threshold-free passageways between rooms, less heavy doors that do not require much strength to open and that include a system for slowing down their closing, lower window handles and video entry phones. It is worth pointing out that such layouts in residential buildings counteract factors that typically lead to social exclusion – the fully-fit and the disabled, the younger and the elderly, all live under the one roof, thus encouraging integration and connecting the generations.

It seems to me that the opposite trend has recently been gaining in popularity the construction of residential facilities specifically for senior citizens or the disabled far away from city centres. Is Skanska pushing for the opposite approach?

In a sense, yes. Such separate projects on the outskirts might give residents peace and quiet far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but they result in the creation of closed enclaves. This in turn strengthens the phenomenon of social exclusion and does not help the development of local communities made up of diverse groups of people. We need to remember that architecture is not just about the buildings, but also what happens inside them.

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