Mihai Păduroiu, CEO Office Division One United Properties: Companies prioritize spaces that put first the physical and mental health of their employees
The office sector has gone through significant changes in recent years, partly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote and hybrid work. Mihai Păduroiu, CEO Office Division One United Properties, one of the biggest developers in Bucharest, talks in this interview about the new trends in the office market and how they have shaped One’s office developments.
The COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid work and flexible spaces, new smart office solutions and sustainable technologies have set new standards for office developers in recent years. Companies no longer focus just on how much they pay for the lease but also on having flexible, healthy and sustainable work spaces for their employees.
“One of the prominent trends we've observed is the heightened focus on employee well-being and health. Tenants and businesses now prioritize spaces that put first the physical and mental health of their employees, which has a direct impact on productivity and satisfaction,” says Mihai Păduroiu, CEO Office Division One United Properties.
“Another trend that we saw growing is that if some years ago, clients were mainly interested in the commercial terms of the lease (rent price, service charge, facilities, etc.), nowadays attention shifted towards green building certifications. Almost all companies are looking for ways to upgrade their classic offices and turn them into healthy, employee-oriented spaces where work feels less like a chore,” he explains.
In this interview, Mihai Păduroiu, CEO Office Division One United Properties, talks about:
- Trends and shifts in the office sector
- Incorporating sustainable practices and green design into office developments
- Addressing the companies’ need for flexible spaces
- Mixed-use developments as a solution for hybrid work models
- Smart office solutions and sustainable technologies
- Strategies to attract and retain tenants
What trends and shifts have you observed within the office sector during these recent years, and how has your company adapted to these changes?
Mihai Păduroiu: The office sector has indeed witnessed significant changes in recent years, driven in part by the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the prominent trends we've observed is the heightened focus on employee well-being and health. Tenants and businesses now prioritize spaces that put first the physical and mental health of their employees, which has a direct impact on productivity and satisfaction. One United Properties was already in line with this trend as our office design incorporate modern, certified, comfortable, and well-ventilated working spaces that prioritize the well-being of those inside the building.
Our office spaces emphasize elements of collaboration, connectivity, focus, and organizational culture. Furthermore, our developments offer areas for relaxation and leisure to foster a sense of work-life balance, which is essential in the post-pandemic era. Many of our developments also come with a range of amenities, such as gyms, restaurants, and coffee shops, providing all-inclusive services near the workplace.
Another trend that we saw growing is that if some years ago, clients were mainly interested in the commercial terms of the lease (rent price, service charge, facilities, etc.), nowadays attention shifted towards green building certifications. Almost all companies are looking for ways to upgrade their classic offices and turn them into healthy, employee-oriented spaces where work feels less like a chore.
Sustainability and eco-friendliness have become important factors in real estate. How does One United Properties incorporate sustainable practices and green design into its office developments?
Mihai Păduroiu: Sustainability and eco-friendliness are paramount in our office developments. Last year, One Tower office building achieved the highest level of certification from the US Green Building Council, LEED v4 Building Design and Construction Platinum. It is the first office building in Romania to earn this distinction. When it comes to the design of a sustainable office building, our experts incorporate timeless lines, warm earthy colours, natural and sustainable materials such as wood, marble, and stone in our design concepts, which we complement with accent pieces that bring character to the space. Another concern when it comes to workspaces is ensuring ample natural light, as we know it has an impact on productivity and concentration while also promoting responsible energy consumption.
Another trend that supports the idea of sustainability is the creation of multifunctional and modular areas, which translates to a judicious use of space without compromising comfort. With a creative approach and a focus on ergonomics, we can have both work areas and spaces for team interaction or client meetings within the same premises. This means an efficient approach, better investment control, and responsible consumption of resources such as energy, materials, and water.
Flexibility in office spaces is now more crucial than ever. How do you design your office projects to accommodate the changing needs of businesses and their employees?
Mihai Păduroiu: Flexibility is indeed vital in today's office spaces, and our designs embrace this concept. We've adapted to accommodate the changing needs of businesses and their employees by offering flexible and ergonomic spaces. This approach aligns with the increasing demand for agile and activity-based working, allowing employees to choose from various work settings based on their tasks and preferences.
One office developments offer flexible and ergonomic spaces with a focus on sustainability and employee comfort, integrated with various technologies, interactive areas that stimulate creativity but also interaction and communication between departments, and many integrated facilities. The office of the future includes numerous functions such as a kitchen, coffee points, terraces, and even relaxation rooms equipped with massage chairs. The highly discussed concept of flexible work also fuels the creation of temporary office concepts or shared office spaces.
Today many companies are exploring hybrid work models. How is One United Properties addressing the demand for flexible workspace solutions in your developments?
Mihai Păduroiu: To meet the growing demand for flexible workspace solutions, One United Properties is attentive to the trend of hybrid work models. We've seen employees increasingly opting for the "work near home" concept, which reduces commute times and provides access to all-inclusive services near the workplace. We anticipate more mixed-use developments to emerge to cater to this demand.
For instance, our One Cotroceni Park development is a mixed-use project developed under the "Live-Work-Play" concept. This project truly represents a city within a city, where everything one needs is readily available, from fitness facilities to restaurants, homes and offices.
One Cotroceni Park has attracted several renowned tenants in the past two years, such as Ford, Siemens, Superbet, DB Cargo, etc. British Council, a global leader in cultural relations, has established a centre at One Cotroceni Park. This strategic partnership aligns with the British Council's strategy to expand its centres and connect with students worldwide. The centre commenced its operations on September 18, 2023, underscoring One United Properties' commitment to supporting educational initiatives and offering a diverse range of facilities to its tenants.
Furthermore, One Cotroceni Park has temporarily become the home for students from the IG Duca Secondary School in Sector 5 of Bucharest. Not only has One United Properties provided this space without charging rent, but we have also taken care of all the preparations and design, investing approximately 830,000 euros in the project.
One developments are more than office buildings, they aim to create a strong sense of belonging to a vibrant community.
Collaboration and community-building within office spaces have gained prominence. How do your office projects foster a sense of community and connectivity among tenants?
Mihai Păduroiu: Our office projects are designed with collaboration and community-building in mind. We have witnessed a rising interest from employers in efficiently designed offices that provide ideal working conditions, prioritize employee health, and offer relaxation options. Our developments are not just office spaces; they are designed to create a "lifestyle at work." This approach includes employee-friendly workspaces, relaxation areas, and aesthetics that contribute to a harmonious work environment.
For One tenants and their employees, the benefits range from access to high-end sustainable office spaces, with lots of commercial facilities around (gym, restaurants, coffee shops) that provide all necessary conditions to real work-life balance, to time efficiency and, last but not least, being part of a community that shares the same values and occupations.
In light of the growing prominence of energy-efficient technologies, can you provide insights into how One United Properties integrates smart office solutions and sustainable technologies to not only enhance the tenant experience but also promote energy efficiency?
Mihai Păduroiu: Technology plays a crucial role in the modern office market as we are witnessing, all over Europe, a surge in demand for smart office spaces with advanced connectivity, digital infrastructure, and integrated systems that enhance efficiency and productivity.
At One United Properties, we made technology and integral part to our office developments, enhancing the tenant experience. We incorporate smart office solutions that optimize energy efficiency, improve security, and create a connected environment. This includes advanced technologies like IoT-enabled sensors, automated climate controls, and data-driven building management, ensuring an efficient and modern office experience.
As for energy efficiency, this is important not only for residential complexes but also for office buildings and commercial spaces. Although the initial investment may be higher, it is offset by lower energy and water consumption. Moreover, these buildings will have a smaller impact on the surrounding environment, employees will be more productive, and future generations will be able to enjoy a healthy and clean environment.
If we take the example of One Cotroceni Park, a series of energy efficiency policies have been implemented. A system has been created to recover energy generated by fans, heaters, air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and elevators. Furthermore, the air is filtered to provide 100% freshness. Additionally, the gas boilers installed have an efficiency of 96%.
Equally interesting is the case of One Tower, that obtained the LEED v4 Platinum certification. The building demonstrates that it is possible to operate sustainably while providing employees with an environment that encourages productivity and innovation. The implemented technology enhances the energy efficiency of the building. It is estimated to reduce annual energy costs by 35% and decrease the use of potable water by up to 50%. Additionally, large windows allow natural light to penetrate easily, comfortable spaces are provided, and high-performance heating and ventilation systems are in place.
The future of the office sector remains dynamic. How do you see it evolving in the coming years, which challenges do see on the way and what role does One United Properties plan to play in shaping this future?
Mihai Păduroiu: As the office sector continues to evolve, we anticipate a growing emphasis on wellness, sustainability, and technology. One United Properties is committed to shaping the future by providing multifunctional integrated developments that align with the changing needs and preferences of businesses and employees.
Like any other professional field, the real estate market has its unique challenges, but these can be easily overcome when approached with responsibility and attention to detail. Preparing, budgeting, and conducting thorough research are crucial phases in project implementation, and by dedicating time and effort to these aspects, we can minimize unexpected risks. Overall, from our perspective, the office real estate market exhibits significant maturity and stability.
In a competitive market, what strategies do you employ to attract and retain tenants for your office developments?
Mihai Păduroiu: We have a portfolio strategically located across various key points in Bucharest and one that caters to a wide range of tenants. One United Properties' commercial portfolio, which includes One Tower, One Cotroceni Park Office Phase 1 and Phase 2, One Victoriei Plaza, alongside retail components like Bucur Obor and One Gallery, reaches a Gross Leasable Area (GLA) of approximately 160,000 square meters. These locations are highly adaptable from a budgetary perspective, ensuring that every potential client can find a suitable option within our portfolio.
Moreover, we offer diverse and adaptable office spaces, emphasizing quality design, sustainability, and wellness, and providing an array of amenities and services to create an appealing work environment. We also focus on strategic location selection and flexibility to cater to the evolving needs of businesses.
*This interview was edited by Romania Insider for One United Properties.