Why real-estate development should be about ‘giving back to the land’

column-amor maclangSUSTAINABILITY, in the context of real-estate development, requires a design that considers and gives back to the land.

As I have always said in the past, the impact of design calculates the iconicity of a development. When a structure presents a thoughtfully designed façade, for example, it immediately becomes a recognizable building—a landmark that stands tall in its location, an enormous signage that pins down directions. Hence, if you are building to establish an image, know that you need to show you are ridiculously good at it. On the other hand, if you are building to preserve your reputation, know very well that you should first have a clear understanding of where your identity as a company is rooted.

The challenge, however, remains huge for developers eyeing to build a reputation through design. Remember that an iconic architecture or design can never be a substitute for trust. Clearly, you will need more than just an innovative design or a highfaluting architecture; you need to earn the confidence of the market you can, indeed, get the job done. The real-estate market has grown wise enough over the years; their needs and wants in choosing a place to work or live in are determined by convenience, safety, and even how the place affects their respective lifestyles. They have learned from the mistakes of the past and are now consciously looking beyond the aesthetics.

Strengthening your core

One institution that has particularly fared well in strengthening their identity is Arthaland. Through Arya Residences, the company’s flagship residential condominium in Bonifacio Global City, Arthaland has solidified its position with the benchmark development of the Philippine Green Building Council’s BERDE (Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence) Program, and is recognized by global organizations for quality and sustainability.

“United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recently called 2015 the year of action on global challenges and the year of sustainability. Additionally, the pope called on us to make our contribution in showing concern for the environment,” Arthaland President and CEO Angie de Villa Lacson said in a recent interview. “What these tell us is that the right thing to do is to be responsible citizens of the earth in whatever small way we can. What we want to do is to enable our customers to practice an ecologically conscious lifestyle—using energy efficiently, consuming water efficiently, using nontoxic materials, among a lot of other options. These may be small and easy steps that we have embedded in the design and construction of our properties but we know that these practices will help alleviate the effects of climate change and resource depletion in the long run.”

What I’d like to share by taking Arthaland as an example is the idea of designing your brand like you were choosing your wardrobe—attractive but unique to you and your company. Strengthening your identity as an institution that champions sustainability is built on communications, visuals, and customer experience, but mostly it’s built on what other people say about you.

Community engagement as the new battleground

In an era when communities of people demand a higher degree of sincerity, marketing has become more about creating greater value for the land and upholding sustainability for your community from all fronts.

This is exactly the reason I have always spoken about stakeholder mapping as the new marketing. While the media remains important, obviously, it’s what everyone says about you—from your employees to your sales force, to your customers, to your brokers, to your competitors, to the government, and industry experts—that ultimately decides your reputation. If only one channel of communications is managed, the others can easily become problematic and may end up countering any good publicity that you get.

How do we ensure that we create programs that improve the greatest number of lives? You need to care about what people say about you. Engagement through marketing calls for the sincere and genuine engagements with members of various communities.

This is one of the many reasons when we do tourism planning for our partners from the local government sector, we just don’t stop with creating a catchy advertisement slogan. It’s about engaging the entire population, the youth, the farmers, the indigenous communities, and the tourism industry to be able to communicate the same way. It’s about ensuring that we promote the interests of all concerned groups without sacrificing those that are of lesser priority.

At the end of the day, our sworn mission as real-estate developers should always rest on making sure that we give the land the development that it truly deserves.


Erratum: In my column published on March 10, titled “Is the Philippines equipped to build the next generation of cities?” the photo captions for two of our resource persons, Cemex Asia Director for Business Development Arturo Rodriguez and Matimco Inc. Marketing Director Billy Arrienda, were accidentally interchanged.


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