STUDIES show that if an office is too cold, employees experience a 4-percent reduction in performance, while if it is too hot, a 6-percent reduction in productivity is observed. In contrast, better air quality inside a building has been shown to improve workers’ productivity by 8 percent to 11 percent.
“Achieving such impact of healthy and green workspaces is no longer a mere PR stunt but already seen as a necessity,” said Raymond Rufino, Chairman of the Philippine Green Building Council (PhilGBC) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Philippine National Council. One of the keynote speakers in the recent lunch-and-learn event hosted by boutique developer ArthaLand Corp., with the ULI and Hong Kong–based investment firm ARCH Capital.
The event also coincided with ArthaLand’s introduction of its flagship Cebu City project—the 39-storey Cebu Exchange along Salinas Drive just a stone’s throw away from the Cebu IT Park. Touted to become Cebu’s and the Philippines’s largest green building, this distinct office tower is projected to have a total size of 108,550 square meter and is on track to meet the highest certifications in both Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the local Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (Berde) rating of the PhilGBC.
In 2010 there were only a handful of LEED-certified real-estate projects in the Philippines. This number has grown to current 92. In fact, the Philippines is now transitioning into a culture that advocates sustainable design, which makes the country an attractive investment destination. Proof of that is the very positive reception among investors on the Cebu Exchange project.
According to Leo Po, ArthaLand executive vice president and treasurer, the company has already sold a number of units to local Cebuanos, in addition to a number of buyers from neighboring provinces in the Visayas, several business-process outsourcing (BPO) operators in the area, and investors from Metro Manila. The price of an office unit in Cebu Exchange averages P130,000 per sq m, said Po.
Cebu property market
Being the country’s second most important metropolis after Metro Manila, Cebu in recent years has been on the radar of property investors, BPO operators and traditional corporate locators.
According to Leechiu Property Consultants’s Philip Añonuevo, from a current office stock of 917,000 sq m, about 460,000 sq m more will be added to the market over the next five years. “This will make Cebu, in terms of total size, almost comparable to the current size of Ortigas Center or Fort Bonifacio.”
Office rental rates, although still lower compared to Metro Manila, have also been constantly growing in Cebu, which currently are between P600 and P650 per sq m per month in the city’s two major business districts.
“This was the [rental rate] of Grade A office space in Metro Manila about six or seven years ago,” said Añonuevo. “Although property values in Cebu are not observed to grow by leaps and bounds, they grow constantly and surely overtime…so people are assured of a steady investment.”
Green and sustainable developer
Renowned as the developer of noted condo project Arya Residences in Bonifacio Global City, ArthaLand’s sustainable design philosophy is evident in all its projects, including the ones in the pipeline.
“We have an office project in Arca South in Taguig, which will be launched by the end of this year, and an 8-hectare township development in Biñan, Laguna, adjacent to De La Salle University–Science and Technology Complex.”
Scheduled to be launched in the second half of 2019, the latter project, according to Po, will feature student and faculty housing, townhomes, community amenities, and retail and commercial components. Both projects will adhere to the green building principles set by the US Green Building Council and the PhilGBC.
Why go green?
“Life in the city is getting tougher and tougher,” said Rufino. “Then you compound it with climate change…and this is now the kind of life that we have to accept as the new normal.”
The solution environmentalists offer to builders and real-estate developers, said Rufino, is to focus on green buildings and sustainability. “But more than just achieving efficiency and cost-effectiveness, green and sustainability should really be more about resilience, health and well-being.”
“This is the new frontier for green buildings because if you save money for your property, that’s great, but to actually improve the health and well-being of the people who live, work and play in your buildings, then that’s a more powerful argument to support going green.”
This is an outlook shared by ArthaLand. “Cebu is growing faster than the national average,” said Po. “Being close to the Cebu IT Park, there is clearly a business opportunity for more office space. But we are also conscious about the environment and what we bring to the table. We embark on sustainable developments because we want to leave something behind for the future. And there’s no better way to do that than in an industry that is long term like the real-estate industry.”