Timeless housing estates - how are they created? Report from "Developer Day 2019"

Timeless housing estates - how are they created? Report from "Developer Day 2019"

During this year’s edition of Dni Dewelopera Wrocław hosted an acclaimed urbanist – Charles Montgomery, the author of Happy City. Together with him, the invited speakers and participants considered what happy cities look like, and what makes them timeless. 

How to design buildings and housing estates that will not become obsolete? How do new forms of mobility affect the customers’ expectations and the newly-designed housing estates? These were some of the topics discussed during Dni Dewelopera 2019.

Global trends in residential development

- In today’s world the most valuable currency is time. Developers are perfectly aware of that, that’s why they focus on seeking technological solutions that accelerate the construction process. Recently, the opportunity to achieve that comes in the form of increasingly more popular prefabrication, a common technology used comprehensively in Scandinavia. It is no longer associated exclusively with the modular buildings of decades ago. Developers not only order prefabrication of particular elements, such as stairs, ceilings, or balconies, but are considering prefabricating entire buildings. By preparing large-sized construction elements off-site we reduce the construction process to the assembly of such elements only. This way we are able to save as much as 30% time, compared to traditional development methods. - says Natalia Sawicka, member of the Board of the Polish Association of Developers and Sales and Marketing Director at Angel Poland Group.

- Currently in Poland only about 1% of all buildings are completed using this technology. I anticipate that its popularity will rise. It is a modern method that not only guarantees good quality of individual elements, but primarily solves the all too well known issue of access to labour force that developers are facing. Prefabrication (starting with smaller, repeatable residential buildings) provides an opportunity to limit the increase of the costs of construction. – adds Piotr Baran, Vice-President of the Wrocław Branch of the Polish Association of Developers, President of the Management Board of PCG development group.

Timbre construction is coming back. This is evidenced by the fact that in Japan for several years now  all public facilities of up to three floors have to be developed using this technology. Currently the tallest mixed use structure developed applying timbre technology rises to 85 m and is located in Norway. More projects are being developed in Canada and in Europe. This tendency is well received by the industry. 

At this year’s edition of the property event in Cannes (MIPIM 2019) the Residential Development prize was awarded to Woodie Student Housing, a co-living project developed in Hamburg. It was constructed using prefabricated technology and CTL, i.e. cross laminated timbre, whose properties resemble that of steel and concrete. – explains Natalia Sawicka.


Using modern technologies 

Technologies that so far have been employed mainly in commercial facilities are slowly entering the residential market. It’s BIM – Building Information Modelling. Approach that allows for an ongoing monitoring of information about the developed facility, the related costs, and schedules. It also makes it possible to simplify the design process itself – by enabling buildings to be modelled using 3D technology. The next step in the application of BIM is building management, as well as support during further extension, redevelopment, or complete decommissioning of facilities. Interest in this technology is growing among architects, building materials manufacturers, and suppliers alike. A good example is Xella, a company that used BIM to develop an application for automated selection of blocks, lintels, or other design elements, which made it easy to select the most cost-effective solutions that support the anticipated loads and comply with the relevant thermal requirements.

State-of-the-art solutions include also smart technology used not only by apartment buyers (to control lighting of the heating system, among other things), but also by property managers themselves. For example, Schindler implemented a comprehensive application that automates the lift management processes. It controls the lift operation, which in turn supports processes related to inspections and preventing failures or facilitating their removal. Additionally, we are seeing an increasingly more widespread use of remote water consumption reading systems in buildings, which enable managers to detect excessive usage in particular apartments, and thus prevent possible flooding damage – these are only some of the solutions offered by Fortum, whose representatives spoke during Dni Dewelopera about the importance of implementing IT solutions when selecting solutions and equipment at the stage of design, development, or utilization of facilities. The use of technologies also contributes to gradual abandoning of physical protection in favour of extensive monitoring systems connected to response centres of security companies, making it possible for the owners’ associations to shift the function of the persons present within the building to a more concierge-like role.

Smart solutions in apartments are predominantly something that concerns apartments bought to satisfy own housing needs - claim the representatives of KODO, a company that delivers several hundred interior finishing projects a year. They have observed that this issue is not yet significant from the point of view of customers who acquire apartments intended for long-term lease - such buyers treat smart solutions as a marketing gadget. KODO poses also that over time, society can start to defend against the increased presence of technology in life – wishing to preserve more privacy, without even more “big data” about them being collected.

Environmental and social angle

In the age of the climate crisis, in their operations the developers implement increasingly more strict technical conditions, in an aim to reduce the carbon footprint op the developed residential buildings.

It drives developers to look for other forms of competitive advantage. Until recently, triple-glazed windows were an element that increased the investment standard, now they are becoming commonly used. The same is true for thermal insulation of buildings – the general requirements the developers have to meet keep getting higher. - says Piotr Baran.

This causes the developers to focus more on more on the motto: we build apartments, we build communities. Façades can be additionally insulated, staircases repainted, windows replaced, but it is difficult to change or add functions to already existing buildings. That is why, in addition to such elements as common playgrounds or benches in external courtyards, more and more frequently developers provide resident clubs, children’s playrooms in buildings, indoor gyms, and professionally equipped fitness rooms in residential buildings.

Consequently, developers are entering into a new stage of relations with the users of their products – as, together with the manager of a particular building, they become a kind of an organiser of the life of a given community. As the number of single person households is growing, over time such functions will gain significance, because after the era of separating themselves from the “every day world” with the use of Internet, our residents are reverting back to establishing relations, and in this an important role is played both by the developer – at the investment design stage, and the manager at a later stage of the life of community. – explains Natalia Sawicka.

Designing is also directly impacted by changes in the mobility of urban residents. One of the topics addressed during this year’s edition of Dni Dewelopera concerned the number of parking spaces that should be developed with new residential projects. Developers agree that the real cost of construction of a parking space greatly exceeds the price for which it is later sold.

For the buyer it means that even when they buy an apartment without a parking space, they are in fact subsidising the parking space that had to be built in the garage. In the future a problem will emerge in owners’ associations of how to utilise unused garage areas, which will not only generate costs for the owner of the parking space, but also for the owners’ association. - observes Piotr Baran, and adds that the standards related to the number of parking spaces imposed on developers are often inflated, and the developers often face difficulties selling them. In the light of new mobility trends, increasingly more compact cities with better public transport systems, the public-private dialogue about the number of parking spaces constructed must be continued.

The above is fully reflected in what Charles Montgomery, a world-renown urbanist and an honorary guest and speaker of Dni Dewelopera, says in his best-selling book  A separate issue is the matter of adjusting parking spaces for the owners of electrical cars – this area is only now growing in Poland.

Green focus

Developers pay attention to greenery, which is beginning to play a dominant role in the newly-developed projects. The function of green areas is no longer typically decorative, as they become the element preventing climate change, therefore it is so important that they be well designed. Additionally, greenery is not only grass in courtyards along residential buildings, but also the increasingly more popular green walls and greenery on the roofs. A study will be announced as soon as in December, prepared by EcoAvengers, acting under the auspices of the Polish Association of Developers, proposing eco-friendly, low-cost solutions that will help any developer become more green. An introduction to this initiative was the Decalogue presented at Dni Dewelopera, presented in more detail at: http://ecoavengers.pzfd.pl/index.php/2019/10/18/dni-dewelopera/ .  

Dni Dewelopera

Dni Dewelopera is a cyclical event dedicated to the property development industry, which this year was held on 16 October in the National Forum of Music in Wrocław. The conference is organised by the Wrocław branch of the Polish Association of Developers. This year’s edition garnered great interest and was attended by over 800 participants. The keynote speaker was Charles Montgomery, author of the internationally acclaimed Happy City. In his publication he combines the art of urban planning with the science of happiness, while at the same time addressing the question of the future of cities, which, according to WHO, by 2051 will be home to almost 66% of the population.