In an interview with Paulo Castro, CEO of the Castro Group, we learned more about the impact that FUSE VALLEY will have on future projects and better understand some topics that currently mark the real estate investment landscape, such as: how is the pandemic to influence construction, the importance of sustainability for the sector and how cities are being involved in new projects.
“Innovation, sustainability and well-being” are the main characteristics of FUSE VALLEY, the future centre for technological innovation that will be developed in Matosinhos. In all, the space will have 140 thousand square meters, of which FARFETCH will occupy 60 thousand. The remaining space will be under the responsibility of the Castro Group and will be occupied by office and service buildings, a hotel with 75 rooms, 42 apartments, an open-air amphitheatre, among other facilities.
The pandemic came to mess with the way people lived and idealized both office spaces and housing spaces. Therefore, today we realize that there is a need to balance what both provide us. So, currently in offices, we seek to find places of comfort and well-being, where you can have meals peacefully, with leisure areas, for example. At the same time, at home, we value the existence of a refuge where we can peacefully work and carry out our functions. The pandemic made us review concepts established about the use of each of these places in our daily lives. In addition to housing and offices, the pandemic also led to a review/rethink in the commercial sector. In this aspect, we are already thinking about the future stores because today, we have an explosion of e-commerce that has changed the paradigm of purchasing goods, for example.
In addition to all this, regardless of the future of these segments, culture and green areas will have to be part of the equation. This topic is highly complex, as it questions how we, real estate developers, think about projects. In other words, in the past, thinking focused on maximizing profit, but today, a more excellent balance is sought between profitability and the comfort of those who will enjoy the space, whether for work or housing, respecting values such as sustainability or energy efficiency. We believe that these factors are decisive for valuing the enterprise and selling the product, either to the final customer or the funds; otherwise, we will not be able to enter these markets.
Still, we have already decided that all our projects will have to have environmental certification on sustainability. All promoters will be encouraged to do the same in the future, as the market is moving in that direction, and customers will demand it.
About the Castro Group’s projects in its portfolio, we can conclude that the pandemic did not change the real estate developments themselves, but rather the layout, namely the offices. In other words, a company that would install 100 people in 1000m2 today will need about 1200 to 1500m2 to be able to develop a layout adapted to the needs that the pandemic has made more evident, or the same 1000m2 in case organizations opt for a hybrid model.
This can always have two readings. This environmental concern and sustainability have costs and implications for projects and companies. On the one hand, it is necessary to demystify these implications and, on the other hand, to act so that this impact is less and less. See, for example, that recycled plastic is more expensive than new plastic, and this needs to be reversed. The sustainability “chain” must be adjusted so that these concerns do not have an inverse result and adversely affect the company. The market is still reluctant to use these practices because the rational/economic cycle does not close.
Additional costs associated with our sustainability goals, namely LEED Gold and WELL Gold certification, can be up to 10% based on traditional construction. Despite everything, we know that this cost will bring economic and environmental benefits soon.
I once read a definition of sustainability, which for me is, to this day, the best: sustainability is a way of being in life and business, in an economically viable, ecologically correct, socially fair and culturally diverse way. In this equation, which includes the socio-cultural and ecological sides as pillars, the “economically viable” is not yet a reality. Paulo Castro, CEO Castro Group
All the values that we want to imprint on our projects, namely sustainability, start with the procurement, choice of location, go through the project, and, obviously, in work. In the Group, we already have these concerns in mind, and we are even working with our eyes on innovative construction techniques that we want to associate with our projects. We believe that all projects will be required to include these premises in the future. This cycle will be closed when the companies that rent or buy the spaces include these environmental values. Thus, from the moment the end customer has these ecological concerns and demands that they materialize, we promoters will have no other option but to guarantee more innovative and environmental projects.
Yes, that will be one of our bets. More than generating energy, we seek to build an efficient building that allows us to save the consumption of that energy. Efficient facades and HVAC systems, green roofs that will enable more excellent indoor temperature balance, and BMS (Building Management System) systems for managing operations are possibilities.
As for energy production, we are still studying the best solutions we want to apply, but photovoltaic panels for individual self-consumption will be a reality.
There is a Net Zero ambition for the buildings themselves. We know that getting there can be very complicated because there is a big difference between going to zero and being zero, especially in terms of investment. However, on our part, we will do everything possible to achieve Net-Zero. In this regard, we are currently benchmarking internationally renowned consultants and, therefore, we believe that the final result will be very positive.
However, the steps to be taken in this area largely depend on the regulation, which, at the moment, is very unstable, which has implications for our action because we do not know how far we can go, even when we want to do more.
Despite some difficulties that we may encounter along the way, there are goals from the European Union and the world for decarbonization, so we have to do something and, therefore, we believe that we will be able to implement some pioneering solutions.
Yes, it’s true! Because of the connection we have with the community, the open spaces, the location in the urban fabric, because we have some activities in which we invite the community to participate and because we program other activities within the enterprise that goes beyond work.
In the case of FUSE VALLEY, designed as you know by BIG, this development brings together several components in a single space – work, commercial, social, cultural and leisure – which, like other business parks that we already know internationally, seeks to meet the needs of the development itself. However, the existence of this concept does not imply that people live exclusively in this space. They can perfectly work in one place and live in another. What is required is, for example, a good transport network.
FUSE VALLEY is available for the city, for the community, because what we will develop will not only be for those who work there. As well as the opposite: the people who work there will be able to enjoy the city. Paulo Castro, CEO Castro Group
The choice of location for FUSE VALLEY was extensively studied and did not happen by chance. Matosinhos effectively provides a series of conditions that promote the attraction of companies and people, but with this project, we also seek to boost this location to another dimension. However, we can also say that FUSE VALLEY is much more than the space where it is located.
Next to FUSE VALLEY, there are other business parks, and we have other projects for the same area. We believe that Matosinhos and the entire Porto Metropolitan Area and the Northern Region, due to its current characteristics and the ones it is developing, will increasingly attract more talent and become a reference, even abroad, for companies that want to establish themselves here.
It is not just a quiet location and a modern environment, but also an innovative offer, based on the pillars we defined for the project: sustainability, well-being and innovation. Paulo Castro, CEO Castro Group
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