Interview with Adrian Pop, architect and BREEAM specialist at ADP green building
Nine O’Clock: What is the story behind ADP green building and how did you focus towards the sustainability of constructions?
Adrian Pop: I was passionate about sustainable architecture from college. I felt that it is a more performant architecture, more technological, better integrated in the natural and built environment and healthier for its inhabitants. After some interesting projects and collaborations (working with Romania Green Building Council, with architect Șerban Sturdza being part of the PRISPA management team and doing a community centre for OMV Petrom), in 2013 I moved back to Cluj-Napoca and founded my architecture and sustainable consulting practice: ADP.
We started using the BREEAM standard 8 years ago and we built a very good team, the necessary skills, the knowledge, the identity, partners, clients, portfolio and all the necessary components for a very intense and motivated activity in the field of sustainable constructions.
Nine O’Clock: Why did you choose the BREEAM standard?
Adrian Pop: BREEAM is being administered by a British organization, oriented towards European legislation, while LEED has references from American one. We chose BREEAM because we considered it more appropriate, and over time we specialized in this standard, with various certification options: for existing buildings, new buildings, major renovations or interior design.
In time, we also tried LEED, Living Building Challenge, WELL and EDGE, but our expertise is in the BREEAM standard. On the other hand, WELL is very different standard focusing strictly on the comfort and health of people who use the building. It addresses concerns about air quality, water, thermal or acoustic comfort, also exploring concepts such as nutrition and connection with the natural elements (biophilia). We have 2 accredited professionals (WELL AP) in the team and are looking forward to using this standard.
Nine O’Clock: What significant long-term benefits ensure BREEAM certification?
Adrian Pop: For its users, a building with a high BREEAM certification is healthier and more comfortable. There are a lot of requirements with the focus on the building user’s safety, health and comfort. To name a few, topics like thermal comfort, acoustic comfort, access to daylight, view out, availability to potable water, access to different amenities, safe routes in the exterior spaces, accessibility, mobility, the ability to control comfort conditions (lighting, ventilation, air speed).
For a building owner or investor, it means lower operational costs, resilience, higher value of the building in time and recently even new and very interesting financial benefits as the possibility to issue green bonds or higher chances to obtain credits. As we can see, even the European fundings are focusing on pollution reduction, zero carbon, nearly zero energy buildings, protecting biodiversity etc. All these targets are included in a BREEAM certified building. There are also the values that a building owner or developer promotes, which are more and more important for its potential clients.
For the community, a high BREEAM certified building means less local stress on the infrastructure. A sustainable building requires less energy, it retains large amounts of water during a storm, protects and supports biodiversity, pollutes less, supports alternative transportation systems (electric cars or bicycles), has a less disturbing construction site and offers the community functions, facilities, sometimes even public spaces.
So, all parties can gain from the existence of sustainable buildings. During the last 10 years we noticed how the quality level of a new built environment has visibly increased. To some extent, it is the merit of the requirements of the BREEAM and equivalent standards.
Nine O’Clock: Is the certification procedure repeated at a certain time?
Adrian Pop: Only for the type of certification of existing buildings, where the purpose of the certification is rather to support a policy of improving sustainability. That first certification is rather an assessment, which shows where a building is located and identifies opportunities for improvement, which are the basis of a medium, short or long-term investment plan. Certifications for existing buildings are completely renewed every 3 years.
Nine O’Clock: Since BREEAM appeared in Romania, how many projects have you built / evaluated / monitored?
Adrian Pop: From the 197 BREEAM certified projects in Romania, 84 were handled by the ADP green building team. The vast majority of our projects are Very Good or Excellent, and 2 projects are Outstanding.
Nine O’Clock: What kind of modern technical solutions have been implemented by the developers you have collaborated with?
Adrian Pop: Penny Otopeni store has a very special roof: about 40% is covered with photovoltaic panels, and the rest of it is green. It has 55 solar tubes, which capture natural light and carry it inside the store, turning it into diffused light, thus avoiding the risk of damage to food products. Customers’ thermal comfort has been increased with the introduction of refrigerating display cases with doors, reducing the energy consumption. Also, rainwater is collected in a retention tank, being reused for toilets and irrigation. The green roof, trees and shrubs, climbing plants on the side facades, birdhouses and insect habitats, they all contribute to the conservation of biodiversity.
The Vox Vertical Village project, from Timișoara, has an innovative approach to collective housing. Compared to an ordinary block of flats, with apartments placed next to each other as efficiently as possible, Vox Vertical Village distances the apartments, making room for large terraces, approximately equal to the interior surface of the apartments. The building thus becomes ventilated, natural light penetrates everywhere. The developer, together with teams of architects and landscapers, have proposed, in addition, to include vegetation on all terraces and common areas, which reach from the ground floor to the 10th floor.
Another collaboration is the one with CTP Romania and soon with CTP Bulgaria. CTP is the largest owner of logistics spaces in Central and Eastern Europe, which in 2019 decided to certify all its halls. In Romania, we evaluated and certified approximately 50 existing buildings, usually built by other developers and currently managed by CTP, as well as 15 new halls, built in accordance with the CTP standards.
Nine O’Clock: Is Penny Otopeni the first Outstanding certificate obtained for a retail project according to the new BREEAM standards in 2016?
Adrian Pop: It is the first project in the world to achieve the Outstanding level on the latest version of the new construction standard (BREEAM New Construction 2016). And the score obtained, 95.24% is still the highest one given on this latest version of the BREEAM New Construction 2016 standard. In March 2020, Penny Otopeni was designated the most sustainable building in Central and Eastern Europe. We also conducted an assessment and certification using the standard for existing buildings, BREEAM In-Use, where Penny Otopeni also holds the record score in the world, with 99.4%. We have a few first and highest results for Penny Otopeni and last week was also awarded as the most sustainable building in Central and Easter Europe at BREEAM Awards 2021.
Nine O’Clock: Why should a developer be interested in aligning their projects with the standards imposed by BREEAM?
Adrian Pop: For developers, the certification of a building can bring consistency to the brand, a guarantee for customers that the building has a higher level of quality, which meets the requirements of a more educated market. Investors know that a certified building has a higher market value and in uncertain situations, such as the one we are going through, it is more likely to retain its value or to be quickly rented or sold. BREEAM says that a certified building is 8-12% more valuable than a standard building. We can observe in the market that a significant number of large portfolio owners are going through a mass certification process just before they plan to sell or to be listed in the stock exchange. This confirms the fact that the certification process improves the buildings and raises their value.
Lately, green bond issues have become extremely popular, with large owners of building portfolios managing to attract large sums of money for financing and refinancing. CTP is the most known example: they issued green bonds this year and raised 1.55 billion euros in just a few weeks. BREEAM certification has a very important role in such processes. Green bond issues are regulated and the funds obtained must be invested in energy efficiency measures, biodiversity protection, pollution reduction, resilience, adaptation to climate change.