14. Feb 2023
Photo: Dejan Arsenov (Na slici: Lana Apolloni)

An attractive glass facade, greenery on the terraces and roof, a solar power plant, an underground garage in the center of Belgrade with chargers for electric vehicles, sensors on the windows that prevent energy wastage, lots of natural light in the offices, rooms for employee relaxation—these are just some of the benefits that will soon be enjoyed by future tenants of the new office building Revolucija in the center of Belgrade. Investor Granit Invest already has several state-of-the-art office facilities in its portfolio, but with Revolucija, they went a step further. The executive director of the company, Lana Apolloni, reveals to us the most attractive details of this ultra-luxurious building and its innovative construction method, as well as the trends in the furnishing of office premises, which today are dictated by tenants down to the smallest detail.

Lana Apolloni, Executive Director, Granit Invest / Photo: Dejan Arsenov

We are looking forward to the opening of your new office building, Revolucija, which follows the latest construction trend. What would you single out as the most significant innovative solutions that you applied in its design and construction?

The Revolucija building is, in many respects, a unique building in Belgrade. We tried to use innovative, energy-efficient solutions that, on the one hand, follow modern trends in construction and, on the other hand, give Belgrade an authentic, high-luxury business facility.

We used the so-called "top-down" construction system, which required us to build underground and above-ground floors at the same time. This construction system is financially much more demanding for us as an investor, but it enabled us to build 10,000 square meters of office space in the very center of Vračar in record time.

When you look at the Revolucija building, you will immediately notice the smooth, massive pillars, which are cast in natural concrete. We produced perfectly smooth pillars that resemble polished stone by using special one-time formwork with a foil on the inside.

One of our biggest challenges was the glass facade. Some glasses are so large that they were installed by a special jellyfish-like robot that could manipulate the installation of such heavy frames.

A total of 3,000 seedlings were placed on the terraces of the building itself, as well as on the roof, with its own sustainable irrigation system. The elevators installed in the building have the so-called easyflow system, which accelerates the flow through the building by up to 30 percent. All this together gives the building itself and our tenants many benefits in terms of comfort and luxury that are not often found in our market.

Office bulding Revolucija / Photo: Granit Invest

Given that it is an A-class office space, which modern standards in interior design and furnishing have you met that are expected by tenants today?

Tenants, who are our clients, are very demanding and have very specific expectations for the office space they select for their employees. In the past, ten or so years ago, tenants adapted to what lessors offered on the market. The space was mostly offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Today, that is no longer the case. The tenants decide in great detail what they want in the space. We met our clients' demands and installed everything that their corporate standards required. There are a lot of details. Tenants, who are our target group, want the office space to be a pleasant environment with lots of greenery and natural light, a professional kitchen for the employee canteen, special rooms for employees to rest and relax, such as a gym, massage rooms, a mini theater for certain corporate events, and so on. In order for all of this to be fulfilled, it must be known to the investor during construction. Given that we signed the lease agreements for the entire building at a very early stage of development, this is precisely how we carried it out.

Energy savings and sustainable property management have become priorities for all investors and tenants. How energy-efficient and sustainable is Revolucija?

According to today's standards, considerable attention must be paid to energy efficiency while developing luxury office buildings. Revolucija satisfies these requirements in full with the various systems implemented. We have installed a 50 kW solar power plant on the top of the building, which covers the entire surface of the roof. This project was also supported by the EBRD bank through its grant credit lines for energy efficiency.

The BMS control system, as well as special sensors on the windows of the entire building, control the air conditioning and ventilation systems in such a way as to prevent unnecessary waste of energy. We managed to enable the heating of the underground garage by recirculating the used air. We installed electric car chargers in specific parking areas and implemented a system that allows this number to be increased as needed.

Revolucija is located in one of the most attractive locations in the center of Belgrade, which is very exclusive since there are not many opportunities for the construction of new office buildings in the central city area. Do the office space rental prices in premium zones reflect the exclusivity that such locations offer?

Belgrade is in many ways totally in step with other European capitals, but regrettably not in this one. Revolucija is located in the very center of Belgrade, and that location corresponds to what would be called an "extra zone" in European cities. Agents have frequently brought prospective tenants to view office space at Revolucija while comparing our offers with those of various other brand-new office buildings in Mirijevo or Ledine. You will agree that buying a construction site in the center of Belgrade or in Ledine is far from comparable. As a result, we as an investor have a much higher construction cost, and this should be reflected in the rental price. Belgrade will eventually reach the point when premium zones have their own prices that are truly not comparable to those in the suburbs, where the location itself and the cost of construction are significantly lower. This is the case in cities like London, Vienna, and Munich.

Seen from the point of view of investors but also considering the needs of the market, what will pay off more in the coming period—investment in residential or office buildings—and what will be the focus of Granit Invest?

Compared to investors like us, investors in residential construction are unquestionably in a stronger position right now. In Belgrade, the price per square meter for residential properties has increased significantly over the past ten years, but this is not the case for office space on the rent market. Seven or eight years ago, a square meter in Vračar cost 2,500 euros, while today it costs 4,000 to 5,000 euros. The prices of all materials have risen; the price of steel has increased by 100 percent, labor has become more expensive, and therefore the price per square meter has also increased. As an investor in the construction of office buildings, we bear the consequences of the price increases of all the aforementioned. Today, the construction of the same building costs 40 percent more, while the rent per square meter is only about 15 percent higher. We anticipate that the cost of renting office space in upscale areas will increase because, otherwise, investors in this sector will lose interest. This will especially affect property management and maintenance prices, which today do not reflect the increase in costs that is happening in the market. In its plans for the future, Granit Invest has the idea of continuing to invest in the construction of high-luxury office space because we provide services to a small niche of tenants on the market who have high demands but are willing to pay the most expensive square footage rent in Belgrade. Our perspective is that, like a boutique hotel, we remain small enough to be able to respond to the complicated demands of clients, but also large enough to develop new, innovative projects on the real estate market.

By: Jovana Nikolić

Photo: Dejan Arsenov

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