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Architects look optimistically to the future. Interview with Maciej Zuber

07 of December '23

The biggest change is visible in the residential sector. It is from developers that we are currently receiving the most inquiries about new projects ," says architect Maciej Zuber, owner of the Archas Design studio in Bielsko-Biala, president of the SARP branch in Bielsko-Biala, vice-chairman of the Regional Revision Committee of the Silesian Chamber of Architects and plenipotentiary of the SARP General Board for BIM.

A difficult period in the real estate industry is behind us, related first to the Covid-19 pandemic, and then to the energy crisis and the rise in commodity prices caused by the war in Ukraine. Has the long-awaited optimism returned to the market?

Maciej Zuber: All signals coming from the market point to this. The biggest change can be seen in the residential sector. It is from developers that we are currently receiving the most inquiries about new projects. On the wave of huge interest in units, mainly those meeting the criteria of the First Apartment program, investors have begun to quickly finish estates under construction and launch projects that were planned earlier, but frozen due to the crisis. The "2%" credit has undoubtedly revitalized the real estate industry, as has been particularly evident in recent months. However, another effect of its introduction should be noted, and that is the increase in real estate prices, which is no longer good news for buyers.

How then to shape a housing policy that would meet the needs of all social groups?

Maciej Zuber: Such an idea, for example, is the development of local government investments, including in the form of public-private partnerships, in rental housing and increasing the availability of units for a wide range of people. The long-term rental market should be developed with a view, for example, to Ukrainians who have settled in our country and, over time, have also moved their businesses here. Students are also an important group in the rental market. There are quite a few among them who can afford it and are willing to take advantage of such an offer. All this will have an impact on the number of available units and their price.

Shaping a sustainable housing policy in Poland is a fundamental challenge for the entire industry for decades to come. The new government will have to address this topic as a priority. Close cooperation between officials and ministries and architects - the General Board of SARP and the Chamber of Architects of Poland - is also necessary here, as well as listening to the voices of specialists, including the Association of Home Builders.

You design not only housing estates. The studio is known for its designs of large-scale halls, used by industry and e-commerce, as well as hotels and resorts. How has the pandemic and the war across the eastern border affected these sectors?

Maciej Zuber: As far as e-commerce is concerned, it was the pandemic and the resulting restrictions on traditional trade that were most conducive to the development of this industry. At that time, many consumers decided to shop online for the first time. They liked it so much that once the pandemic barriers were lifted, they stayed with remote ordering. It can be said that a "golden age" has dawned for e-commerce. It expanded rapidly and is now one of the fastest growing in Europe.
But during the pandemic there was another interesting trend that is worth mentioning here. We carried out many orders for companies that had previously erected various types of buildings, while during the pandemic they decided to build warehouse halls. Most often, this decision was guided by the need to diversify sources of income. Therefore, this sector was least affected during the crisis.

It was different in the hotel industry, which, as we all know, experienced huge problems due to the pandemic restrictions. Its recovery took longer. But if someone is a hotelier from his grandfather's grandfather, it's hard for him to suddenly start doing something else in life. As after any crisis, here too, we see a big recovery. Contrary to appearances, it is precisely because of the pandemic that interest in staying in domestic hotels has increased among our compatriots. And the industry has responded to this demand by offering, in competition with foreign resorts, more facilities with a high level of service. Today, first of all, the market for exclusive facilities is growing, and they are being built in various attractive parts of the country. We are currently in the process of developing two large hotels designed in Zakopane and Brenna, located in the Silesian Beskid.

Shopping centers and big-box stores have also emerged from the crisis with a defensive hand.

Maciej Zuber: The closure of galleries for a while during the pandemic did not significantly affect the shopping facilities planned years in advance. We had work halted on an important investment in Siemianowice Slaskie, but we are already back to its implementation, which is scheduled for the turn of the year. On the other hand, large-format stores, especially those with an assortment of necessities that cannot be dispensed with, the so-called " must have," are doing very well. Let me give you an example of the Sfera Park center in Grodzisk Mazowiecki, which opened in October. This 11,000-square-meter shopping complex, which was designed on us, was built almost at express pace - less than a year from the start of the investment.

How do you assess the prospects for the real estate industry, and therefore for architects in the coming months?

Maciej Zuber: Of course, the change in the political situation in our country is not without significance. In this context, the most important thing seems to be the unfreezing of funds from the NIP and the injection of European funds into investments carried out, admittedly largely by local governments, but which translate into the entire construction market, and thus also design intentions.

Another important signal coming from the market is the announcements of investments in the energy transition. The shift of the entire energy industry to renewable sources, such wind farms, hydroelectric power plants or micro-nuclear power plants, will pull the entire construction market, which will significantly affect project orders. So we look optimistically to the future.

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