Subsequently, Valentín Alfaya Arias, Quality and Environmental Director at Ferrovial stated that the two “critical vectors” for refurbishment in Spain are energy efficiency and living conditions, and that the steps necessary to boost the sector are: to inform owners of the advantages of refurbishing; to change the system for energy prices, given that the high fixed costs do not encourage energy efficiency; to reduce the number of decision-makers in the sector and to strengthen the financial framework through the capitalisation of financial savings, granting of subsidies and economic aid.
The seminar continued with a talk by Vicente Estebaranz, Partner of the Public Law practice and Director of Planning and Environment at Pérez-Llorca, who described the legal framework for refurbishment of buildings and for urban renewal and regeneration. He highlighted developments in the real estate sector brought about by the “Law of the 3R’s”, offering real estate developers and construction companies, who have taken a significant hit since the real estate bubble burst, the possibility to reinvent themselves. He also accentuated the need to “overhaul the concept of conventional city planning” (abandoning the idea of expansive city planning and opting instead for the improvement of already existing city buildings) by following the principles of conservation of cultural heritage buildings emphasizing the need to “upkeep our cities, so that they can become more secure, healthy and accessible”, to which the concept of a government official responsible for building evaluations and refurbishment (“agente rehabilitador”) would contribute.
Next up was Luis Vidal, Architect and Founding Partner of luis vidal + arquitectos, who drew attention to the importance of “renewable energies and intelligent buildings which adapt to external conditions”. He also stressed the need to convert buildings into multifunctional spaces. Furthermore, Luis Vidal explained how over the past three hundred years society has evolved from rural to urban and urged to improve the refurbishing conditions, maintenance and upkeep of cities and their buildings, given that in less than 70 years ⅔ of the planet’s population will be living in cities. In his closing remarks, Luis Vidal stated that “the world does not have an energy problem, but rather a technology problem” since only a fraction of the energy generated is being used.
The presentations came to an end with a talk by Ignacio Fernández Solla, Associate Director and Manager of Arup-Spain Façade, who argued that “buildings should be entirely renewed a number of times during their life cycle in order to extend their useful lifespan.” He also emphasized the importance of approaching building refurbishing from a different perspective, underlining the possibilities that “integrated building envelopes” can offer the refurbishing sector, given that they allow more functions and increased energy efficiency with thinner walls.
The one-day seminar continued with a work group titled “Motors, barriers and new models and instruments for financing and development in refurbishment”, which was moderated by Ramón Rodríguez Cabezón, Associate Director of Sustainability and Energy Consulting at Arup. The participants were Miguel Ángel García Tamargo, Director of Portfolio and Expansion Business Area at Iberdrola Inmobiliaria; Valentín Alfaya Arias, Quality and Environmental Director at Ferrovial; Juan Diego Carrasco Hervas, Manager of Real Estate Management at Mutua Madrileña; Stuart W. McDonald, Real Estate Director of Axia Real Estate SOCIMI and Luis Vidal, architect and Founding Partner of luis vidal + arquitectos.
Juan Diego Carrasco assured that some time ago Mutua Madrileña chose refurbishment as the way to go in order to “make buildings flexible and efficient, bringing down occupational costs”. He stated that the market is very active and that they receive calls all the time from possible investors demonstrating interest in their buildings. He stressed the importance of applying energy efficiency criteria and the need to take advantage of the energy certificate for real estate properties, so that the market can realize how important it is to have a grade “A” rating when it comes to savings and improving the quality of life.
Luis Vidal emphasized the idea that “we should all try to convince investors of the need to heighten the quality in the buildings” and stated that the message to the market has to be one of positivism, transparency and quality in order to drive the sector.
In this respect, Vicente Estebaranz declared that it is necessary to “adapt the legal criteria to the market”. This means that there is a need for new regulations, which give more flexibility to planning instruments and which help to face real city problems facilitating public-private collaborations.
María Teresa de Diego declared that many times owners are not aware of the shortcomings of their buildings and of the costs that they generate. For this reason, it is important to communicate to them “clear messages focusing on savings” in order to push forward the “3R’s” in Spain. In addition, she also emphasized that “any refurbishing implies a rise in the value of the property”, which is another factor that should be pointed out to owners. Furthermore, she also stressed the need to drive refurbishing right now, stating that “we cannot wait any longer; it is already being done in other parts of the world” and with the current legislature, the real estate sector should concentrate its efforts on this approach.