We have all seen many new buildings that steal the show in recent years in Greece and we have heard of big projects, such as the twenty-two-story tower in the port of Piraeus, which after forty-six years will become a unique sight that will can be admired by all who arrive at the port.
Dimand is the company behind such important projects of the Greek market, not by chance of course. With more than fifteen years of action in the field of real estate in Greece, it has managed to become an international model in the construction of bioclimatic buildings.
Sustainability is the new hot trend all over the world. Since we have seen sustainable products in Greece, why not start seeing sustainable buildings as well? Are we starting to see and don’t know it?
Despite the fact that in Greece we still do not have many green buildings, all the projects that Dimand undertakes to develop or has already developed are driven by sustainable development, with most of them being certified according to the international LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental) standard Design) that concerns the construction of sustainable buildings. In 2013, he completed the Karela Office Park, the first green office building in Greece with LEED Gold certification.
“At Dimand the main out of the box idea is for the green bioclimatic character of a project to be a baseline, recognizing also the paramount investment in other critical parameters that are not necessarily intertwined with the strict definition of bioclimatic architecture but 100% intertwined with the uncertain times we live in”.
Since then, the company has been monitoring developments and renewing its services based on them, so that it aligns with international trends and can offer the best possible result, both aesthetically and technically.
But the people are the ones who make Dimand innovate all these years and be able to continue. Indeed, the company has given great importance to its team and partners. We spoke to the people behind major projects such as Agemar in Syngrou, Pyrgos Piraeus , Karela Office Park in Peania and Kaizen Campus in Maroussi, to learn more about themselves, sustainability in architecture and the projects which they have undertaken.
Olga Itsiou: “The future requires a holistically sustainable real estate development model”
How does an architect envision a green city? What could one do in a sustainable building and why choose it? Olga Itsiou is well aware of the importance of green development in architecture and how each such building can positively affect a city. It is no coincidence, after all, that she is the technical director at Dimand.
As an architect, a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and with many years of experience both in projects in Greece and abroad, since 2005 he has assumed one of the most important positions of responsibility in the Dimand team and from it he has overseen large projects, such as the Karela Office Park (the first LEED Gold certified project in Greece), the Agemar headquarters and the revival and reuse of the former Papastratos tobacco factory facilities and their transformation into international standard office buildings in Piraeus.
“I am proud of all three of these projects, for different reasons,” she characteristically tells us, with the curves of the Agemar building stealing the show. “For the Karela Office Park, because it was the first project in Greece to be certified with LEED Gold, despite the reaction of many who said that we would be getting into uncharted waters. The development of the three building blocks of the old Papastratos premises into a new office hub brought life to an area that had been deserted. The anticipation and yearning of the locals for this development was truly unprecedented and kept the morale of the project team high throughout the works. The area has great potential and we continue our work, as we believe it has very good prospects for sustainable development. Agemar, this iconic building, it was great luck for us. You don’t often have a client who identifies with you and envisions the creation of a building that is exceptional, different and innovative, a landmark.”
Understandably, completing such a large project takes time, study, responsibility and resources. Every such big project goes through many different phases – some difficult and others easier and more creative – while the mood of the people involved in it also changes.
“At the beginning of a project you create the vision. This phase has a lot of excitement and high expectations, and above all the joy of creating something different. This in turn will bring joy to those who inhabit it. It’s no coincidence that I literally ache for the buildings we build. I consider them my children.” The intermediate phase, the execution of the project, according to Olga, is the one that presents the most challenges, both technical and financial. “It has a lot of ups and downs and the adrenaline is high.” But when the difficulties are overcome and the work is completed, the value is priceless. “You see your vision come true and you receive the enthusiasm of the new tenants of the building and the residents.
For this reason, one of Olga’s main current and future goals is the best possible promotion of sustainable real estate development in Greece. It is now known that at Dimand, which is a pioneer in the development of certified bioclimatic buildings, they know deeply the importance of channeling investments into projects with bioclimatic characteristics. There, therefore, Olga has found fertile ground to implement her ideas. “At Dimand the main out of the box idea is for the green bioclimatic character of a project to be a baseline, recognizing also the paramount investment in other critical parameters that are not necessarily intertwined with the strict definition of bioclimatic architecture but 100% intertwined with the uncertain times we live in”.
But a sustainable building alone does not make the city “green” overnight, and Athens has not only prospects but also challenges. “We will have to think about how to manage the city’s huge old building stock. Some of these buildings should be renovated according to modern bioclimatic standards and some demolished to ensure larger open green spaces. Also, the residence must face the center of Athens. We need to make it friendlier to its residents and visitors, which are increasing every year. It should be clean, safe and with fewer cars. Also, we need to put more green in the skyline of Athens!
Based on our experience, in order to have a truly positive impact on the 3 pillars of sustainability – Environment, Society, Economy – we adopt a holistic sustainable real estate development model. Here comes the second challenge, which concerns the connection of the city with its mountains and the sea. Athens is perhaps the only city that combines an excellent climate, access to three beautiful mountains and the sea at a short distance. We have left untapped the natural beauty that it offers us and the possibilities of escaping into nature, which is so close to the urban center. This for me is the next challenge regarding Athens and my vision: connecting us all with a little more green.”
Sandra Bär: “To build a truly sustainable future it is not enough to simply reduce energy consumption”
How difficult is it to make a green building and what is the process of making it happen? Definitely needs study. It definitely needs a lot of processes and people who know the steps. Specific practices are required for a building to obtain the correct green certifications, such as LEED certification. The first building complex in Greece to be awarded LEED certification and managed to achieve the Gold grade is the Karela Office Park project, in which Dimand’s Head of Sustainability Sandra Friederike Bär participated. The benefits of such certification by the project process and the very positive result led to Dimand changing its specifications for the company’s next projects.
Sandra’s involvement in sustainable building design began with her studies at the Technical University of Munich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, where she took courses in solar design, lighting design and garden architecture, in addition to the compulsory courses. As Dimand’s specifications changed after 2010, so did Sandra’s original role, which when she joined the company in 2006 was that of project manager. “Initially I was hired as a project manager for the study and construction of the state-of-the-art Logistics Centers of ALDI Greece. Since 2010, I have been dealing almost exclusively with the issue of sustainability and especially with the requirements of green certifications”.
“Alone you go fast, but with company you go far”, says a saying, and through this you can see the great importance that Dimand attaches to the right staffing of the team. “Over the last few years more people have been added to the sustainability team, so now there are four of us who have this subject exclusively. The change for me was that I went from having one or two projects to attend to, to now coordinating a team that manages about twenty projects in progress.”
Of course, even the smallest detail plays its part. Dimand’s qualified staff for the entire life cycle of a property that Sandra undertakes to coordinate is something that makes each project special, “from finding the right location for building development to facility management in its operational phase”. This is also the secret that ultimately brings the best possible result.
Her role in a project is very demanding but also very interesting, since she has to integrate sustainable practices and techniques in all its stages. This kind of thing needs very good communication and technical skills, since it comes into contact with all specialties. “I feel that I have to be a connecting link involved in all phases.”
At the same time, this is one of the biggest difficulties of her role, the coordination of many different requirements and stakeholders. “The best sustainability results of a project are only achieved with a holistic approach, which takes into account all the stakeholders and tries to weigh the requirements and detect solutions with which everyone wins (win-win situation). Every project is a new challenge because it’s made up of a different team, has different requirements and is in a different place.”
Every sustainable building should respect both people and the environment. This means that it should provide an improvement or, more simply, make the world a little better. “From the environmental side, since the construction of a building consumes resources and creates pollutants, the building as a whole should aim to better save energy, water and materials, while all decisions should be made with the life cycle of a project and not have individual goals”.
What is the most important factor for a build though? “But, of course, man, that’s why the goal of every building is to serve people, so it should first of all be useful, contribute to the health of its occupants, be pleasant, provide comfort and in general to contribute to the well-being of its users. We must not only focus on technology but remember that no matter how good the construction of a building is, it should primarily serve the people who experience it every day.”
What sets Dimand apart is that it emphasizes the human factor throughout the process of each project. It informs and educates its partners, whether they are designers, construction companies, or suppliers and crews, and sensitizes tenants and project owners to sustainability factors. “In a state-of-the-art building, an additional specialist designer is required for natural lighting. A specialist consultant may be required who deals exclusively with an energy model, which goes beyond the requirements of legislation and takes into account all the consumptions of a building and ways of saving. In Greece, there is still not a strong presence of a specialist who does BIM (building information modeling) design, as is already done abroad, while he has already made his appearance in Dimand’s first buildings as a specialist for calculating the incorporated carbon of the materials of a construction and its effects on climate change (Life Cycle Assessment). To build a truly sustainable future, it is not enough to simply reduce energy consumption.”
Angelos Edmons: “Sustainable for us is the building that favors human development at all levels”
What can an ex-policeman have to do with the green development of a building? Perhaps someone will say that water is also an element of nature or that it is necessary to be able to adapt to the needs of a green building, just as it is adapted to water. Combine this adaptation with the sportsmanship and perseverance, patience and commitment to the goal of a marathon runner and we have the ideal result or, in other words, an ideal sustainability coordinator, such as Angelos Edmonds.
With water being his natural element, he couldn’t help but be the head of the “Regeneration of the Tower of Piraeus” project. “When we signed with the municipality of Piraeus, the first thing the administration asked me was how to make Pyrgos even greener.” After this question the joy for Angel was very great, as were the challenges. “Since then, the whole team of Pyrgos Piraeus “travels” – to honor our port as well – with a compass of sustainability”.
As a former professional athlete, he strongly believes in the importance of teamwork as a means to the success of the most challenging projects. He knows renewable energy well, but he likes to learn new things and not stand still. After all, when water stagnates, it bogs down. Both he and Dimand know this, so when he wanted to further expand his horizons, the company supported him to start the two-year Master in Business Administration at ALBA Graduate Business School.
He received his baptism of fire in terms of green energy when the company strategically placed him in OTE Estate Kerameikos (later LEED GOLD certified) and now, after obtaining the highest level of certified LEED professional (LEED AP), Angelos participates as sustainability coordinator in some of the most emblematic projects of the company (and of Greek real estate development).
“Sustainable for us is the building that favors human development at all levels (social, professional, personal) through a healthy environment, in harmony with nature, that respects the resources of future generations throughout their lifetime. Our goal is to actively participate in maintaining the sustainable character of the building even after its development. The fight against climate change and the effort to improve the environment is an eternal struggle, which for us does not stop at handing over the keys to the building”, he says characteristically.
The right psychology and team spirit is everything for Angelos and one of his tasks is to coordinate the project team and oversee all the involved parties to ensure both the smooth process of the LEED certification and the selection of the best sustainability practices in design and construction.
“First of all, it should be emphasized that in such a team working environment as that of Dimand, all colleagues have a special and important position and everyone is involved with sustainability, which due to philosophy is at the center. Specifically, what distinguishes the distinct position of the sustainability professional is the effort to coordinate all the involved bodies from the (very) beginning of a project centered on our company’s debt for substantial sustainability. In this context, the participants are invited to offer ideas that will make each project even greener”.
Being an active member of the holistic sustainable real estate development model adopted by Dimand, Angelos participates in the selection process of decisions that differentiate the company and place it in the category of a high level sustainable player/developer of the new generation.
“Sustainability for us has never been about a box to be checked on a list or a formal process but about meaningful actions that actually improve the environmental footprint. I can say that in the above sense my role has not changed much. After all, Dimand has proven to be concerned with sustainability since 2010, when the Karela Office Park certification process began (the first certified building in Greece according to the LEED standard). Sustainable real estate development is not something new to us, something we follow because of fashion. However, with climate change turning into a climate crisis, the uncertainty of the times and the unprecedented phenomenon of the pandemic that we are living through, my role has changed a lot and is taking on greater dimensions regarding safety, health, wellness, resilience,
The future for sustainable buildings, it seems, is very promising and this can also be seen from the new jobs being created in new projects. Thus, in the past we might have had an architect and a civil engineer for each project, but “now in our projects we see more and more new specialties that have a common goal”, says Angelos, “such as sustainability consultants, LEED experts, the energy modeling companies, the lighting engineers with daylight experience, the facade engineers, the landscape designers. These are some of our partners.”
According to him: “With sustainability now being established as an important pillar of capital direction for the sustainability/profitability of a company in the sector, it is possible that we will see similar positions at the level of company management in the future.”
Evangelia Glezakou: “A building must not only be built sustainably but also function sustainably”
Musicians alone, no matter how hard they try, cannot pull off a concert. They need a conductor who will be able to coordinate them so that the result is unique and everyone brings out their best. But the conductor is not only needed in a musical concert. It is needed where there are many and different people working with a common purpose. This is how the role of Evangelia Glezakou could be described, who since 2017, who is at Dimand, works as the “green conductor” of the company’s projects, or otherwise as sustainability coordinator in the sustainability department.
For Dimand, the sustainability part of a building is very important and for this reason it is integrated in all the stages but also in all the individual features of a project, in order to achieve the desired result.
Practically, this means that in every project the involvement of the Gospel begins in the early stages of the studies, continues uninterruptedly during the construction and reaches even the education of the user when the project is completed. “The sustainability coordinator collaborates with all the specialties of the researchers but also in general with the partners involved in a project. The possible changes as well as the decisions we are asked to make during the development of the project will have to find the optimal balance between many factors, among which is sustainability”.
As a qualified civil engineer specializing in energy saving in buildings, as well as in sustainable development in the real estate sector, he has managed in a few years to participate in many research projects concerning energy saving in municipalities as well as in the design and certification of buildings projects, according to international standards.
“The sustainable building is a high standard building, which goes beyond the concept of energy saving. To be built, a holistic approach is followed that concerns all its phases (study, construction and operation) and considers, in addition to saving energy, saving water, using materials that are friendly to the environment and the user, the utilization of natural lighting , the collection and reuse of rainwater and, of course, the maximization of green spaces”. These are just some of the elements that are incorporated in such a building, but for Evangelia the most important thing is that now sustainable buildings have at their center the well-being and health of man.
A building must not only be built as sustainable but also function as such, which is why great emphasis must be placed on training not only the technical team that monitors the proper functioning of the project, but also its future users.”
The under-construction Kaizen Campus located in Marousi is one of Dimand’s projects that it has undertaken, and talking literally in the heart of the project, it revealed to us that it is full of green secrets that one can hardly imagine. This proves that sustainable building has an invisible side, which is just as important.
“Two huge tanks have been built which are buried in the surrounding area of the project and have a total capacity of over 1,000 m2. Rainwater will be collected there and reused to irrigate the surrounding area of a total area of 10 acres. Also, these tanks will contribute to the better management of rainwater at the time of rainfall, since, falling on the plot, instead of burdening the area’s rainwater network, it will be collected in the tanks, thus avoiding possible floods”.
The right light gives life and well-being! So natural lighting plays a very important role in our lives. A special study of natural lighting has been carried out in the building, always based on the architectural design and the large area of glazing that exists. With the features of the glazing, external blinds, colouring, interior materials and many other small details, the result makes the difference. “From this study and after testing various combinations, we arrived at the optimal scenario, according to which employees, throughout the year, will enjoy the maximum natural lighting, which contributes to both their health and their efficiency, while at the same time they will be protected from overheating during the summer.”
Understandably, the completion of a project of this scale automatically changes the landscape and the people who will use it. “We should not forget that this footprint has a long time horizon, given that the life cycle of a building is about 100 years. So the ideal for me would be for this building to be a landmark for the area both architecturally and sustainably. At the same time, the stories of the users of this building should be an inspiration for the creation of other buildings with such high standards.”
Read the article by Τimos Kouremenos, on the collector’s edition of LiFO in collaboration with Archisearch.gr and Design Ambassador: ΑTHENS DESIGN MAP The Green Issue
Photos: Paris Tavitian/LIFO