Building for Bucharest
One United Properties continues to execute award-winning projects which have not only made their mark on the Romanian capital, but also positively impacted communities within the city
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Ryan Gray
A country’s construction sector is a good indicator of its overall economic health.
In 2008-09 the global financial crisis struck economies all over the world, and the effects of the crash are still being felt 10 years on as governments continue to cut back and investors remain wary of taking on high levels of risk.
Romania, as with Europe as a whole, saw its construction sector contract following the events of a decade ago.
Activity dropped steeply in the immediate aftermath, a pattern which continued for several years as the evolution of new development prospects faced many challenges.
However, since 2013 the market has been recovering. According to research carried out by the European Commission, there were 89,943 enterprises and 608,715 people engaged in the broad construction sector in Romania in 2016, respective increases of 7.6 percent and 2.9 percent since 2010.
In terms of building production, the period 2010 to 2016 saw activity grow by 21.4 percent, while civil engineering production increased by 9.7 percent. Profitability also strengthened, with turnover across the construction sector growing by 19.8 percent to reach €30.6 billion in 2016.
For Andrei Diaconescu and Victor Căpitanu, Managing Partners and Founders at Bucharest-based developer One United Properties (OUP), it is an exciting time to be involved in what is an ever-evolving industry.
“The construction sector currently thrives on the impetus provided by this phase of the business cycle,” says Diaconescu.
“The sector is still highly fragmented and as such competition is intense. However, competition also tends to be localised. Bucharest itself is a €50 billion economy, so it provides interesting opportunities across the entire spectrum of the construction industry.”
Căpitanu adds: “The country and its capital are still developing at an amazing pace, notwithstanding the spectacular growth witnessed so far – Romania has not had a recession since 2009. As the economy is currently operating at full employment, supply of labour becomes a problem and it is a challenge, both for One United Properties and in fact the entire economy.”
While the skills conundrum presents a headache for companies like One United, it is an issue far more desirable than the dearth of industry activity seen a decade ago.
And the overall positive picture is continuing to paint itself in 2019. Construction activity in Romania increased 34.2 percent in August 2019 compared to the same month in the previous year, with July seeing a record 41 percent year on year growth in output.
Regarding the value of ongoing and upcoming work, the country’s pipeline looks promising. The period 2019 to 2023 is forecast to see an average annual growth of 3.37 percent, with projects worth $25 million or more combining to be worth $103.1 billion as of May 2019.
Infrastructure and residential construction are predicted to drive the revival of the Romanian construction sector in the future, with the European Commission issuing a growth forecast at an annual rate of 3.8 percent in 2019 and 5.4 percent in 2020.
One United specialises in the residential and mixed-use space.
Set up in 2011 by Diaconescu and Căpitanu, the company has emerged as the leading green developer, dedicated to accelerating the adoption of building practices that result in energy-efficient, healthier and environmentally sustainable buildings.
As well as operating as a real estate developer, the firm also has an in-house interior design and furniture company (multi-award-winning Lemon Interior Design), an architecture studio and engineering capabilities in the form of X Architecture & Engineering.
But why did the Managing Partners decide to go into business when the going was tough for Romania’s construction industry in 2011?
“It was the effervescence of the transition period in Romania and our youth that made us believe everything was possible,” recalls Diaconescu. “We were fascinated by the tumultuous pace of transformation in our city and in the country, and as we were assisting clients of the bank where we started our career with their financing transactions, we got equally excited about entrepreneurship.
“And while that bank became very successful and the largest independent Romanian investment banking boutique, we eventually settled on our passion for real estate.”
One Floreasca City: A landmark development
The duo never looked back.
Indeed, One United is one of the very few residential developers which has grown during the market’s downturn period, a feat which can be attributed to its ability to identify and efficiently develop the right products for Romania’s upper and mid-upper residential segments.
Its first project, One Floreasca Lake, actually predates the formal creation of the company, the land permits being granted in 2009 before construction of the first phase began in 2011. The second phase was finished in 2015, the development today standing as a residential compound with 68 apartments overlooking the water.
And it is here, in the north of Bucharest, where One United’s most prestigious project to date is unfolding.
Overlooking Floreasca Lake is Floreasca City, a landmark mixed-use development housing an office building (One Tower), three blocks of high-end designed apartments (One Mircea Eliade) and a renovated old Ford factory which will be transformed into a modern retail space for French multinational Auchan.
“One Floreasca City is probably the largest mixed-use project under construction in the City of Bucharest at the moment,” comments Capitanu.
“The development enjoys iconic architectural design, with three residential towers and one office tower. The structure of the building itself is one of a kind in Romania and we look forward to the completion date when our project will again become part of Bucharest’s skyline.
“Both the office tower and the residential towers have received green pre-certifications – the office is LEED Platinum v4 pre-certified and the residential towers are pre-certified by the Romanian Green Building Council.”
One Tower will provide 24,000 square metres of office spaces, all AAA class endowed with the latest technologies. Every floor will comprise a 1,450-square-metre surface and benefit from natural light and an efficient compartmentalisation of space.
The sustainable theme continues in the land surrounding the buildings – the entire complex will span 2.8 hectares, with around a third of this being designated as green space.
Diaconescu adds: “We have taken great care in creating an ecosystem that cares for the community. We will be improving the road infrastructure surrounding the project by expanding the main roads, creating additional accesses, and in general rejuvenating a part of the city that has otherwise been neglected for too many years.”
One Floreasca City
The scheme is also being recognised internationally. At the International Property Awards Gala held on October 24 at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London, One United received four distinctions relating to its Floreasca City development.
As well as winning the Mixed-use Development Romania Award, the project also scooped the Best Sustainable Residential Development Romania 5 Stars Award.
The remaining two accolades focus on the residential element of the scheme, One Mircea Eliade.
Made up of 247 apartments across the three towers, residents will not only enjoy a contemporary home, but also stunning views, a concept food hall, restaurants, and gym with a pool.
On receiving the awards, Beatrice Dumitrașcu, VP Residential Sales at One United Properties, commented: “Since the very first real estate projects developed under One United Properties brand, our company has come up with unique, modern concepts designed to change the face of Bucharest – buildings that are suitable for any western metropolis and which, at the same time, respect high standards of quality and sustainability.
“That is why in past years we have been extremely pleased to notice that among the many awards our company has received, those for sustainable projects play an important part. And now, to be in London together with the most important European players in the field is for sure a great honour and a recognition of our daily efforts and involvement.
“We are happy and grateful to have received the five-star awards at the International Property Awards Gala and, on behalf of the entire team, I can say they represent an international appreciation of our work.”
X Architecture & Engineering was also recognised at the ceremony in London. Not only did it receive the Mixed-use Architecture Romania Award Winner for One Floreasca City, the One United division also took home the Residential High-rise Architecture Romania Award for One Herăstrău Park.
The latter is a high-end residential compound with two 52-metre-high towers and 106 apartments, totalling 28,000 square metres of space, all within two to three minutes’ walking distance to Herăstrău Park and only steps from Floreasca Lake.
Along with One Floreasca City and One Floreasca Lake, it is among several regeneration schemes helping to revitalise the entire Floreasca part of Bucharest. One of the most beautiful and old areas in Bucharest, it has been the subject of many redevelopments, including green zones and the marketplace.
Completing the group-wide success in the UK capital was Lemon Interior Design, which won three awards for its work on Private Residence One, Lake Loft and Skyline projects.
Another landmark recognition came in 2018, when One United Properties was awarded Residential Developer of the Year at the Europa Property SEE Awards.
“We are proud that our work is recognised independently by such visible awards like Residential Developer of the Year,” says Căpitanu.
“But equally important to us is the streak of awards – every single one of our properties has been recognised for achievement in one or many forms. This keeps us motivated to continuously improve ourselves and ensure we deliver outstanding quality and value to our clients, to our city and the communities in which we work.”
One Verdi Park
Sustainability at heart
As Capitanu states, the ongoing string of recognition for every project is no coincidence.
It is testament to the working practices of One United and its dedicated team of knowledgeable people who are determined to deliver projects on time and on budget, and to exceed client expectation.
Indeed, for Diaconescu, there are two further aspects that set the company apart from its competitors.
“First, our brand has over time become synonymous to building outstanding projects in unique locations,” he explains. “Our buildings have positively impacted the local community, and some have already become part of Bucharest’s skyline. In a way we are proud to think of ourselves as creators of landmarks.”
Second is an unwavering commitment to deliver sustainable and environmentally responsible developments.
“We have realised very early that we have an obligation to care for our environment,” Diaconescu continues. “This is why every single one of our buildings is certified by the Romanian Green Building Council, a process that not only looks at the finished product, but at the entire chain of events which culminates in the finished product, from suppliers of materials, to how it is put into construction.
“Recently our office development One Tower, part of One Floreasca City, was pre-certified LEED Platinum v4, which is the strictest environmental standard in the industry. We believe this environmental commitment is an important factor in why our projects have won more recognition than the projects of any other competitor.”
Diaconescu eludes to collaboration with the Romanian Green Building Council, an organisation which One United has proactively been a long-time supporter of.
Set up in 2008, it was the first of its kind in south-eastern Europe and operates with a mandate to promote a transformation toward an efficient and competitive marketplace for green technologies, expertise, and materials to create the next generation of high-performance green buildings.
Essential tasks to date have been to disseminate relevant information, provide training, set standards and introduce certification for green building, while also advocating appropriate regulatory conditions.
“We have realised very early on that we simply have to care about the environment, and we want our legacy to include setting the standard amongst Romanian builders for a responsible and considerate construction industry,” Capitanu adds.
“One United was among the first in the industry in Romania to join the Council and embrace a green philosophy, as we want our business partners to be inspired by our actions and be proud of associating themselves with partners that care for the environment.
“We also want to give comfort to our clients that the place they will end up calling home has been built in a responsible manner, and it ensures their children will enjoy as rich an environment as we did when growing up.”
Building for the future
Future generations also form the heart of the company’s District One initiative.
This programme represents a new focus designed to reach a broader segment of clients, chiefly expanding the company’s client base to younger professionals living in the Romanian capital city.
For Diaconescu, this is not only a way to serve a wider portion of the local community, but also to help diversify and ultimately futureproof the business for years to come.
“We have identified a structural deficit of quality residential offering in Bucharest, and also a rising affluent young earners group, which we would like to care for,” he says.
“Preferences for choosing locations have changed significantly with the new generations, and while it used to be true that a family has one home for one or two generations, now we see families owning and living in two to three homes during a generation.
“The combination of structural deficit for quality homes combined with the emergence of a highly affluent segment has led to us coming in with a new offering for our customers.”
Appealing to a younger demographic will form an important part of One United Properties’s strategy as it moves towards the end of 2019, a year which has seen it hand over landmark developments in the form of One Herăstrău Plaza and One Charles de Gaulle.
The latter is just two minutes from Herăstrău Park, made up of 33 dwellings across two buildings certified by the Romanian Green Building Council and recognised by the European Commission as a good practice model.
Outlining the company’s plans for 2020, Capitanu concludes the conversation in confident fashion.
“We look forward to entering 2020 with exciting new plans and a new phase for our company,” he says. “We look forward to starting construction at our new mixed-use project One Verdi Park and our flagship office project One Cotroceni Park. Our existing projects are moving ahead as planned and we eagerly anticipate our completion dates – ensuring timely and quality completions are just as important priorities for us as our new projects.”