On April 12 an important piece of news was announced in Bulgaria - by the end of 2022 a new Institute for Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Technology (INSAIT) will start operating, provided with a BGN 200 mil. funding by the government, Google, Amazon and SiteGround.
The research center will be the Bulgarian analog of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Swiss ETH Zurich, the Israeli Technion and other elite universities around the world and will be located on the territory of “Sofia Tech Park”. The newest building in the complex - Synergy Tower will be its home.
a Place for
Synergy Tower is an example of both a new generation office building and an innovative, more efficient and transparent approach to the construction process through the Auxionize platform
A New Construction Approach
A curious detail about the buildings of the Bulgarian Real Estate Fund, including the last one, is that they were constructed based on an alternative approach, differing from the generally applied one.
"We do not use the services of a general contractor for a number of reasons - from the increase in construction costs to the limited selection of appropriate solutions and subcontractors. Instead, we have an in-house engineering team and use the services of an external company specializing in project management and construction activities. Thus, instead of a 10% increase in the cost, we dropped to 2%", said Kaloyan Ninov.
"Bulgarian Real Estate Fund" is responsible for the coordination, deadlines, selection of subcontractors and suppliers. This approach involves the use of the Auxionize platform, which the fund has been using since its very launch. According to Ninov, this is an innovative tool saving both time and money, providing access to more potential contractors and ensuring a larger variety of materials.
The very combination of high-tech, energy-saving and environmentally friendly systems is what distinguishes Synergy Tower from all the other office buildings, according to Kaloyan Ninov.
“For example, the roof structure is fully covered by a photovoltaic plant with a capacity of 300 kW, covering 20% of the potential consumption. We also recycle and return wastewater for further use. During the construction itself we used a structure which is relatively new for our market. Slabs are built with tension, which makes them thinner, lighter, as a result of which, less concrete is used. Due to the lightweight structure, the foundation is also much smaller - this saves a significant amount of materials," said Ninov.
The building is completely covered with external blinds, controlled by a weather station (it monitors the sunshine and the position of the sun and transmits a certain amount of light and heat). This contributes to achieving very high energy efficiency on one hand, and on the other - great comfort for the users.
"In terms of interior, the project covers all the requirements of nowadays office space market: flexible environment, shared workplaces, spaces providing a homey feel as much as possible, etc."
The building has 16 floors and an area of almost 51 thousand sq.m. It was designed and built so that it meets the highest standards for a healthy working environment, energy efficiency and sustainable management. Synergy Tower’s investor is "Bulgarian Real Estate Fund" REIT. The company has a 17-year experience and is one of the first of its kind in Bulgaria. The equity of BGN 94 Mil it raised over the years and the market capitalization of over BGN 76 Mil to date make it one of the largest real estate investment trusts in the country. The Fund’s projects include the "Kambani Business Center", which houses the headquarters of "Hewlett-Packard Bulgaria", Kambanite Green Offices and others.
We strive to learn all kinds of new solutions that help us adapt to new market requirements.
Special project for
Idea and realization
Activation of the
Office Space Market
Currently, about 30% of the building has already been leased. Two of the tenants have moved in - a high-tech unit of Bosch and the German Software AG. "The building is freshly finished, some stages are not completed. Our current tenants have reserved the right for an expansion of space in the near future. By the end of the year we will be able to fill it up to 80%", Ninov commented. He believes that office space market has been hesitant for the past two years, but it is starting to intensify - there are daily viewings at the Synergy Tower. Since it is located within a technology park, at least 30% of the tenants must be high-tech companies. Inquiries are also submitted by multinational companies with offices in Ukraine that are planning to relocate due to the war.
Synergy Tower will be certified according to the prestigious international LEED system. The certification covers the entire life-cycle of the building - design and construction; operation and maintenance; modernization and reconstruction, and includes parameters in six categories: site selection, materials and resources, energy and atmosphere, water efficiency, indoor environment quality and design innovation.
"We applied for the Gold standard, but it is very likely that we will receive the Platinum one. This is the highest standard and it means that the building is built in the most efficient way possible in terms of resources used and process management. One of the requirements, for example, is that the materials be delivered from within a radius of up to 800 km. This means that transport costs and carbon emissions are kept to a minimum. Other parameters are the building automation, the solar plant on the roof, etc.”, Ninov explained.
Synergy From the Future
Synergy Tower is the largest, contemporary and "iconic" project of "Bulgarian Real Estate Fund", according to Kaloyan Ninov, who together with Ivo Petrushev, manages "REM" Ltd. - the company established to manage the investments of the "Fund".
“Our goal was to integrate several elements into the Synergy Tower - innovations in office space construction, energy efficiency and sustainability. Its location was not accidentally selected either - we wanted to offer a park environment combined with a high-tech hub, allowing for communication and exchange of ideas. We also wanted to be located in the central parts of the city. You can rarely find such a place, especially in a city like Sofia. We participated in an auction organized by Sofia Tech Park. Competing with five or six other bidders, we offered the best conditions and were awarded the right to build," said Ninov.
"We have constructed buildings with a total area of over 100 000. sq.m. using Auxionize. We have conducted more than 50 auctions, the values of which ranging from less than BGN 1 Mil. up to over BGN 10 Mill. each. This turned out to be an extremely useful tool for us for effective management of the tender process, guaranteeing us transparency and a high level of competition," said Ninov. "We save a lot of time at the stage of preliminary preparation of tender procedures - in clearing a number of errors and inaccuracies that are inevitable in any project documentation. Last but not least, for a public company like ours, transparency is extremely important. We have many shareholders who want to know how their money is managed and whether we select our contractors in a transparent and impartial manner," said the entrepreneur.
"There are organizations, which have been working in the same way for the last 30-50 years and nothing has changed. This, however, results in increasing costs and terms for implementation, inefficient, unattractive construction", Ninov commented and added: "We strive to adopt all kinds of new solutions that help us adapt to the new market requirements. This is not very simple. Conservative players who do not realize that the world is changing, that customer attitudes are changing very dynamically, are starting to drop out.
The construction of a building can be divided into lots: for example, rough construction, electrical installation, plumbing, elevators, facade, etc. On average, the construction of a building includes 13 lots. A tender procedure for selection of a contractor needs to be prepared for each individual lot.
The project documentation containing detailed quantities and itemization of individual components is uploaded on the Auxionize platform. Potential contractors first download it and then they can interactively comment and ask questions. Comments are often very useful for debugging and optimizing a certain project. This makes it easier for the contractors themselves and it saves everyone time.
The time for execution of a lot can be reduced by up to a month – i.e. the optimal case will be a construction process 13 months shorter than usual, but not every lot allows for such an opportunity. In terms of prices, the experience of "Bulgarian Real Estate Fund" shows that a reduction of about 20% is achievable.
The lowest price is not always the best criterion for selecting a contractor. There are companies that overestimate their capabilities and capacity for the sake of being awarded an order and a contract. Therefore, BREF has developed an internal rating system and consults the ratings of suppliers in the Auxionize platform itself.
Just like anything new, at first the platform was perceived with a great deal of skepticism by the players in the construction sector. At the beginning only two or three bidders took part in the auctions. At present, however, participation in the tender procedures thus prepared is considered normal and natural. Nowadays there are 10-15 contractors bidding in the tenders.
The investor in Synergy Tower is "Bulgarian Real Estate Fund" REIT (real estate investment trust). The fund was established in October 2004 and received a license in 2005, making it one of the first registered REITs in Bulgaria.
The Fund specializes in strategic property acquisitions and invests in high-performing real estates. In recent years, it has focused on the office space market in Sofia, although its portfolio also includes commercial, holiday and other properties. Some of the company's projects include the "Kambani Business Center", East Tower on G.M. Dimitrov Bldv., Kambanite Green Offices on the “Ring Road”, etc. The fund owns two stores of the Mr. Bricolage chain - in Sofia and Varna.
As a public company, BREF is listed on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange (Sofia) and its ticker symbol is “5BU”(“BREF”). The Fund is amongst the largest Bulgarian REITs in terms of raised capital – its share equity amounts to EUR 36 million.
Its shareholders are mainly Bulgarian pension funds, foreign institutional investors (banks, funds) and individuals.
The management company of BREF is Real Estate Management Ltd. (REM). It is responsible for the management of the fund’s investments, accounting, legal advice and real estate transactions. REM Ltd. is managed by Kaloyan Ninov and Ivo Petrushev.
Constructing a Building
Through the Auxionize Platform
Written by Desislava Leshtarska
Photos by Yane Golev
"Построили сме сгради с обща площ надхвърляща, 100 хил. кв.м с помощта на Auxionize. Провели сме над 50 търга със стойности, вариращи от под 1 млн. лв. до над 10 млн. лв. всеки. За нас това се оказа изключително полезен инструмент за ефективно управление на тръжния процес, който ни гарантира прозрачност и висока степен на състезателност", разказва Нинов. "Пестим много време при предварителната подготовка на тръжните процедури - при изчистването на редица грешки и неточности, които са неизбежни във всяка проектна документация. Не на последно място, за публична компания като нашата прозрачността е много важна. Ние имаме много акционери, които се интересуват как се управляват техните пари, по колко прозрачен и безпристрастен начин се избират изпълнителите", посочва още предприемачът.
"Има организации, които работят по един и същи начин от 30-50 години и при тях нищо не се променя. Това е за сметка на повишаване на себестойността и сроковете, неефективно, неатрактивно строителство, коментира Нинов и добавя: Ние се стремим да усвояваме всякакви нови решения, които ни помагат да се адаптираме към новите изисквания на пазара. Това не е много просто. Консервативните играчи, които не осъзнават, че светът се променя, че нагласите на клиентите се променят, и то много динамично, отпадат."
Synergy Tower ще бъде сертифицирана по престижната международна система LEED. Сертификацията обхваща целия жизнен цикъл на сградата - проектиране и строителство; експлоатация и поддръжка; модернизация и реконструкция, и покрива показатели в шест категории: избор на място, материали и ресурси, енергия и атмосфера, водна ефективност, качество на вътрешната околна среда и иновации в дизайна.
"Кандидатствахме за стандарт Gold, но е много вероятно да получим Platinum. Това е най-високият стандарт и означава, че сградата е строена по възможно най-ефективния начин от гледна точка на използване на ресурси и управление на процесите. Едно от изискванията например е материалите да са доставени от радиус, не по-голям от 800 км. Това означава, че транспортните разходи и отделените въглеродни емисии са в минимално количество. Други показатели са сградната автоматизация, соларния парк на покрива и др.", пояснява Нинов.
Комбинацията от високотехнологични, енергоспестяващи и природощадящи системи е това, което отличава Synergy Tower от останалите офис сгради, по думите на Калоян Нинов.
"Например покривната конструкция е изцяло усвоена от фотоволтаичен парк с мощност 300 kW, което покрива 20% от потенциалното потребление. Също така рециклираме и връщаме обратно за използване отпадните води. При самото строителство използвахме една сравнително нова за пазара конструкция. Плочите са изградени с напрягане, което ги прави по-тънки, по-леки, съответно се използва по-малко бетон. Поради олекотената конструкция и фундаментът е доста по-малък - това спестява много материали", разказва Нинов.
Сградата е изцяло покрита с външни щори, управлявани от метеостанция (тя следи за слънцегреенето и положението на слънцето и пропуска определено количество светлина и топлина). Това допринася, от една страна, за много висока енергийна ефективност и, от друга, за комфорта на ползвателите.
"По отношение на интериора проектът покрива всички изисквания на съвременния пазар на офис площи: гъвкава среда, споделени работни места, пространства, доближаващи се максимално до домашната среда и др.".