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Taking a star turn

Three REME Award winners demonstrate notable innovation and social initiative

By Journal of Property Management staff

IREM’s REME Awards celebrate achievements in real estate management in several categories, including Corporate and Social Responsibility. IREM found two organizations that presented such compelling projects in this category that both were acknowledged with REME Awards. And, in the Corporate Initiatives category, IREM recognized a China-based company, the first REME Award for the nation.

Corporate Initiative Award: Shenzhen UNOVA Business Management Co., Ltd.

In March of 2018, Shenzhen UNOVA Business Management Co., Ltd., acquired a management and operations contract for a 15,000-square-meter space in a commercial annex in its home city of Shenzhen in southeastern China. UNOVA performed a major renovation, converting it into a co-working and retail space in the heart of Shenzhen’s central business district.

According to Jessie Hou, general manager, the renovated space, which opened in February 2019, is designed to welcome businesses and individuals primarily in marketing and creative fields. UNOVA saw that most existing co-working office space was very formal and tailored to meet the needs of traditional businesses. UNOVA’s hope was that a more relaxed and inviting space would have greater appeal to a younger demographic and those in burgeoning business sectors like social media, marketing, media arts and other creative ventures.

“The renovated space, which opened in February 2019, is designed to welcome businesses and individuals primarily in marketing and creative fields.”

—Jesse Hou, general manager, Shenzhen Unova Business Management Co., Ltd.

With an 80% occupancy rate achieved within three months of their soft opening, it’s clear they’ve succeeded.

UNOVA offers two types of working spaces—fully furnished, independent office space, and communal, co-working space. In addition, there’s a hotel-style front desk and reception area with a 100-square-meter LED screen that features the tenants’ company logos. Meeting rooms are available for presentations or training, and there are 20 rooms designated exclusively for videoconferencing and client negotiations. Business support for tenants is available
at the business center, which goes beyond receiving package shipments and faxes by offering business consulting services.

Another feature that defines this facility is the inclusion of retail businesses such as cafes, salons and gymnasiums available not only to tenants, but also to the public.

To fill the enterprise’s technology gap, UNOVA partnered with co-working space operator Distrii to provide the latter’s advanced intelligent office app, allowing tenants to reserve and interact with smart meeting rooms and intelligent work stations, and to control office access. The app also has human resource functionality for tenants to clock in and out and to communicate with other businesses in the building.

Additional features include four living rooms, each with a different theme; a communal bar and kitchen; 10 detached phone booths; a mini-library; and custom, modern furniture.

As a more welcoming sort of co-working space in the region, UNOVA hopes to become the recognized brand for this business model and has plans to replicate it in other cities across China—among them Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou—as well as internationally.

Corporate and Social Responsibility Award: Southwest Clinical Center

Southwest Clinical Center in Brasilia, Brazil

Brasília, the capital city of Brazil, is a unique urban environment with thoughtful city planning and striking modern architecture that have made it a United Nations World Heritage site.

In this city of remarkable buildings, there is a unique gem—the Southwest Clinical Center, which opened in 2003 and is home to nearly 100 medical professional offices. Marcelo Sicoli has served as the center’s general manager for eight years.

In 2010, it became clear that the roof covering the building’s central atrium was in need of a serious renovation. The atrium’s polycarbonate plastic covering was broken and discolored, having collected dust and grime that could not be washed off. Even though it was hazy, the plastic roofing created a greenhouse effect, generating serious heat spikes that taxed air conditioning systems. In addition, during strong October rains, the roof leaked and every raindrop generated thunderous plinks that echoed throughout the space, destroying the sense of calm expected in a medical office.

After hiring an architectural firm, Sicoli oversaw the start of the structure’s renovation in March 2017. The initial challenge was the removal of the old structure. To keep the offices open during construction, scaffolding was erected along the interior walls of the atrium. Because the atrium floor is over a parking garage, engineers did not think it safe to bring in cranes or other heavy equipment to remove the atrium covering.

Over the course of just one month, the polycarbonate roofing was cut into chunks and brought down. Workers then had to cut apart each of the 1,300-pound steel beams into manageable pieces that could be lowered on ropes by hand to the floor. In the end, seven tons of steel was shipped off for recycling.

The new covering installed is an attractive white textile fabric supported by a tensile structure. Similar coverings have been used around the world in airports and sporting venues, and the textile is valued for its versatility and sustainability. During installation, leftover fabric remnants were fashioned into tote bags for tenants and visitors, rather than sent to an incinerator.

The new fabric structure overlaps the existing building roofs but is open along the edges to allow heat to escape and provide for better air circulation. Moreover, the fabric makes an ideal canvas for lighting effects; Sicoli notes that different colored lights are illuminated to mark health observances, such as pink lights in October for breast cancer awareness and blue in November for prostate cancer.

The project was a finalist in the 2017 World Demolition Summit—the only commercial building to enter the worldwide demolition competition usually dominated by construction and demolition contractors. In the same year, the building was awarded first prize for Best Resources Project by Facilities Management from the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management in the United Kingdom.

Corporate and Social Responsibility Award: CAHEC

CAHEC Foundation volunteers participate in Giving Tuesday, hosted by the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina

As one of the largest nonprofit regional equity syndicators in the U.S., CAHEC secures funding to invest in affordable housing for low-income seniors, families and people living with special needs. With more than 700 properties comprising more than 32,000 units, CAHEC provides safe, affordable housing for low-income residents throughout the southeast and mid-Atlantic states. Beyond housing, their philanthropic entity, the CAHEC Foundation, provides life-changing opportunities to residents with a focus on wellness and education.

According to Stefanie Lee, community relations specialist, CAHEC has been funding these initiatives for residents since 1999. “We’re proud to have invested over $15 million to help our residents and their communities succeed,” she says. Lee reports that CAHEC relies on the property managers who talk with residents every day to identify unmet needs. “We ask managers, developer partners and residents for feedback to ensure we offer initiatives that best suit their current needs,” she says. “If a program is outdated or not working, we have no problem making adjustments, phasing out initiatives or developing new ones.”

Long-time partners are already familiar with CAHEC’s wellness and educational initiatives, such as their Post-Secondary scholarships, Youth Leadership Initiative, Nutrition Assistance programs and grants surrounding wellness. “Each CAHEC-sponsored property is eligible to apply for one of our two wellness grants,” reports Lee. “One grant provides funding for a recreation area (like a youth playground) and the other provides commercial grade fitness equipment for their on-site wellness center.” Having access to these amenities encourages residents to be active and live a healthy lifestyle.

With their footprint sitting along the coast, CAHEC’s portfolio is always challenged with hurricanes, tornadoes and sometimes ice. To address this problem, their Foundation also offers a Disaster Relief Initiative to help residents in a time of crisis. Properties are eligible to apply for grants of up to $3,000 to provide immediate resources—like food, water and temporary shelter—to impacted residents. “We reach out to properties if we know there’s a possibility that they’ve been affected, especially during hurricane season,” Lee says. “We’re always looking for ways to help our residents, and this is just a small way we can help them get back on their feet and let them know we care.”

Being socially responsible is not only an institutional commitment at CAHEC, the company volunteers year-round, too. The Raleigh, North Carolina-based staff spends over 1,000 hours per year volunteering with other community nonprofits, an effort supported by CAHEC’s principle of Social Responsibility. Their “Team Outreach” initiative encourages employees to volunteer outside of the office together, which provides team-building opportunities while serving their community.

To the casual observer, it might seem that providing affordable housing would be enough of a service to any community. But CAHEC doesn’t see it that way. “The whole reason we do what we do is for the residents,” says Lee. “We know there are hardworking families in our footprint that deserve a safe, affordable place to call home. And we know the additional opportunities we provide through the CAHEC Foundation are going to help our families even more.”

Maggie Callahan

Written by Journal of Property Management staff

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