As Julien Drouaud, Director of Covivio’s French Residential Division, explains, “this is an opportunity to build new high-quality homes that meet the new expectations of local authorities and future residents.“
Is the transformation of offices into housing a new activity for Covivio?
Julien Drouaud: Transforming offices into housing is not new to Covivio, but the practice has become more widespread in recent years. Covivio is a global operator that implements a highly dynamic portfolio management approach, with expertise in its various asset classes. Of course, we redevelop our office buildings to ensure they continue to meet our clients’ new expectations, but we may decide to convert them into housing when residential use becomes more suitable than office use, in view of the expectations of the city and the market. This approach also has a positive impact on sustainable development. It meets the objective of “zero net land take” established by the public authorities and allows us to carry out projects that can be described as low-impact, thanks to the reuse of buildings in our restructuring projects, and the use of the circular economy in our new reconstruction projects, in particular through the recycling of materials obtained from demolition.
Is it also a way of supporting cities that have to meet growing residential needs?
Julien Drouaud: Giving new life to obsolete office buildings, or those located in areas that are not as attractive as they used to be, is a way of meeting the needs of certain cities where there is a housing shortage, while at the same time combating urban sprawl. We are currently working on 18 projects, 8 of which are committed, of very different sizes in Greater Paris, Bordeaux, Nantes and Nice. In each case, these programmes respond to the desire of local authorities to make their regions more attractive, cater for the diversity of residential options, integrate inclusive projects that promote social diversity and offer a diversified range of local services. Meanwhile, we are helping local authorities solve the problem of public amenities, which are often lacking in these regions under development. It is therefore not uncommon for our projects to include nurseries, local shops, green spaces and parking facilities, sports facilities or neighbourhood concierge services that are also open to non-residents.
Are these refurbishments also an opportunity to build homes tailored to new expectations?
Julien Drouaud: Precisely. Our projects are characterised by a broad range of housing types, in line with the variety of current uses. There is housing for sale or rent, affordable or social housing, serviced residences for senior citizens and co-living accommodation for students and active young people. This mix is in high demand today and is tailored to contemporary society. We also have expectations regarding the quality of the homes themselves, in terms of room size and layout, ceiling height, light, energy performance and outdoor areas. In fact, all the homes we design today have an outdoor area. The well-being of the inhabitants also depends on being close to nature, requiring significant work on landscaping and green spaces. These regeneration programmes are an opportunity to reduce the amount of asphalt and tarmac, which are replaced by open-air spaces containing a variety of local trees and plants.