The Net Group Vice President Ramon Rufino exceeds expectations to realize his dream of a more sustainable Philippine property landscape
Ramon Rufino is one man whose ambition knows no boundaries. One would probably expect nothing less from someone who hails from a long line of developers, and has been immersed in the industry since graduating from Columbia University in 2007 with a Master’s Degree in Real Estate Development. From challenging the traditional perception of the office building to being adamant about his personal and corporate stance on environmental responsibility, he has a lot on his plate and he’s far from done.
As Vice President of The Net Group, Rufino is at the helm of a team that creates “boutique” offices, buildings that offer more than the standard requirements of the typical office buildings. From organizing various free activities for tenants—a program they call #TNGHappyatWork—to livening up the buildings’ lobbies with music and scents, the Group aims to create an output-conducive work environment while providing perks that enhance its occupants’ overall well-being.
“At the time that we started, a lot of the buildings were very traditional, formal, centralized systems. You just go to the office to work. What we tried to do was change that. We thought, ‘OK we’re taking care of a lot of the physical side of real estate—efficiency, technology, redundancy, quality.’ But then, at the end of the day, how do we measure our success? After thinking it through, we thought, “we are successful if our tenants are happy,” he said.
“If you ask me personally, ‘boutique’ really is just thinking out of the box, doing something different, and being more personal. We also do maintain close relationships with our tenants and do things to make their experience better, make them happy,” he explained.
But Rufino’s desire to create well-equipped properties extends beyond offering building features and services that exceed expectations. To him, creating office spaces that meet the standards of sustainability is where the true reward of his work lies, exactly what you would expect from someone who was recognized in 2015 as Property Report’s Real Estate Personality of the Year in 2015 for his efforts related to green building.
Net Park is The Net Group's seventh office tower in Bonifacio Global City. Photo via The Net Group
Green initiatives are not new in the real estate industry. As a solution to the earth’s gradually deteriorating state, property developers are buckling down and providing structures that have low environmental impact while still offering high-level services. According to Rufino, green office spaces are in high demand, especially among multinational relocators that value workspace sustainability as an asset. How green a building is, he said, ranks highly along with factors such as a good location, the developer’s track record, good quality, and redundancy when companies search for their new headquarters.
But Rufino, who is also the chairman of the Philippine Green Building Council (PHILGBC), takes his social responsibility one step further with The Net Group as they make a major commitment other local developers have yet to attempt: having all of their office buildings—Net One Center, Net Square, Net Cube, Net Quad, Net Plaza, Net Lima, and their seventh and latest addition, Net Park—certified as sustainable.
“Net Lima got four stars, and the other six are undergoing certification this year. So we’re hoping within the year we will have everything certified. No other developer has that objective or a portfolio this size that’s all green,” he said proudly.
Rufino explained that, with green building councils requiring more from developers, it is no longer enough incorporate certain green efforts to a project, but to meet specific standards of sustainability to achieve various levels of certification. Hence, The Net Group’s efforts range from seemingly small efforts such as using recycled toilet paper, to large ones like entering into a supply contract with Aboitiz’s Makban Geothermal Power Plant to power their buildings with 100 percent renewable energy.
Net Park, the Group’s seventh and newest development, is poised to create waves in Bonifacio Global City and the property industry, and not just for being the tallest and biggest building in BGC with 37 stories and a 68,000-square-meter leasable area. The structure is also aiming to make a mark from a sustainable viewpoint as it will be The Net Group’s first attempt at gaining the Philippines’ first five-star Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (BERDE) rating. Among its notable green highlights are its curtain wall, which allows the infiltration of natural light; a 2,000-square-meter sky park; and a system that collects rain water for recycling and reusing.
Photo by Mark Cris Bautista
“I can honestly say, in all of the buildings we’ve ever done, Net Park is the most ambitious,” Rufino said. “And I think it’ll be the best one because we really put our blood, sweat, and tears into that building to make it really work well. We’re hoping we get the five stars because we’re showcasing a lot of green technology.”
“Net Park is like my child. For me, for us men [in real estate], development is as close to childbirth as we can get,” he added, laughing. “I really felt like I was in labor and gave birth to the building. That’s what it felt like. It’s very personal, and such a long process.”
As long and arduous a process is to create a green building, it’s a task that Rufino takes to heart. He believes that greening should be seen not just as an investor magnet, but as an opportunity to do one’s part in lessening their carbon footprint.
“Mother Earth is getting worse and worse, and if we do not take action, we are all going to suffer. Our children will suffer. That’s why I think [green real estate] will definitely continue to grow. All it takes is for more catastrophes to hit us. People know it; they know we have a fragile environment. We need to change the way we develop and do real estate to protect our future.”
Main photo by Mark Cris Bautista. This article originally appeared in the 2016 third quarter issue of the MyProperty.ph Magazine.