THE primary concern of employers thinking about renting space in Paris' financial district La Defense used to be how much they would have to pay per square metre.
But these days, they are asking: 'What are the working conditions in your buildings? Would my employees find it a healthy working environment? Can they find whatever they need in the area outside of work?'
Mr Bernard Bled, director-general of EPAD, the development agency responsible for the expansion and redevelopment of the 49-year-old La Defense district, explained: 'Potential tenants want to be good bosses who can provide their employees with good working conditions.'
He also believes in the importance of environmentally friendly, well-planned buildings, and that these result in good working conditions.
So in the massive redevelopment project for La Defense, he has put environmental sustainability and worker wellness on a par with visual beauty.
And to those who say that creating environmentally friendly buildings is too costly, Mr Bled has only one thing to say: 'It is more expensive, that is true. Well, too bad. After all, it is the price of our well-being.'
Persuaded that the construction, architectural and development agencies have a big part to play in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Bled said developers must be forced to incorporate 'green' features into their buildings.
That is why architects and developers tendering for projects at La Defense must include environmental sustainability in their plans.
'We must make the decisions that are necessary. So this will have an impact on the price of the project. If there is a choice, we will always choose that which is more economical, but there is no choice now,' he said.
La Defense will get 450,000 sqm of new office space as part of the redevelopment project, scheduled for completion in 2013.
About 150,000 sq m will come from demolition and reconstruction, with the rest coming from new developments around an existing road.
The project will also include a new 100,000 sq m Ministry of Infrastructure building, and 100,000 sq m will be devoted to housing built on the same environmentally-friendly principles.
In keeping with the project's 'green' aims, it will feature the iconic 300m-tall Lighthouse, which will contain offices, restaurants, shops and cafes, complete with wind turbines on the roof.
The wind farm will power fans that will activate the building's natural ventilation system.
The building's design is also planned around the movement of the sun, with a double-skinned, curved south facade to minimise heat and glare, and a flat, clear-glazed north facade to maximise year-round natural daylight.
Another new building, the Tour Generali, will be covered with concrete netting to minimise heat loss in winter and overheating in summer, and will have hanging gardens at every level to soften its look.
And a tender will be called in the coming months for the Signal tower, 'a major architectural statement to the world, combining creative vigour, formal audacity and technological modernity' and housing a mix of office and residential space, a hotel and cultural amenities.
In the long term, EPAD is also hoping to set a benchmark for sustainable development of business districts.
It plans to invite representatives of leading business districts worldwide to develop and commit to a 'green' development charter.