By Michael Tatarski

Since entering Vietnam in late 2009, the global consultancy and construction firm Mace has focused on three strategic products for its clients: pursuing a sustainable world, growing together, and delivering service excellence. This has resulted in the company working on some of the country’s most high-profile mixed-use developments over the last decade, including President Place, Vietnam’s first LEED Gold-certified building; Deutsches Haus, the first LEED Platinum-certified building in the country; and Landmark 81, currently the tallest skyscraper in Southeast Asia.

John Campbell, General Director for Mace Vietnam, reveals how, despite recent property market challenges, the company is welcoming the future with more sustainable projects and a diversified portfolio.

“Mace is a global privately-owned company and in terms of markets, has fantastic coverage in Vietnam in residential, commercial offices, mixed-use developments, education, and technology & manufacturing. Mace is adopting a market-driven approach through our four global hubs—Asia Pacific, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East & Africa—to enable greater resilience, growth, and opportunity,” says John Campbell, Mace Vietnam’s General Director.

John moved to Vietnam in 2011 to oversee the construction of an 85,000m2 Nokia production facility in Bac Ninh Province for Mace, then relocated to Ho Chi Minh City in 2014 to deliver the Deutsches Haus project. In 2016, John took over Mace’s business operations in Vietnam and has since grown the business to where it is today. Key to this success has been John’s ability to build strategic relationships with Mace’s client base, ensuring that repeat order business can be achieved by successfully delivering projects together.

The first LEED Platinum-certified building in Vietnam

While Mace’s time in Vietnam has been successful, John pulls no punches when discussing current difficulties facing the property sector, especially in and around Ho Chi Minh City. These have primarily stemmed from a government spotlight on bond issuances from banks and an ensuing liquidity crunch that has left many developers unable to move forward with residential projects.

“It’s having a huge impact,” John shares. “There are still a lot of projects running, but they’ve slowed down considerably.”

In response to this uncertainty, Mace is diversifying its offerings and portfolio, especially in the industrial sector, which continues to see significant overseas investment as manufacturers look to Vietnam as an alternative to China.

“Residential sector growth is going to be tough to maintain as there’s just too much supply now, and a lot of projects are empty,” Campbell adds. However, the office sector, like the industrial sector, may provide opportunities for future growth. “I still see a need for commercial offices,” he continues. “There’s not a lot of Grade A+ commercial space available in the current market.”

Landmark 81, the tallest skyscraper in Southeast Asia

Campbell also envisions that there will be a demand for retrofits of existing office buildings as corporations look for more sustainable spaces that align with their vision for net-zero carbon in the coming years. This also aligns with the commitments made by Vietnam at COP26.

“For commercial offices, having some form of green sustainable accreditation is becoming more and more important for big corporate tenants, as the government is looking to penalize owners of buildings that don’t have any green accreditation,” Campbell explains. “This will potentially result in dormant assets for owners with no large corporate organizations seeking space in their buildings.”

Given their past success in creating numerous highly-regarded mixed-use developments, it would be natural for Mace to continue on that path. But considering the current market conditions in Vietnam, the company will focus on industrial projects, data centers, and healthcare sectors in the country for the foreseeable future.

In closing, John remarked that “Mace is fully committed to driving growth in Vietnam now and in years to come as we redefine the boundaries of ambition in Vietnam and the region as a whole.” [C]

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