Advisory Banner



Working in Offices, Lobbies, Airports, Restaurants and Malls – Space Densification Takes Hold!

People often wonder when the concept of shared space really began. For me, it began in 1987 when our director of sales told our salespeople they were closing all branch offices and sending us home with a personal computer, 2,400 baud modem and a link to corporate – where our assistant would be shared among four of us. To say we were outraged would be an understatement. We lost our office, personal assistant and of course, our three-hour commute.

During this period, we also saw major corporations such as IBM and Deloitte trying to figure out what this new form of mobility – enabled by personal computers and laptops – meant to their workplace strategies. They began to experiment in major office complexes in cities such as Los Angeles. IBM sent many people home from their office on Hope Street and Deloitte introduced the concept of a shared desk in their South Bay office. In 1989, Regus was founded, and a new era of mobile employees began to reshape how and where we worked.

Fast forward to 2008, when the first WeWork ideas were incubated, to today in 2019. It is safe to say that the Co-Working, Flex Space, Shared Space, Hot Desks (and any other name we want to assign) revolution is in full swing. Every commercial owner and corporate real estate executive, as well as anyone else in the industry, is trying to figure out exactly how this will evolve. We are now seeing the office model even making its way to restaurants and retail spaces, with underutilized space being offered as a workplace option. Additional factors include the ability to work anywhere today, such as airports, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, planes, park benches and more.

Just as the laptop computer was the technological piece of the puzzle that started the revolution, mobile devices, enhanced communications speeds, the cloud and a multitude of easy to use web-based collaboration tools are the technologies that continue to enhance our ability to work remotely. Video conferencing, real-time document collaboration, VoIP, messaging, email, company intranets and other technology solutions are just some of the tools making the 'office' available anywhere.

At the core of this phenomenon is the concept of space densification. Not long ago, 250-350 square feet per person was common. Over the years, we saw it dip all the way down to 75 square feet per person, with some extreme examples even going as low as 25. What seems to be the norm today is in the 125-150 square feet range. While actual worker space has gone down, the space dedicated to amenities is rising. Coffee shops, game rooms, meet-up areas (that look very different from traditional conference rooms), as well as health-inspired spaces are all making their way into our workplaces. The oversimplified thinking goes like this: if we can eliminate the underutilized space, we may have money to pay for these new amenities. In the end, the overall spaces are smaller, smarter and much more engaging.

In the last 24 months, we have seen a race to densify and at the same time provide a flex space option to the marketplace. In the owner world, we are seeing floors 1 and 2 reconfigured as a shared space option, with amenities such as conference space, meeting rooms and coffee shops. A landlord will provide the upstairs tenant (that is trying to eliminate the 30-50% underutilized space in their office) a flex option on the bottom floor that can handle any overflow on days of high occupancy. The landlord can also offer this flex space to the general public, ensuring very high occupancy – and more importantly, utilization rates.

As mentioned above, there are even restaurants and bars that are getting into the game. A quick look at the utilization patterns of a restaurant shows plenty of times that they are not fully used. Given that they usually already have WiFi, have tables to work at and are typically well designed and inviting, it makes sense that they would offer their space to add to an existing revenue stream. There is also a pretty good chance that these mobile warriors would be interested in something to eat and drink.

Here are a few observations from the flex office, densification phenomenon:
(1) Organizations are really beginning to focus on underutilized space (densification)
(2) Employees are coming to expect enhanced amenities in the workplace
(3) Technology will only continue to enable mobile workers to be productive anywhere
(4) Property types beyond office are figuring out how to offer space to mobile workers
(5) The lines between live, work and play continue to blur; also true for Real Estate

And finally, let us not forget the good old 'kitchen table'. For many years, the kitchen table has served as a place to respond to emails, write proposals, have meetings, start businesses and basically get work done.

The topic of coworking, flex space and Space as a Service will be a major theme at Realcomm | IBcon 2019, to be held in Nashville, TN on June 13 & 14 (Golf and RE Tech Tours June 11 | Pre-Con Events: June 12). Join us as we gain perspective from thought leaders representing the owner, corporate user and service providers as well as companies dedicated to providing Space as a Service. Register early and save!

Jim Young, Co-Founder & CEO, Realcomm
Founder of Realcomm Conference Group, an education organization that produces Realcomm, IBcon and CoRE Tech, the world's leading conferences on technology, automated business solutions, intelligent buildings and energy efficiency for the commercial and corporate real estate industry. As CEO, Jim interacts with some of the largest companies globally pertaining to some of the most advanced and progressive next generation real estate projects under development.

This Week’s Sponsor

Tridium is a world leader in business application frameworks, advancing open data environments and easy interoperability. Our Niagara Framework® universal multi-protocol integration engine has fundamentally changed the way people connect and control devices and systems. Tridium delivers Niagara software and the JACE® controller and server platform through an open distribution business model with open protocol support. With almost one million instances worldwide, Niagara is helping a significant number of businesses, manufacturing enterprises and government entities improve performance and reduce energy, operating and other costs, and be more strategic and competitive. The Niagara Community is a large and active community of innovative developers, integrators, consultants, manufacturers, resellers and end users who use Niagara daily. Tridium is an independent business entity of Honeywell International.

Realcomm News

Be a part of one of the most interactive and exciting sessions of the conference, the Smart Building Best Practice Showcase, which will be held on June 14 from 8:30am to 10:30am. The Showcase presents the world’s most successful implementations of smart buildings, campuses, and portfolios. These projects represent the future of real estate with their state-of-the art design, connectivity, systems integration and enhanced occupant experience. For the past six years, this event has featured over 200 smart projects by Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Ford Land Energy, Stanford University, Aruba and many more!

If you are involved with a smart building, campus, portfolio or city project you feel would add significant value to the Showcase, please contact Tina Danielsen.


A Path to Net Zero – Driving ENERGY EFFICIENCY in Smart Buildings - 7/18/2019

One of the first trends to emerge in the modern smart building movement was energy conservation and efficiency. Approximately eight years ago, the industry realized that connecting energy related equipment to a network and applying advanced analytics and complex integration strategies could result in a significant reduction in energy and natural resource consumption and a resultant decrease in energy related expenses. In recent years, operational efficiency and occupant experience have been added to the smart building discussion, sometimes overshadowing energy efficiency. This webinar will focus on the very important goal of including energy efficiency in the comprehensive smart building strategy.

headshot for Tom Shircliff
Tom Shircliff Intelligent Buildings
Tom Shircliff Co-Founder Tom Shircliff is a co-founder and principal of Intelligent Buildings, a nationally recognized smart real estate professional services company that was
headshot for Tom Shircliff
Tom Shircliff
Intelligent Buildings

Tom Shircliff is a co-founder and principal of Intelligent Buildings, a nationally recognized smart real estate professional services company that was started in 2004. Intelligent Buildings provides planning and implementation of next generation strategy for new buildings, existing portfolios and urban communities. Tom is a speaker and collaborator with numerous universities and national laboratories, a gubernatorial appointee for energy strategy and policy and founding Chairman of Envision Charlotte, a Clinton Global Initiative.

headshot for Sarah Zaleski
Sarah Zaleski U.S. Department of Energy
Sarah Zaleski Senior Advisor Sarah currently serves as a Senior Advisor for the U.S. Department Building Technology Office where she leads commercial zero energy efforts, district
headshot for Sarah Zaleski
Sarah Zaleski
Senior Advisor
U.S. Department of Energy

Sarah currently serves as a Senior Advisor for the U.S. Department Building Technology Office where she leads commercial zero energy efforts, district-scale solutions, and a pSarah currently serves as a Senior Advisor for the U.S. Department Building Technology Office where she leads commercial zero energy efforts, district-scale solutions, and a portfolio of data infrastructure projects. In previous roles at DOE, Sarah led local government clean energy innovation programs. Sarah has over 15 years of experience in sustainability and energy work. Before DOE, Sarah worked for Baltimore City where she helped establish their Office of Sustainability.

headshot for Jean-Simon Venne
Jean-Simon Venne BrainBox AI
Jean-Simon Venne Chief Technology Officer
headshot for Jean-Simon Venne
Jean-Simon Venne
Chief Technology Officer
BrainBox AI