How Real Estate Tech Makes Office Design a Snap
WeWork’s rise to fame had as much to do with technology as with real estate.
Office design, building development, and real estate investment have always been viewed as disparate fields—until now. In a report on WeWork‘s history, we see that the company approaches coworking holistically. With modern technology (and enough resources), it’s possible to tackle the office problem on a deeper level than ever before.
What is the office problem? It’s the problem that coworking spaces have been trying to solve, and that major corporations agonize over before every remodeling project. An optimally-designed office aids both employee productivity and happiness. The two often go hand-in-hand. However, it’s difficult to find out what employees really want, and it’s even harder to please everyone while keeping an eye on the bottom line.
WeWork broke the status quo by vertically integrating. In 2012, they acquired Case, a design firm that uses cutting-edge technology to build 3D models of buildings before the design process even begins. Armed with this knowledge, WeWork was able to scan and analyze properties the minute the lease was signed, allowing them to plan the design process in advance and avoid physical conflicts.
This technology, known as Building Information Modeling (BIM for short), is crucial for efficient design. By using 3D scanners to capture every detail of the physical space, designers are informed in advance of common pitfalls like uneven floors and poorly-lit hallways. Planning ahead means that the design team can save valuable time and money spent building and rebuilding.
Perhaps more importantly, analyzing property with in-house real estate tech gives designers an uncommon level of creative latitude. The building is a blank slate at this point, open to whatever layout and aesthetic the design team sees fit. 3D modeling technology helps designers tweak each square foot to their liking, rather than having little physical quirks in the building constrain their vision when they’re discovered at the last minute.
The result is exactly what you see when you walk into a WeWork property: there’s a sense of deliberate, thoughtful, holistic design. Large-scale design elements like the physical size and height of a room, or the amount of natural light in a hallway, fit seamlessly with small-scale add-ons like unique furniture and eye-grabbing wall murals. This unity of aesthetic is only possible with the forethought of in-house, tech-aided design.
It’s worth noting that WeWork already had its own in-house construction and architecture teams before they brought Case on board. Like Apple, the company invests in in-house production, letting them create products that perfectly meet their needs. Design was the next step in the process. By controlling property acquisition/construction, interior design, and marketing/sales to the end user, WeWork guarantees that it stands out from the competition.
Aspiring coworking space owners should take this as a lesson. Even if you can’t afford to vertically integrate your business, you want to do as much as you can in-house, and you want to have control over the majority of your business. The more you depend on sub-par middle men, the harder it is to build an outstanding product.