MIPIM Special Series — Part One: Shared Buildings and Spaces
- May 05, 2014
Associate editor Adriana Pop presents a three-part series of reports on worldwide real estate based on presentations at the MIPIM world property market in March. Additional reports will focus on Bringing Logistics Back into the City Through Mixed-Use Developments and the Emergence of New Retail Models in Urban Environments.
By Adriana Pop, Associate Editor
The second issue of the Cahiers de la Chaire Immobilier et Développement Durable (The Real Estate and Sustainable Development Chair Notebook), released during MIPIM’s 25th anniversary convention, tends to debunk a number of stereotypes related to the practice of sharing urban property. The ESSEC Business School study highlights a mixed-use approach to the uses and sharing of real estate property in the contemporary city.
Presented during the “Functional Diversity” session at the convention, the publication gave rise to a debate moderated by Prof. Ingrid Nappi-Choulet, the real estate and sustainable development chair at the ESSEC Business School in Paris. Christian Cleret, general manager of Poste Immo, a subsidiary of the French post office La Poste Group, termed that debunking one of the “virtues” of the study.
Mixed Uses at the Office
Supported by Poste Immo, Foncière des Régions and BNP Paribas Real Estate, the publication includes a series of interviews with real estate thinkers and operators about approaches to sharing property in urban environments, with some of the most original highlighted during the session.
Workplace furniture and product provider Steelcase, for instance, has recently made some innovations in workplace design that are meant to bring higher efficiency and wellbeing to both the firm and its employees, according to Catherine Gall, its European research director in Paris.
Since corporate buildings clearly contribute to the overall performance of the organization, today’s approach to workplace design takes into account the emotional and social aspects of the spaces, in addition to the financial, technical and environmental concerns.
Furthermore, there is a growing interest in nomadic working resulting from the portability and miniaturization of work tools. More and more companies are now creating informal shared spaces at the office. These friendlier work environments stimulate the spontaneous cooperation between employees and directly contribute to the cohesion of a team.
“The individual workstation is no longer the employee’s only work territory,” Gall pointed out.
Fixed offices, however, will continue to serve organizations, since employees working remotely in some cases appear to become demotivated and disconnected from the “mother ship.” That’s what led Yahoo to end its teleworking system.
Another principle that supports social purposes within the organization is having the various departments, services and resource sites displayed horizontally within the building. The high-rise approach, by contrast, promotes the impression of a structurally closed work environment.
In order to foster a “co-working” spirit, some companies are also creating unattributed shared work spaces. Half office, half lounge, such “hybrid” areas offer employees an alternative to their ordinary work spaces.
Sharing office space with partner companies may also prove to be a good idea for an organization, according to Gall. Steelcase, a world leader in workplace design and layout, has been conducting such an office sharing experiment at its main site in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the past three years.
Together with four partners, the company has rented a small tower known as GRID70. Each organization accesses its designated spaces through the use of smartcards, while sharing the meeting, training and videoconference rooms. Similar to the business incubator, this innovative model can be quite successful for the creative professions, since it encourages collaboration and reduces costs.
Another novel approach gaining in popularity is the concept of co-working, related Jean-Yves Huwart, the founder of Brussels-based consulting firm Entreprise Globale. Technological developments like cloud computing and smartphones have led to a greater accessibility of nomadic work systems in recent years. That opened up a whole new perspective on workplace flexibility, especially for innovative IT companies like Microsoft, Apple and Citrix, which have been quite receptive to the concept.
Freelancers and small businesses have also embraced this new way of sharing workspaces, which offers substantial financial and networking advantages. “Coworking is entirely compatible with this shift toward a society of service, usage and access. A firm can thus optimize costs of workspace use and come closer to the real cost, the real need as regards office space and utilization rate,” said Huwart.
Unlike the traditional model of owning or leasing a large and eventually underused office area, coworking enables users to optimize square footage, as well as costs. It also has an important relational function, which brings an unpredictable added value, since it fosters the sharing of good practices between professionals and helps spread skills much faster.
A good example of this is Silicon Alley, New York’s high-tech area, which offers coworking space to startup companies in technology, media and advertising. Likewise the Betahaus in Berlin, a startup coworking center where employees of various companies meet regularly to share different views or the latest developments in their industry.