2. From square feet per person to...?
I’m borrowing the 10 things concept to build an agenda of thinking for the next couple of months – my New Year’s resolutions, of sorts. Over the next few days, we’ll roll out one or two of these ideas in the hope that you’ll find something of common interest and choose to join the conversation…or even commission a study! Yesterday was the strip mall, today is workplace space.
This is the primary measure of corporate real estate cost, occupancy and utilization. It feels as if it does all the wrong things, however.
Work is mobile, agile, social, temporary, project-based, collaborative, multi-disciplinary, and more. Square feet per person implies a fixed condition, reinforces an entitlement, is predictive rather than responsive, reinforces rather than tempers demand, and measures consumption rather than production (that is, the products of the activities of the people in the space).
Most critically, this metric, as the primary subject of conversation in real estate, perpetuates a plan model that is increasingly obstructive to economic growth, and suppresses the achievement of the types of place and space that would most effectively serve the purposes and mission of companies and corporations.
There is a long distance between those who voice the purposes of organization and those who deliver its space. And the language of space makes that conversation even more abstract and obscure.
Now, in a time of significant excess space and declining rents, the language of real estate and the workspace loses even more meaning the longer it is based on area. Changing the lexicon of space, especially for its primary occupants, is a matter not only of economics, but of cities, innovation, productivity, engagement, and satisfaction that ought, it seems, point to an influence on GDP rather than local cost.
How can the language of real estate and workspace planning move from consumption to production and innovation? Which is the greater catalyst for innovation – the concept of what the workplace looks like and how it performs (illustrating and illuminating its metrics), or the measure of what takes place in the workplace (driving the brief that defines the design)?