Measuring Building Quality Beyond the Financial Model

How do you ascertain a particular building’s level of quality? Typically, a dollar value is used to approximate quality, whether by building a financial model that takes into consideration the building’s features and desirability, researching what similar properties trade for, or estimating the cost to build a replacement structure. But each of those methods are simply approximations; metrics that give a sense of value but cannot easily determine the quality of individual building characteristics like human-centered design or comfort.

But what if there was a way to directly measure factors like sun and noise exposure, unit size, and floor plan configuration? That is the goal Norwegian multifamily-focused PropTech AI firm Spacemaker is attempting to achieve. The company recently got quite a bit closer to that goal, with a $25 million Series A round raised from a variety of real estate and tech investors.

Spacemaker is trying to solve much the same thing as New York City’s Envelope, albeit with a much more varied list of measurables. It’s all about optimization: using artificial intelligence to set up massing, unit layouts, and building configurations to maximize value given a particular set of regulatory guidelines from the local municipality. Spacemaker takes things a step beyond Envelope by also looking at how to optimize for energy efficiency based on specific location as well as regional climate more broadly.

In a way, it is almost surprising that a platform which combines analysis of project necessities (zoning and regulatory) with energy and comfort optimization has been lacking for so long. It’s the crystallization of the triple bottom line approach that has become extremely common around the world (if by other names): People, Planet, and Profit.

Of course, planning and building a well-optimized property is only part of the battle. A new apartment needs to stand up against a competitive set that is increasingly well designed and amenitized, especially in busy urban centers. To that end, the financial models we are used to are absolutely here to stay. But an understanding of what is likely to work well within a building, and some of the hard-to-measure qualities like adequate shade (how do you represent that in a brochure?) will be crucial as competition intensifies and greenfield space become increasingly more scarce in the future.

Image credit: Spacemaker

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