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space planning

Reducing the Office Programming Process From 3 Months to 15 Minutes

If you have moved offices before, then you know just how challenging it can be. A move is one reason (but not the only reason) you may need help understanding how much space your company needs. Perhaps you are looking to reduce your office footprint or open up an office in a new location. The right office space can help companies hire competitive talent, keep employees healthy, reduce operating costs, or create the perfect conditions for the next big idea. Each goal has a direct impact on how much space a company occupies, but the task of creating a highly customized workplace that meets those goals can be daunting.

Companies have historically turned to workplace strategists to create informed and actionable office space programs that match the work styles and needs of their employees, often involving a detailed and manual process to research and forecast future space demands. CBRE recognized a need to bring quality space planning recommendations to a broader base of users, while also reinventing traditional planning methods and eliminating cost through automation. In six months, from ideation to launch, CBRE created Spacer, a free web-based space planning technology.

The first of its kind in the industry and available to companies of any size for free, Spacer delivers a custom, architect-ready space program with square footage recommendations for every desk, office and collaboration space, along with the built-in amenities that matter to a company’s workforce, such as wellness rooms and community areas for eating and socializing.

Workplace personality quiz

First, Spacer guides users through key operational, cultural and spatial Profiler questions – think of it as a workplace personality quiz. Company executives or real estate decision makers are most likely to complete the Profiler questions since many address long-term operations planning, yet the simple navigation allows anyone to take it for a spin. Questions range from seat assignment to dress code and help paint a picture of an organization’s unique goals and objectives.

The tool doesn’t base its logic on industry – there is no single “tech” workplace. Instead, eight profiles are defined based on composite data from real organizations and workplaces collected by CBRE Workplace over the past 20 years. These eight profiles are placed on a spectrum of density and openness to progressive workplace strategies. Question by question, users’ responses are weighted to push them into one of the eight profiles, ensuring the results are based on their organizational practices and goals, not on an industry average.

Until this point, defining an organization’s objectives well enough to make customized space recommendations would typically take three months of qualitative and quantitative research, including interviews, surveys, on-site observations, and utilization studies. Spacer has taken a three-month process and condensed it into 17 questions that can be answered in 15 minutes. There will always be organizations that need a more in-depth analysis, but for small to medium-sized organizations, Spacer is reducing the real estate planning and leasing timeline in a meaningful way.
CBRE Spacer

Real-time space calculation and visualization

Once a user completes the Profiler quiz, including current headcount, collaboration ratio and average days in the office, a space program is generated with a recommended office size range. An important feature allows users to toggle between usable and rentable square feet – a calculation that is extremely technical and manual today. Rentable is the square footage type that tenants pay for, but usable is the amount of space a tenant receives and space plans for – this concept alone can be confusing for companies new to the leasing process. Spacer has bridged the gap between these two space calculations by using the project location to inform the local loss factor and additional add-on percentages to allow for an accurate calculation of rental square feet.

When the headcount is applied to the ratios contained with each profile, Spacer recommends an itemized space program defining exactly how many seats and rooms an office needs to achieve the work environment they desire. The ability to tinker with the inputs and add or remove specialty space types means the program can be customized to the unique needs of every user – it doesn’t give a “one size fits all” solution. Spacer results update in real time as you adjust headcount and space type quantities, making it easier to visualize how each metric impacts space size.

Seeing is believing, especially when it comes to spaces. Spacer is integrated with CBRE’s proprietary Floored Plans technology to visualize space plans in 2D and 3D. The space allocation of each profile is translated into a digital floor plan, which can be edited in real time and viewed in both 2D and 3D. Users can both analyze office metrics and gain consensus to make decisions faster with the ability to visualize the impacts of every space decision. Finally, custom plans can be saved and shared by email or exported as a pdf to help companies start the office search process with confidence.

Optimizing for the Internet

Spacer is an innovative technology, not only in its technical infrastructure, but also in its method of distribution. Until now, the workplace strategy sector has carefully guarded its methods for advising clients on office requirements, making it difficult for a diverse range of organizations to gain access to universally beneficial expertise. CBRE Workplace is taking the bold stance to differentiate itself through its technology and expertise and is offering its methodology and space analysis process through Spacer for free to anyone via the internet.

As companies turn to Google for their most daunting office move questions – such as, how much office space do I need, what is rentable square feet, and how do I find office space – Spacer utilized search engine optimization strategies to show up in their search first. After using Spacer, companies can send their program directly to their real estate broker to help identify an office that meets their requirements. Data-driven workplace expertise has never been available at no cost and will push the industry to reassess how it delivers value with CBRE Workplace already one step ahead.

Propmodo is a global multimedia effort to explore how emerging technologies affect our built environment.

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