Space and performance

Yesterday was my day for thinking about space andorganizational performance. First, I listened to a webinar hosted by the Real Estate Executive Board. It was called the Headquarter Relocation Strategy Playbook and billed as:

"Another addition to REEB's collection of playbooks; this teleconference lays out a road map on the best way to tackle a headquarter relocation. Filled with case studies, actionable tools, and time-saving templates, this playbook should be your first stop when creating your own internal strategy."

Did it live up to the billing? I thought it was worth the hour spent on it, although the presenter galloped through the ten steps and 70 slides without a pause – skipping over several 'in the interests of time'. However, the material is available and my question after the webinar was answered within the hour.

The message of the webinar was that Corporate Read Estate (CRE) has long been associated with 'facilities' and the price per square foot of property, but in the playbook Richard Evans, Director, Worldwide Real Estate, GlaxoSmithKline plc is quoted as saying

"Now, we have the opportunity to help the business determine its strategic direction. The challenge is developing the right framework to engage the business on the right considerations."

And it was refreshing to see and hear throughout the webinar stakeholder maps, engagement and communication strategies, and change management techniques along with several good case studies and pointers towards further information on the topic of space planning and business performance

Later in the day I was sent a presentation on a similar topic "Workforce & Workspace Sustainability" in which the presenter made the point that

"Real Estate plays a key role in the performance relationship between how buildings work and work performance."

He went on to say that

The foundation of this is the information utility, or the next generation building information network. In addition to the plumbing, piping, and wiring in your building, we now add a single, secure, common collaboration and communications platform to the fabric of a building. Not much unlike the other utilities, we lay the groundwork to design and install systems that will interact with and communicate over this one IP network. A single, secure communications and collaboration platform helps to make the user more productive while intensifying the use of your real estate. By converging and providing among other technologies, high speed internet, telephony, visitor management (remote receptionist), audio and video conferencing, web-conferencing, rich media, and digital signage, one can support collaboration and productivity of the workforce and users of the building."

This interaction between physical building and present/mobile workforce members is possible because the newer 'pipework' and other techonologies are converging to make the way space is used an integral part of delivery of the business strategy.

Cisco is one of the leaders in this field – both itself practicing what it preaches, and pioneering in the arena of work space and work performance strategies. Fast Company reported in February 2010 that Cisco had been appointed to become:

New Songdo's exclusive supplier of digital plumbing. More than simply installing routers and switches — or even something so banal as citywide Wi-Fi — Cisco is expected to wire every square inch of the city with synapses. From the trunk lines running beneath the streets to the filaments branching through every wall and fixture, it promises this city will "run on information." Cisco's control room will be New Songdo's brain stem.

New Songdo is a city being built from scratch in South Korea.

"It has been hailed since conception as the experimental prototype community of tomorrow. A green city, it was LEED-certified from the get-go, designed to emit a third of the greenhouse gases of a typical metropolis its size (about 300,000 people during the day). It's an "international business district" and an "aerotropolis" — a Western-oriented city more focused on the airport and China beyond than on Seoul."

Looking at the website it's clear that the city is being planned to exemplify the interactions of physical space with new collaborative and other technologies. Exciting times for space planners and another milestone in the march towards utopia. Let's hope that the outcome of both new ways of office planning and of city planning in fact have positive outcomes for citizens. It twill take time before we know whether these approaches work or whether Jane Jacobs would turn over in her grave and pick up cudgels again.

NOTE Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) "was an urban writer and activist who championed new, community-based approaches to planning for over 40 years. Her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, became perhaps the most influential American text about the inner workings and failings of cities".