Space is expensive in cities, let’s use it more efficiently

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From half-empty office blocks to vacant parking bays, it’s time to use ‘wasted’ space in our cities in a more productive way.

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Space is expensive in cities, let’s use it more efficiently
Space is scarce and extremely expensive in the great metropolises like London, New York and Singapore where there is rampant demand and limited supply. With an extra 180,000 people added to the world’s urban population each day, many cities, already creaking under the pressure of population growth, are in for a seriously tough time.

And this has grave consequences: cities around the globe are witnessing the skyrocketing cost of housing, office space, parking and much more. The problem is so acute some cities risk becoming a victim of their own success.

Breathing new life into underused spaces
With new construction rates unlikely to plug the gaps, businesses and homeowners are inventing novel ways to use existing space more efficiently and cost-effectively. Underused space of all kinds – from attics and spare bedrooms to conference venues and driveways – is increasingly viewed as an opportunity – and a financially beneficial one at that.

This is all thanks to the sharing economy. Start-ups like OfficeRiders in France or Vrumi and Spacehop in the UK, enable living spaces in private homes to be used as fitness studios, office space for therapists or masseuses, a venue for workshops or simply a quiet place to get some work done.

Storage is another area ripe for the sharing economy. Start-up Spacer.com allows people to rent out their garages, attics, basements and even a hallway closet. Like ParqEx in Chicago and JustPark in Europe, Spacer is also a platform for people to rent unused parking spaces from private homes and businesses; a market with a lot of potential in urban areas where available spaces are at a premium.

Companies are getting in on the act too, renting out desk space which can be underused for as much as 60 percent of the working day on a short-term basis to subcontractors or partners. Companies like LiquidSpace, PivotDesk, and ShareDesk are work’s Airbnbs, offering flexible small work spaces. They allow businesses with excess office space or unused conference rooms to list them for rent by the day, week, or month.

This trend is already influencing the UK office market in a big way. The likes of Derwent London have responded with novel office developments such as the White Collar Factory in Shoreditch: a shared office with flexible workspace and a campus-like feel.

And there’s a growing market for retailers. Companies like Go Vacant, Storefront, PopUp Angels and Pop Up are now helping businesses around the world find an empty space for their pop up shop or event.

Raising some fundamental questions
All this is transforming the way we think about our built environment. If we use space more efficiently, by sharing our spaces, we’ll need less space overall. If nothing else, the desire to use space more efficiently has unearthed some radical new solutions which raise some very significant questions about the future of real estate.

This article was first published on JLL Real Views, JLL’s global site providing expert insights on the trends and developments shaping real estate.

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