Maximum flexibility, minimum hassle: Space as a service (SPaaS)

DIRTT explores Space as a Service (SPaaS) and how it will impact the future of work and the workplace. 

DIRTT Chicago DXC – Photography by James John Jetel

Digital innovation and a generational shift in work habits are fueling the concept of space as a service (SPaaS), where landlords offer a suite of a-la-carte features and services to enhance a tenant’s experience in a space.

Research done by commercial real estate (CRE) services company Jones Lang LaSalle confirms that 30% of all office space will be consumed in a flexible manner by 2030, as 67% of CRE decision makers are incorporating flexible space as a central element of their agile work strategies.

Landlords are beginning to repackage space as a dynamic service that can be creatively customized and monetized — as opposed to a static product that yields a fixed monthly or annual income.

While SPaaS has been around for a number of years, it has grown from a marginal business sector to accounting for more than 10-20% of leasing activity in many markets as of 2019. Today, it’s poised to be more relevant to design leaders than ever before. Modular, customized, prefabricated interiors are a way to add increased flexibility and agility to spaces both right now — and in the future.

DIRTT Chicago DXC – Photography by James John Jetel

What is SPaaS?

SPaaS is an offshoot of the sharing economy — epitomized by companies like Uber, Airbnb, Netflix and Spotify which cater to an on-demand world. It reflects a shift of focus from products to people, possessions to experiences, and ownership to usership. That resonates with a post-pandemic mindset, which puts agility and fluidity above permanence.

Simply put: It blends commercial real estate with a focus on user experience.

SPaaS marks a paradigm shift in the way the CRE traditionally operates.

While the conventional approach treated commercial real estate as a product (blocks of space for rent), the SPaaS model embraces a more customer-centric approach where space is provided along with amenities, customizable configurations, flexibility, scalability, and a sense of community.

SPaaS requires a stronger focus on understanding how occupants engage with their buildings, ideally by using data and analytics to track movement and space utilization. It’s also increasing the need to provide community- and productivity-based amenities and services rather than simply leasing a building.

This demand to cater to a post-pandemic workplace that is fluid and flexible will only continue to grow. And the key to gaining a competitive edge will lie in understanding that enterprises no longer want an office — they want a productive workforce and will seek out landlords who enable better employee engagement and a unique user experience.

DIRTT Chicago DXC

How modular solutions enable SPaaS

Delivering SPaaS to tenants sounds like a tall order for landlords who are used to traditional multi-year leases with minimal interactions. But it can be done quite easily using modular interior components that allow a workplace to quickly adapt to the evolving needs of people who inhabit the space.

Customized prefabricated interiors that are built off-site can be quickly and easily assembled — or even disassembled for reconfiguration or reuse in a different location — and they are precision-built so they can fit into any space. When technology is used to design the space, there are also no cost-overruns, the space can be built and delivered quickly, and there is less waste than conventional construction.

Even more importantly, they result in flexible spaces that easily adapt and re-adapt to their occupants long after initial build out without having to go through costly retrofits and renovations. Space can easily be reconfigured and renewed by moving walls, switching to glass or leaf walls, or swapping types of wall surfaces and film to make a space more functional and interactive.

Retailers too are experimenting with the SPaaS model. Through a concept they call “brandboxing,” they offer flexible terms and all-inclusive set-ups to online retailers who wish to leave their digital confines and test their products in local malls.

Even though the SPaaS model now straddles different streams of real estate, it is an elegant solution to the same user needs — maximum flexibility, minimum hassle. And whichever way this trend evolves, CRE that is built with modular interior components will prove agile in its ability to adapt.

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