“You Never Know What You’re Going to Learn at a CoreNet Global Summit”

The roughly 3,000 corporate real estate professionals attending the North American Summit in Seattle this week started their conference with a jolt when Peter Diamandis, Chairman and Co-Founder of Singularity University, explained the tangible effects that the exponential growth of computing power will have on corporate real estate. 

“Whenever you digitize anything it enters a period of slow deceptive growth,  and then it becomes disruptive.” And Diamandis used the confluence of ride sharing and self-driven cars as an example. He predicted that autonomous cars will be make an appearance within the next year, and will become a dominant force in five years. He predicted that with the pervasiveness of ride sharing services, it will no longer be cost-effective to own a car, and he said that as a result, car ownership will be dead by 2025. 

At its most basic level, these changes have direct impacts on corporate real estate professionals. Most obviously: parking lots. How much space and expense are being designated today for parking lots that won’t be used within ten years? 

Diamandis also shared that in 2010 1.8 billion people were connected online. Today there are 3.8 billion and in the next 4-6 years 8 billion people will be connected. 

“It’s an explosion like we’ve never seen before. What are these people going to create discover, desire, invent? If they’re not your customers, they are your customers’ customers.”  

Microsoft, in the meantimeis concerned about what their employees are eating. Really. 

Roughly 60,000 people work at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, WA, making it nothing short of a small city; 40,000 meals are served every day. And Mark Freeman, the company’s senior manager of dining services, has set about changing the way that food is processed and served there.

First, there is onsite cultivation of produce, which provides local foods. Microsoft yields its own crop of lettuce that grows in 55 hydroponic towers interspersed across the Redmond campus.

The pilot program started in 2013. Today the annual harvest totals 15,000 pounds of lettuce and a ton of micro-greens including basil, cilantro and kale. The 2,000 cooks and other employees of contract dining services provider Compass Group USA pick the greens as they’re needed.

Second, the company has negotiated deals with local restaurateurs and chefs to bring Seattle’s best dining experiences directly to the employees on the campus. Several restaurants — even a pub — serve exclusively Microsoft employees and their guests.

“We listened to our customers,” Freeman said. “It’s nice to have a place to give people a reprieve, such as a full service restaurant.  Peoples’ work schedules are just so hectic that with an experience  like this, they don’t have to leave campus to come in and relax and be taken care of. Microsoft gave us the platform to help people restore.”

Freeman also said it’s not just nice, but it is essential to attracting and keeping the best talent. 

At the end of the day, a panel including Kaiser Permanente, BHDP Architecture, and mindSHIFT discussed the importance of wellness in the workplace. 

“You never know what you’re going to learn at a CoreNet Global summit,” said T. Patrick Donnelly, AIA, MCR.h, LEED AP. He then relayed a story about a corporate headquarter redesign and how it saved a client’s marriage. The client had shared that the transformation to a workplace with natural light, better environments for collaborating and working allowed her to be more productive at work. That made her happier and gave her more energy for her husband and her children. And that, she said, changed her marriage.

“Let’s use architecture to create a culture of total health,” he said.