CoreNet Global attendees at the North American Summit in Seattle began their day Tuesday with a peek at WikiTribune, a new news site being launched by Wikipedia. And they heard it first hand, from Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia. Wikipedia, Wales said, is the 5th highest trafficked site on the web, with 40 million articles, in 284 languages and 400 unique visitors every month. 

It was a rare opportunity to hear from a true Internet pioneer. And his message to the corporate real estate professionals: Too often people think in mysterious ways about their online community, hoping for some kind of magic. These are people, these are your people. What do they want to accomplish and how can you help them? 

From there it was on to a case study on Toyota’s new North American headquarters in Plano, Texas. Douglas Beebe, General Manager, Real Estate & Facilities/Corporate Security/Fire Services for Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) explained how the strategy and design for the entire, 100 acre, 2.1-million-square-foot corporate campus for 6,600 people was derived from the company’s core philosophy of continuous improvement and respect for people. And a set of guiding principles: inspiring, connecting, flexible, innovative, sustainable.

The chemistry was clear between Beebe and the representatives of his architecture (Corgan), corporate real estate and furniture teams (Steelcase), whether they were in-house or outsourced, and that collaboration clearly led to a successful project. 

 Some interesting features of the campus:

– Everyone has their own work station. And how many square feet per worker? The team said that’s not a measure they even pay attention to, since there are so many combinations of spaces where people can work. However, every employee does have his or her own workstation. 

– The campus is interconnected physically and visually, so that employees can see areas they may use, such as dining areas and conference rooms.

– A goal of reducing storage space by 40 percent from the prior location was exceeded, and there was a more than 70 percent reduction in space.

Beebe shared the lessons learned: You need a clear vision, you need the right people, continually realign priorities, develop trust and know when to be flexible and when to be firm.

From there it was down to the CoreNet Global Learning Theatre, where teams of students from  the Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands), Columbia University and Emory University competed in the Academic Challenge. Their job was to determine a strategy for their fictional company’s CEO that articulates how to reduce risk in the company’s worldwide physical footprint (i.e., real estate portfolio) and thereby reduce overall risk exposure to the corporation. 

The Academic Challenge has become a staple of the CoreNet Global summits and a new bridge between corporate real estate and the student communities. 

The day ended with a session led by Randy Smith, MCR, Vice President, Global Real Estate & Facilities, Oracle Corporation and Monique Arkesteijn, Assistant Professor Real Estate Management, Delft University of Technology. The brainy duo explained Oracles recent advances in site location decision making. Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and Oracle collaborated on testing a new model for assessing locations based on Delft research, called Preference-based Accommodation Strategy (PAS), and ran a parallel location assessment. The primary difference in this tool is the use of preference curves, rather than the more standard weighting of criteria.