WeWork uses cutting-edge laser technology to map new workspaces

Insufficient space for a revenue-earning desk or an obstructed plug socket can be costly for WeWork’s finances and reputation.

April 29, 2019 21:17
3 minute read.
WeWork uses cutting-edge laser technology to map new workspaces

A detailed scan of a New York City building, produced by WeWork's reality-capture team . (photo credit: WEWORK)


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At an undisclosed location in the Tel Aviv area, American collaborative workspace giant WeWork is quietly working on its latest Israeli offering.

The New York-headquartered company has enjoyed rapid growth in recent years, more than doubling its global presence in 2018 alone – from 200 locations to 425 locations worldwide – and keeping its team of interior designers busy as they transform new and old buildings alike into dynamic workspaces.

When dealing with such demand, especially at locations far from headquarters, accuracy is paramount. Insufficient space for a revenue-earning desk or an obstructed plug socket can be costly for WeWork’s finances and reputation.

Recognizing that building blueprints can prove unreliable, especially when working with old and sometimes dilapidated structures, WeWork has recruited a 20-strong reality-capture team to produce stunningly detailed plans of their future sites, making the days of using measuring tapes in surveying a distant memory.

Equipped with over a dozen state-of-the-art laser scanners worth $100,000 per device, the team travels around the world, measuring every crevice of potential workspaces and providing plans accurate to 1/16th of an inch. Experienced team member Levi Matenko spent two days mapping the company’s newest Tel Aviv area property.

The detailed data-heavy designs, unparalleled in their precision, are then digitally sent to the company’s design team to convert into the sprawling, modern workspaces for which WeWork is well-known.

“Everything that WeWork touches or does they prefer to do in-house – that’s the culture of the business and the scale of it,” Thad Wester, WeWork director of reality capture, told The Jerusalem Post.

“It is not possible to be better than the scanner. It does two things, it eliminates some of the risk of developing a new property and it enables us to speed up the design process as well.”

The scariest phrase that any construction team can hear, Wester added, is “change order,” where the original designs are simply not possible to execute. Faulty measurements caused by human error, especially costly when dealing with offices in far-flung destinations, ought to be a thing of the past when scanning with WeWork’s technology.

A state-of-the-art laser scanner used by WeWork to map the company's latest Tel Aviv property / EYTAN HALON

“This is definitely not standard practice. You won’t go to any construction company that I know of, especially at our scale and pace, incorporating this level of laser scanning into their regular process,” Wester said.

“We want to make sure that what the company says, it can do and can actually build. It’s important financially and we care about giving our members a good user experience. We’re the tip of the spear in all these projects to make sure everything else will go according to plan.”

WeWork has opened 10 workspaces in five Israeli cities to date, welcoming 7,000 members through its doors on a daily basis. This summer, it will cut the ribbon at its 11th space, located at Tel Aviv’s Shoken Street. The company counts over 400,000 global members, with WeWork signs now a regular sight in 100 cities and 27 countries worldwide.

The laser scanning process, Wester said, differs for every property, with every building posing unique challenges. Last year, his team worked on 650 projects across the world, gathering a stunning 800 billion individual measurements.

While the average WeWork location requires 20 to 30 scans to create a detailed rendering, the mapping of the iconic 11-floor Lord & Taylor Building in Manhattan required more than 4,000 scans.

“We want to try to push the envelope and I think we’ve seen some really significant gains on the business front from using laser scanning. This is just the beginning for us and we’re thinking about how to build on this foundation of accurate data,” said Wester.

“We’re looking into the prefabrication of components and the transformation of the construction site into more of a manufacturing site. We’re talking about how to leverage this technology to manufacture components in an assembly line process, rather than a lot of custom work that is carried out on site today. That gets us excited and gets the industry excited too.”   

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