Pant-less Office, Acoustic Homes, Airbnb Glut, and Bacterial Construction
I hope you are well and staying productive during these strange times. Earlier this week, I led a live discussion with Antony Slumbers, Susan Freeman, Elie Finegold, and Ronen Journo about the impact of coronavirus on cities and buildings. About 640 people registered for the virtual event, with nearly 500 joining us in real time. A recording is available here.
Antony and I are delaying the launch of our online course about the future of office spaces and buildings. Virus permitting, the course will begin in May. Learn more and take advantage of our early-bird discount here.
Below are the five most interesting things I’ve seen this week at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds, followed by some bonus content.
1. Lost your pants? You only need a shirt. Walmart is reporting a surge in demand for shirts, but not trousers — as more people work from home and only need to get half-dressed for a day of video calls. It won't end there. Soon enough, we'll have virtual clothes and won't need to bother with anything else.
2. The phone booth goes home? ROOM, a maker of soundproof phone booths, has been seeing demand from companies who are buying booths on behalf of employees who plan to use them at home. The company is accommodating this demand, even though in normal times it does not recommend the product for home use. Even once this crisis is behind us, I expect more people to buy phone booths for their home. Beyond the acoustic upgrade, it is healthy to have a specific spot that is designated for focused work and call.
3. Airbnb cuts both ways. Airbnb's fast growth hurt many urban renters who felt the company was taking residential inventory units off the markets. Now, Airbnb's rapid contraction is hurting urban landlords, who are suddenly stuck with units they planned to list for short-term stays. An analysis from Dublin shows a 64% rise in rental listings. These are not people who suddenly decided to move. In other cities, there is also a surge in listings with beautiful photos... just like the one used on Airbnb.
4. You can check-in anytime you like... A luxury hotel chain is offering luxury quarantine packages across Switzerland. Guests enjoy automated registration, touches keys, in-room testing for coronavirus, 24/7 care from a team of nurses, and on-demand doctor visits. Unfortunately, rooms are NOT cleaned daily — only sanitized before a new guest arrives. Hotels in Australia and Asia are also offering 14-day packages, balcony included.
5. If you can't beat them, build them. While the world is fighting coronavirus, there are signs of cooperation from other microscopic organisms. Researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder managed to engineer bacteria to "create useful minerals and polymers and form them into living building blocks that could, one day, bring buildings to life". Hopefully, there'll be enough of us left to live in those buildings.
6. Bonus Content
🗞 Bisnow included my thoughts in their article about WeWork's decision not to shut down its spaces during the crisis.
🖥 The Information included my thoughts about short-term rental operators' ability to renegotiate leases with multifamily landlords.
📻 I was on SiriusXM radio to talk about the use of urban technology in China and the U.S. to counter the spread of coronavirus.
📄 What can landlords learn from WeWork and Airbnb — even if both will end up going bust? A summary of my talk to NAIOP's Board of Directors in October 2019. It's more relevant than ever.
That's it from me. Do you know anyone who would enjoy this newsletter? Please forward it to them!
Have a great weekend, and stay healthy!