Repurposing office space : A low maintenance system to rent and use office space

Posted on July 3, 2011


What is this post about?

This post explores the basis for a scalable, low maintenance system to automate the commercial exploitation of office space: including simple ways to grant and dany people access to Flexible Office Space.

The purpose of this series is to create the foundation for a concept in which existing and vacant Office Space can be broken up into commercial units which can be leased separately without creating extra overhead for the Owner/Exploiter.

Related links

  1. Basic principals – See this post for my basic exploration on office space, the classic models of exploitation and the added and negative value of property for its surroundings..

Three issues on exploiting a building

We begin this post by summarizing three issues on the exploitation of a building. More details can be found in the “Basic principals” post as mentioned in “Related links”.

  1. Administrative costs – Including contracts, invoices, assuring and handling payments by clients.
  2. Handling costs – Including handing over keys, creating keys and delivering the office space
  3. Efficiency – The more office space is leased to less clients the better

Three issues on current office space

  1. Supply and no demand – There is more office space available than needed in the business. The result is loss of revenue and loss of value.
  2. Decay – Empty office space is prone to vandalism and decay.
  3. Negative added value – For the city, as there is no business, no flow of people and the building itself is a dead space.

Three potential groups of clients

Offering attractive conditions to rent office- and working space

  1. European technology start ups
  2. Freelancers and small businesses in the city
  3. Social businesses – like restaurants, small educational companies

Main focus of the sytem

  1. No overhead – The system should reduce any form of overhead towards the building owner
  2. Automated – Any transaction between a Client and a building should be automated: without the need of any additional human interaction
  3. Clear and simple – Any Client should be able to make transactions and understand exactly what the limitations and options are as a result of that transaction
  4. Hard to fraud – Anything in between that can instigate fraud should be kept out. Even if there might be a: “business opportunity” left out.

Seven elements

  1. Online – Finding and booking vacant space. Using a database with real time information on which units in which buildings are available, reserved and taken
  2. Local – Closing the deal via PIN-payment and a Touch screen.
  3. RFID – Using general purpose RFID cards to gain access to a building and a unit.
  4. Payment up front – All units and work spaces are paid for up front.
  5. Limited time access – All and each unit are made available for limited time. A space can be reserved for a long period of time, spanning multiple months, but if payment is not done for the next period, access will be denied to that unit to that client.
  6. Full Client responsibility – The Client is fully responsible for maintaining access rights to a building and office
  7. Automated administration – Invoices and reminders (regarding new payments) are sent via e-mail to the Client and the Building.

The basic flow to access a building and office

Basic flow to get access to an Office and Office space

Three ways to get access to an Office Unit

  1. Reserving online, payment on spot – The first way is by reserving a space online and pay at the office. Included is an QR-Code produced after online reservation and to be shown to the local system when starting the payment process.
  2. Selection and payment on spot – The second option is by selecting the unit and period of time on the spot. And do the payment immediately.
  3. Via a guest-account – The third is via a guest account, where the Client grants you temporary access to the building and the unit the Client paid for.

In all cases general purpose RFID cards can be used

OV Chip cards as issued in the Netherlands

General Purpose RFID cards are any card with a readable RFID chip. This includes:
  1. OV Chip card
  2. Oyster card
  3. RFID tag on sticker or 3rd party (bonus/air mile) card

In most, to all cases, payment is on the spot

  1. No fraud – To cut out any possibility for fraud between the service provider and the Commercial Exploiter
  2. To allow scalability and independent development – To allow for maximum decentralized scalability of the concept
  3. Simplification – Adding a man in the middle adds an extra layer of complexity, more administration and requires a bond of trust. To keep the financial process simple, payments are made electronically, directly to the party exploiting the building.

Payment is done via electronic payment system, coupled to the bank account of the Commercial Exploiter of that building.

Gaining the right to Access to an Office Unit

Reserve online, pay on the spot

Reserving online, paying at location

The biggest benefit – when you are a first time Client – of arranging the reservation online is speed.

Since you have to go online to find out which location has what space available you just as well might fill in all the basic data required to reserve a space properly:

  1. Your e-mail address
  2. Your name
  3. Your home-address and registration number for taxes, if required

The check-in process on a location is – in this case – limited to the following steps:

  1. Present your printout with the QR code
  2. Insert your RFID card
  3. Make the payment via the electronic payment system.

Reservation and payment on the spot

Reservation and payment on the spot

The check-in process on a location is – in this case – limited to the following steps:

  1. Insert your e-mail address (for announcements and your invoice)
  2. Insert your name (if it is not known yet)
  3. State the required time frame
  4. Find and select an available unit
  5. Insert your RFID card
  6. Make the payment via the electronic payment system

When space is not available on that spot

It is possible to link all available locations and suggest an alternative location / Office / Building offering a matching Office Unit in the matching time frame.


What RFID cards provide

RFID Cards provide:
  1. A unique machine readable ID number per card – Making it possible to distinguish separate clients and keep access to a specific unit exclusive to those RFID cards registered to a unit
  2. A quick and reliable machine read out – Using an RFID reader, the scan of the ID on a card is done under one second
  3. A cheap, safe and easy to gain object– Due to the introduction of the OV Chip card and the overall increasing use of RFID cards anywhere, each person has or will have at least one RFID card in the pocket. As the number per RFID card is unique and personal, the RFID card as a key is safe as well.
  4. A simple way to grant a person access – To a building and unit, by adding that card ID to the “Granted Access List” of a building and Office Unit.
  5. A simple way to deny a person access – To a building and unit, by removing that card ID from the “Granted Access List” of a building and Office Unit.

Four safety aspects of using RFID

  1. No copies – Unlike a normal key, an RFID card is not a copy issued to one or more people.
  2. Unique, physical and bound to a person – Each RFID card is unique. Granting access via an RFID card is granting access to the person who holds that RFID card. Denying access is also bound to a specific person.
  3. Access is personal and explicitly based on the unique number or ID of the card – What we use is that unique aspect per RFID card, bound to only one person: represented in a number that can be read from that card.
  4. Machine readable and hard to reproduce – Unlike a pin-code you type in, the RFID code is hard to copy or reproduce. As it is machine-readable, it is also a very fast and easy way to gain access once access is granted to the uniqque number on that specific card.

Limited time access

By default the access to a building and Office Unit via an RFID card is time limited. This means that:

  1. No access is granted outside the granted time period – The door(s) will not be opened if the card is used outside the granted time period.
  2. Access to a building will automatically expire – Unless the Client actively renews and prolongs the period to which he or she needs access.
  3. No action will automatically lead to expiration of Access Rights – Meaning that the Client can not enter afterwards due to human error.
  4. Maintenance of Access Lists is simplified – Due to the automatic expiration of access rights, Clients and users will be automatically removed from the Access Lists unless action is taken to prevent that.

Design rules of Guest access

A brief overview:

  1. Definition of Client – Clients stand for “paying clients”.
  2. Definition of Guest – Guests are guests of the paying Client. They can be people hired for temporary jobs (temp workers, interns, freelancers) or guests visiting for a specific period of time, with the need of individual access to the building
  3. Client Access – Client Access is for the duration of the pre-paid period.
  4. Temporary Guest Access – Guests can be given temporary access to the building and the specific unit of the Client, by pairing the Guest RFID card to the RFID card of the Client.
  5. Set to name – The registered Guest RFID card should be registered by name, for later reference. See: “Repeated Guest Access”.
  6. Maximum time limit for Guest Access – The maximum time a Guest is granted access should be 8 to 10 hours per day, from the moment of Guest/Client RFID card pairing: to allow temp workers and freelancers free access to the office during that working time.
  7. Guest Access time limit set by Client – The maximum time a Guest is granted access is to be set by the Client.
  8. Repeated Guest Access – In case of Repeated Guest Access a once paired RFID card can be scheduled to be “activated” online by the Client.
  9. Scheduled activation of Guest Access is limited – The Client can only schedule repeated Guest Access for a limited period. This should be no longer than one work week, ranging in most cases from Monday to Friday.
Posted in: Smart Spaces