“The shared economy is based on three miracles: the ability to leverage spare capacity, the exponential effect of shared learning and the omnipresence of resources” Robin Chase, Founder, Zipcar.

Technology is transforming the world at a rapid rate. The shared, or gig, economy is using technology to maximise the use of assets that, in traditional markets, would be under-utilised. Cars, second homes, offices and Wi-Fi are just some examples of everyday items that sit idle for most of the time. The transport market especially has seen the emergence of new types of services that offer ways to ease the pressure within growing urban populations. For example, a typical car lies unused for approximately 23 hours a day. This represents a tremendous investment in overcapacity – both for car owners and for the public authorities that provide and maintain public infrastructure.

The space that sits unused within office blocks, industrial spaces, hotel valet car parks, leisure centres, residential blocks, council-owned land, all lie empty for certain periods of time. For example, a car park within a block of residential apartments is typically empty between 8am-6pm and a car park within an office block is mostly empty between 6pm-8am. That time where the space is empty is worth money, and it simply requires a model to connect the resource with willing consumers.

One model is catching the eye of local councils, landowners and even environmentalists – the re-use of idle building space for extra car parking; an issue that over-crowded cities have battled with increasingly as they continue to grow in population.

For more than a century, parking garages have existed virtually unchanged: boring, often unsightly, yet largely ignored by the public; tolerated by users, and a steady if unspectacular investment vehicle for owners and operators. Now, however, as technology is rapidly mounting its disruptive assault across the real estate value chain, even the dowdy parking garage is undergoing a radical makeover, as innovators and entrepreneurs employ web-based end-to-end parking connectivity — or as MetaProp have dubbed it, “GarageTech” — to produce the parking facilities of the 21st Century. (Taken from Metaprop’s white paper on the topic, which you can read here.)

ParkBee is an Amsterdam-based (with a London office just opened) technology start-up that has developed a simple model that ‘unlocks’ the under-used private car parks in congested cities for the benefit of public use. ParkBee’s simple model helps landlords generate large extra revenues by opening their car park space for the public at times it would usually sit empty. For the public, opening more areas that are available to park in means that drivers spend less time searching for parking (which reduces emissions) and for cities, this model helps lessen the need to build any new car parks.

Landlords are using ParkBee’s platform to make large profits on their sites, for example, since working with ParkBee in 2015, a site owner in Overtroom, Amsterdam, has made over €250,000 per year on just 30 parking spaces. By signing a site up with ParkBee, the property can also collect additional BREEAM rating points. There is no universally agreed definition of ‘sustainability’, however BREEAM argues that sustainability is the use of an asset to its full potential, therefore this model has a positive effect on the property’s value.

Drivers are also benefitting from this model. Being able to park in a once under-utilised space means the costs of parking are dramatically lower than other local parking. For example, a ParkBee car park in the City of London offers 24 hours of parking for just £12, whereas other local car parks price at between £19 and £44 for the day.

So how does this affect the construction industry?

Put simply – by maximising a city’s under-utilised assets, we drastically reduce the need for construction. The example described above refers to parking, however the shared economy can come in many different forms within the built environment.

Hypothetically speaking, if we lived in a shared-economy utopia, and every empty home were to be utilised effectively, we would drastically reduce the current economy’s pressure to build new homes. The same can be said for office space, which is another booming market within the shared economy, as proven by the likes of WeWork.

Opening space and maximising its use is one of the most important aspects of a city’s sustainability. Creating more innovative ways to maximise the use of space means less polluted, happier and economically stronger cities for the future.


– by Ariana Alexander-Sefre, UK Marketing Manager, Parkbee