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Sustainable CoWork Design - Expanding East Austin access to employment opportunities with distributed hubs while reducing traffic congestion

Align labor clusters with a network of Sustainable CoWork Centers to aid employers that are expanding and job seekers who can't commute far.

Photo of Michael Shear
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The solution we propose is to reduce congestion and commuting by creating an East Austin technology hub networked to multiple area employers.  We propose to survey and analyze the areas’ knowledge-based workforce and their related commuting patterns.  The resulting benefits impact assessment will also recommend the next steps to demonstrate how distributed technologies and a technology hub will give East Austin residents access to more employers, without long commutes.

The Sustainable CoWork Design Initiative (SCDI) offers an alternative urban design approach to reduce driving times and congestion while increasing the efficiency of the labor and housing markets within the Austin - Round Rock MSA (and beyond). The proposed solution involves Optimal Design and Implementation of Sustainable CoWorking Centers (SCCs). This solution uniquely leverages distributed technologies and infrastructure to achieve specific objectives. In particular:
● Sustainable CoWorking Centers (SCCs) are large, multi-tenant, satellite office spaces configured with next-generation IT infrastructures for connectivity of communications, and will be designed to office similar groups of employees (w.r.t. job description and home location) from multiple public and private sector employers.
● The location of each SCC will be optimally chosen based on traffic congestion routes and high-density labor clusters, to efficiently reduce driving and congestion-related costs within the Austin-Round Rock MSA, while providing incentives to firms to participate. Our preliminary calculations estimate the City of Austin could save as much as $300 Million annually in congestion costs with a 10% opt-in to the program. This will benefit the entire MSA, starting with East Austin.
● Target industries and relevant job segments will be identified by administering a local survey of employers and employees. The development and integration of SCCs will help employers reduce costs (lower real estate and reduced pressure on wages) by being able to offer more desirable office locations closer to employees’ homes. SCC's allow employers to attract, hire and retain talent in more local communities while improving the work-life balance for their employees. This distributed design approach will help many workers who have been left out of better job opportunities due to the time and expense of long commutes.

We will use the funding we receive to produce an impact analysis of the potential economic, environmental, and social benefits of locating a Sustainable CoWork Center (SCC) in East Austin that is networked to several major Austin-area employers. Creating centers of sufficient densities increases the economies of scale to integrate advanced immersive technologies, i.e. virtual and holographic telepresence. The secure network architecture assures the security of protected cloud services and enhances responsiveness and continuity of business operations under emergency circumstances. In East Austin, these economies of scale will create other distributed services integration opportunities, for example, workforce development, on-going education, and remote clinic services, to name a few. Developing networked work centers is a scalable method to reduce congestion at specific crucial choke points in the transportation network. Through this project, we aim to create an awareness that, as the area grows, there is a way to strategically reduce congestion in critical areas in Austin, reduce auto emissions, improve work-life balance and expand job opportunities to people in local communities while creating a resilient working environment that can respond to possible emergency circumstances.

Founding Organizations:

Junfeng Jiao, Associate Professor, The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, Urban Information Lab

Devrim Ikizler, Ph.D., Founder & President, Intelligent Analytics & Modeling 

John William,

Michael Shear – Director & Roya-Lei Stanley - Director Broadband Planning Initiatives - 501(c)(3)

For further information, please contact the Urban Information Lab at


Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

The East Austin workforce analysis will develop a plan for government and business to establish a Sustainable CoWork Center (SCC) as a new type of hub where more jobs are located in proximity to the residences of East Austin communities. The proposed design for an East Austin Sustainable CoWork Center will directly reduce driving for many workers commuting from and through East Austin. Inclusiveness is another aspect of this design. As the East Austin Center grows, local job opportunities will be offered to a wider group of workers including part-time working parents, students and those with special needs. The East Austin technology hub may elect to include remote medical services, networked classrooms, workforce development, and daycare services to name a few. When the network expands and more centers are connected, there will be more employers hiring more workers in East Austin. The analytic processes we create will benefit hundreds of communities seeking innovative solutions.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

The Sustainable CoWork Centers and labor clusters mapping project was submitted to the NSF Civic Innovation Challenge 2020 idea submission. As a result, the group was invited to come to DC to discuss this approach as part of the upcoming Innovation Challenge. The distributed work center method was one of 19 finalists in the Google-sponsored Gigabit Challenge. Furthermore, the foundational work is recorded in US Patent No, 7,822,872, B2 MULTI-LOCATION DISTRIBUTED WORKPLACE NETWORK.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

Professor Junfeng Jiao is an associate professor in the Community and Regional Planning program and founding director of Urban Information Lab at UTSOA. Devrim Ikizler Ph.D. is the founder of Intelligent Analytics and Modelling and teaches economics classes at UT Austin, Michael Shear and Roya Stanley are Directors of Broadband Planning Initiatives and patent holders for the Multi-Location Distributed Workplace Network.

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Team or Organization URL

The Sustainable CoWork Design Initiative consists of several organizations committed to examining a broader developmental role for distributed technologies in defining the future of urban and regional growth. Urban Information Lab - Intelligent Analytics & Modeling - Strategic Office Networks -

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Rough budget (500 characters)

Survey creation with input from community leaders and funders (stakeholders). Survey dissemination coordinating with community leaders using traditional and social and social media. Data collection and tabulation. $35,000 Additional data sources integration including transportation, broadband, and real estate. $30,000 GIS Analysis and impact report and presentation to stakeholders and media. $35,000 Total request: $100,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

Our immediate challenge is to complete the market validation of our idea by conducting a feasibility study. Metrics for our progress will include survey outcomes, prototype design, funds raised for our feasibility study and LOIs from businesses that plan to participate in our pilot CoWorking Centers. Our first element is to implement a large-scale survey of employees and employers to demonstrate the demand for CoWorking Centers and the potential economic, environmental and social benefits. The survey will also serve as the platform to identify employer leads for our pilot program. We will seek out other groups engaged in issues of mobility, security and economic development. We will use outreach through social media and community media outlets. We will also use our time to raise the necessary funds to complete a full feasibility study that includes an economic cost/benefit analysis. Additionally, any support offered by the contests' sponsors will be gratefully accepted.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

Success in the pilot is to complete surveys with over 1,000 East Austin-based respondents and 6 signed letters of interest for the pilot program from employers who would like to participate in the East Austin pilot Sustainable CoWorking Center. Success will measure (calculate) the potential reduction in VMT and GHG emissions. The broader impact we seek to achieve is that of successfully demonstrating the reduction of traffic flows at specific chokepoints by targeting optimal location(s) for Sustainable CoWork Centers. This pilot will connect us with leaders in urban innovation that will help us to refine the idea, network with businesses that will benefit, and form strategic partnerships that will enable us to implement this project. This study will attract investments from city governments and businesses. The real measure of success is the level of follow-on participation that is generated and necessary to build a networked multi-location pilot project including East Austin.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

The East Austin analysis, the impact assessment and the tools we develop will be used to promote and gather additional support and backing for a demonstration project of several networked centers and employers. Winning this Austin Challenge will create awareness among a number of potential donors, grantors, and investors. It will also attract the interests of technology and real estate concerns seeking answers to what is coming next. A distributed design is a sustainable plan - today & tomorrow.
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Attachments (2)

Distributed Employment Center Design_JJF-Introrev.pdf

This Distributed Employment Center Design is the NSF Civic Innovation Challenge idea submission that resulted in Professor Jiao and Dr. Ikizler being invited to DC earlier this year. As the founder of the Urban Information Lab at UT School of Architecture, Dr. Jiao has conducted extensive research regarding many changing aspects of urban and regional growth patterns.

Economics of Clustered Workspaces.pdf

Dr. Ikizler's paper lays out the magnitude of this opportunity. The knowledge-based workforce comprises about half of all daily commuting in and around Austin. The benefit of clustering some jobs closer to commuters' residences has an annual impact of millions of dollars to individual communities and hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits to the region at large. Employers benefit from a more diversified RE posture and the ability to hire from a wider geographic area. Less congested routes.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Shelley Delayne

As someone deeply familiar with coworking, I applaud this initiative. If you would ever like additional resources or support on the human/operational side of creating a welcoming and inclusive shared workspace, please reach out. I would love to see this idea come to fruition.

Photo of Michael Shear

Thank you Shelley. I sent a LinkedIn invitation if you are interested.