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Creating Offices For Everyone Anywhere: Airbnb's Head Of Real Estate Talks Plans For Dublin And Europe

Airbnb does things differently. Since 2009 it has been making waves in the residential rental market with its online marketplace.  

So it was no surprise that when it came to building and designing its European headquarters in Dublin it broke the mould again, working with the developer and architect from the outset of the process to create an office that is at the cutting edge of the way people and companies want to work today.

Airbnb Head of EMEA Real Estate Michelle Kelleher

In 2016, it moved its headquarters to a disused Dublin warehouse in Grand Canal Dock.

The new office, dubbed simply The Warehouse, is Airbnb's second-largest office worldwide. It has over 36,500 SF and is comprised of 26 "neighbourhoods."

More than 500 people work across customer experience, human resources, finance, trust and safety and IT in the Dublin HQ.

Airbnb in Dublin epitomises just how rapidly tech firms can expand. It established its first presence in the city in 2013 with eight people working out of a house. By January 2014 it had moved into 21K SF at the Watermarque building. By 2016 it was opening its new Warehouse office and keeping the space at Watermarque.


Airbnb EMEA Real Estate and Facilities Manager Michelle Kelleher told  Bisnow how it arrived at the concept and its future plans for Dublin and Europe.

Bisnow: What is Airbnb's real estate plans for Dublin and Europe? Will you be expanding in the near future, and if so where?

Kelleher: We have had a busy couple of years, with London and Dublin expanding in 2016. In 2017, the Paris, Berlin and Barcelona teams moved to new homes, and our Milan team will move to a new space in 2018.

Warehouse Atrium, Airbnb

Bisnow: With your Dublin hub, you were heavily involved at the design stage with the architect and developer. Is that how you always like to do things, and what did you look for in your development partners in this process?

Kelleher: With our Dublin Warehouse office, we were involved very early given the extensive nature of the landlord renovation of the original space, and given that we were going to be the sole occupant, we did have a great opportunity to influence the design of the building. We had a large internal multidisciplinary team working on the project together with our Dublin design team and the landlord's design team — it 'takes a village' as they say!

Bisnow: Tell us what is unique about your Dublin hub and why you did things that way.

Kelleher: Our Dublin hub is a campus — comprising two offices and an off-site kitchen. In our Watermarque office, our reception is modelled on an Irish pub! In our Warehouse office, we tried to retain as many of the original features as possible — however, with a much older building and modern building codes, this isn't always possible — we did retain the original Warehouse doors, which are now mounted in our office. The Airbnb company mission is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere — with our Dublin office, we embodied this philosophy — designing the space around team neighbourhoods with no assigned seating, and offering a choice of ways of working for our teams.

Workspace, Airbnb

Bisnow: What are the growing trends you can see in how people work and how is this influencing real estate?

Kelleher: The old 'one worker one desk' ratio is no longer a valid metric — what we see is that people want choice in how they work. With multinational companies where teams are spread across several locations, we see a lot of travel between these locations, so occupancy can fluctuate quite a bit. Technology is also a huge enabler so provision of high-speed WiFi allows an entire building to be a productive space rather than traditional wired desk set-ups that would have been the norm until relatively recently.

Bisnow: What trends in tech will have the biggest impact on the real estate world?

Kelleher: Virtual communications — provision of video-conferencing, remote working. Increase in intelligent buildings, smart devices that can support most efficient management of space — it is no longer as simple as saying 'we have an additional X number of people, therefore we need X of additional square feet'. It is a different challenge for real estate and workplace teams to assess the modern space need and most effective management of the space once occupied.

To hear more from Kelleher and others making waves in Ireland's real estate space come to Bisnow Dublin's State of the Market event on 21 March at 7:30am in The Round Room at The Mansion House.