BUILT, a new coworking space for growing firms

Are you a young firm outgrowing your first digs? I recommend you consider joining BUILT, a new coworking space in the Boston area. I had the chance to spend a couple days at BUILT, and it promises to be a good place to set anchor and develop the core of your business. Here’s how it lines up on my criteria for a great workplace.


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Positives

  • Physical environment

  • Ergonomics


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Room for improvement

  • Support for activity-based-working

  • Community & events

  • Location

  • Tools & amenities


Physical space

BUILT is an inviting space. It is well-lit and evokes the clean aesthetic of luxury retail. This white, black, and marble scene could leave some with a cold feeling, but BUILT is planning to bring in art to liven up the space. BUILT also has an outdoor space, which I love. It is well-shaded, providing a great place for eating lunch or having a chat in the warmer months.

BUILT provides some variety to support activity-based work, but can do more truly embrace it. There are effectively three types of workstations: white desks, kitchen tables, and phone booths. The many white desks are medium-sized, and provide ample space for a laptop and papers. I love that they are height-adjustable, although the slow manual crank presents somewhat of a barrier. The chairs at these desks are a solid rendition of the standard office chair, on wheels with several postural adjustments. The two phone booths are fantastic for placing calls. They provide good acoustic isolation, and despite being small, they don’t make me feel claustrophobic. The two round kitchen tables promise to be a good place to chat with a coworker, or to get some quick work done away from others.

BUILT’s two phone booths on the ground floor. Great acoustic isolation without claustrophobia.

BUILT’s two phone booths on the ground floor. Great acoustic isolation without claustrophobia.

What I feel is missing are places for collaborating informally with others. While BUILT has three formal conference rooms, there is not yet a whiteboard in the open area to work out problems. BUILT is also lacking lounge areas that support informal exchange or individual reflection & relaxation. Not to be outdone, BUILT is planning to add these areas in the future. Altogether this forms my evaluation that BUILT is best suited for focus work.

One of BUILT’s three conference rooms.

One of BUILT’s three conference rooms.

Community & Events

As BUILT is still new, much of the feel of the community is yet to be determined. Current tenants at BUILT include an accounting firm, an architecture firm, and an urban planning firm. Freelancers and individuals form a negligible presence. As I observed, interactions between existing tenants are subdued. They work primarily silently, with some internal conversation here and there. When taking a phone call, people have been good at using the phone booths. This solidifies my judgment that BUILT is a good place to focus.

In contrast, BUILT’s events are much more lively. Every Tuesday, BUILT hosts a Founder’s Talk, focusing on a different topic relevant to entrepreneurs each week. I attended one of these talks in October, which focused on startup KPIs. The content was valuable, and the discussion was interactive and lively. This liveliness, however, has yet to carry into the day-to-day atmosphere.

This leads me to say that if you’re looking for a place to focus on building the core of your business, BUILT could be a great match. If, however, you’re looking a place to meet others, collaborate, and exchange ideas, I would look somewhere else. Note that this judgment is subject to change, since the culture will shift as more members join.

A Founder’s talk at BUILT. Bringing together a lively community of entrepreneurs over valuable content every Tuesday evening.

A Founder’s talk at BUILT. Bringing together a lively community of entrepreneurs over valuable content every Tuesday evening.

Location

BUILT’s location provides some advantages, but also presents challenges that cannot be overlooked. BUILT is located in Huron village, a primarily residential, well-to-do neighborhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts. BUILT’s immediate neighbors include a few high end furniture and design stores, as well as a Chinese restaurant. Presence of others types of businesses, such as finance and technology, is negligible. Food offerings around BUILT exist, but are sparse. In short walking distance I found a couple sandwich places, one pizza shop, and one Chinese restaurant. I could not locate a grocery store nearby. Altogether, this makes getting a healthy, inexpensive lunch nearby challenging.

The BUILT space.

The BUILT space.

BUILT can be tedious to access by public transit. You should plan at least 20 minutes to walk from the nearest equidistant subway stations: Harvard and Porter Square. Another option is to take the bus; BUILT is served well by four bus routes running from Harvard Square. This location can also make it challenging to travel from BUILT to meet others closer into the city.

A high-end vintage home furnishing store across the street from BUILT.

A high-end vintage home furnishing store across the street from BUILT.

Parking around BUILT is available, although is not the most convenient. There are more than a dozen 1- and 2-hour parking spots within a block, which tend to be occupied. For clients and collaborators driving to visit you at BUILT, this could be plenty. But if you’re spending a whole day at BUILT, you will likely be spending 10-15 minutes every couple hours to move your car, or risk a $25 parking ticket. If, however, you have a Cambridge Resident parking sticker, you are in luck, since there is plenty resident parking nearby.

Equipment & Amenities

BUILT provides a satisfactory, though limited set of equipment & amenities. There is an enterprise printer and standard office supplies, such as post-its, paper and staples. BUILT provides coffee, hot water, and a limited selection of tea, though no major snacking options. Beyond these offerings, it is up to each member to supply their own. For example, if you like to work with a secondary monitor, as I do, you’ll need to supply your own. This can be worth it if you work from BUILT multiple days per week and elect for a dedicated desk.

Leaving your belongings at the space is possible and safe. This is primarily for members with dedicated desks, since personal storage options do not exist yet. All entrances to the space are card-access-only, making theft difficult. Moreover, the space is small and members know each other, making it even hard for a would-be thief to act inconspicuously.

Conclusion

BUILT has the potential to be a great workplace for young, growing firms looking for a place to call their own, a place where they can focus on building the core of their business. For freelancers and individuals looking for strong community and a well-connected location, though, I would recommend a different workplace. BUILT has that “make it your own” vibe. You’re invited to bring your own tools, your own snacks, and make suggestions to enhance the space. So have a look and consider making BUILT the permanent address for your growing business. The space would be happy to have you.


Photos courtesy of BUILT.