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Envelope City Geo-Intelligence Platform

2016 Envelope | Architecture

New York City building codes vary from one block to the next. Prestigious firm SHoP Architects launched Envelope City to help clients more easily evaluate parcels of land with respect to hyperlocal zoning laws. Founders of the startup entrusted Accurat to design and build core 3d–modeling technology that would successfully take their product to market.

Challenge

Leverage valuable data to create the central, disruptive technology offering of a high–profile startup.

Solution

A real time visualization environment, conscientiously designed to fill known gaps and transform NYC real estate.

Services

Product/service strategy; UX, UI, and data visualization design; Data science, strategy; Front, back–end development; Impact monitoring

Deliverables

Interactive atlas; Web app

Background & Process

Founded in 1996, SHoP Architects is a world-renowned firm best known for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and Manhattan’s Steinway Tower. Through years of experience and dedicated research, the firm amassed a wealth of data related to New York City records. In 2016, executives made the decision to form a subsidiary to develop a platform powered by their database, which could transform the industry by obviating the need for time–consuming and expensive appraisal studies. In need of a combination of data visualization design and software engineering expertise, founders contacted Accurat to build the software that would comprise Envelope City's core product. 

Working closely with leadership and stakeholders, we embarked on a preliminary phase of discovery and analysis to familiarize ourselves with our client's data—not to mention the labyrinthine world of NYC real estate. We proceeded to define requirements based on our collective and thorough understanding of user needs and product-market fit. We organized work within the framework of agile methodology, meeting on a weekly basis to collaborate on conceptualizing, prototyping and developing the front and back–end technology of software. Simultaneously, we assisted Envelope City in building out a team to manage the product internally, post–launch.

Outcome

It took less than six months to deploy a first version of Envelope City's eponymous software.

The platform's interface is based on a three-dimensional map of the city, which allows for exploration of areas from the neighborhood level down to a single lot. Users are able to select a parcel of land, set parameters for construction and intended use, and generate within seconds a three-dimensional visualization of a building based on what's permitted by laws governing maximum square footage, height, and shape. Specifications such as seback from sidewalks and the ability to purchase air rights from adjacent lots are also included in the rendering, as well as volumetrically precise, floor–by–floor views.

The entire city of New York can be searched and analyzed through the interactive map. A direct, real–time connection with the city land registry database ensures that information is up–to–date and accurate. Developers, architects, and brokers use the product to conduct preliminary analysis with unprecented efficiency. As a result, they're able to cover more ground than ever before in their daily research, and to subsequently invest resources with greater confidence.

The platform's launch was warmly received by industry publications, and in subsequent years, Envelope City raised several rounds of funding to establish itself as an indispensable tool for real estate professionals. Chief Executive Cindy McLaughlin has affectionately described the program as "Sim City for acquisitions."

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