Delve

Meet the Delve team: Five questions with Brian Ho and Violet Whitney

We sat down with two of our team members – Violet Whitney, Director of Product, and Brian Ho, Director of Customer Experience – for their technological and urbanist perspectives on where the real estate development industry is headed and what excites them about their work every day.

By The Delve Team

Violet and Brian bring a collective three decades of experience in architecture, technology, and design. Violet directs the backend of Delve’s computational geometry model and how it evaluates designs. Brian and his team work with customers to make sure they get the most value out of Delve, translating their needs to guide a new product update.

How do you see technology transforming the real estate development industry?

Violet: One big shift we've seen is that teams are really looking at problems holistically. Rather than creating one neighborhood design, we're looking at big batches and multiple scenarios to get the best possible outcome. And then the other shift is designing for outcomes. Before, the industry thought about the noun of the physical building. Now, we also think about the verb — how it behaves. It’s a kind of shift in the moment we're in where people care about semi-invisible things, like equity, affordability, and overall quality of life.

Brian: Development is getting harder. From the landowner, the owner-operator, or the developer’s perspective, projects must achieve so much more than they did in the past. There are always new regulations and a desire to operate more efficiently. But then there's also these increasing demands to ensure the development benefits the community. We’re attuned to this broader set of holistic challenges that our customers need to solve for.

What's the most pressing challenge for real estate developers today?

Violet: Planning neighborhoods that are equitable, sustainable and, at the same time, economically viable is a challenge developers have struggled with for some time now.

Brian: Agreed. There’s also the complexity of mixed-use asset programming to consider. The state of the world is forcing development teams to rethink how they’ve designed for the past twenty years. For example, you can't just build a generic office floor plate. You have to plan for flexibility and more specific uses. These changes sound small, but they're significant, and teams need to be able to get in ahead of them.

What’s your favorite feature in Delve?

Violet: Parti View Preset because it feels very human. Someone using our product can choose the types of buildings they want to see in the district and view all possible outcomes. It’s almost like having a bag of Lego blocks, then putting in all the different building types you like. So you say, I want a five-over-one, or I really like these tower types, or I want courtyard buildings – throw them all in, and Delve shows you all the possible program mixes from that bag. It’s a really easy and visual way for someone to automatically generate all kinds of combinations. That’s unique.

Brian: I'm excited by how we're re-thinking inputs and ways to guide the model. In the grand scheme of things, buildings are similar, except for the game of inches that really matter. Normally with digital tools, you tell the computer exactly what you want it to do and it gives you one output, exactly as you designed it. In Delve, you can tell the computer what you want it to accomplish. For example, if you indicate that you want a development to have 100 units, have good views, and have one commercial tower, Delve gives you a bunch of options that satisfy this criteria. The human gets to say, “Well, that's good, except for this tiny bit that I need to control based on my intuition.” It’s the perfect combination of human design, while the computer does the grunt work.

Delve’s mission is to radically improve life in cities for all by empowering real estate teams to design better, faster, and with less risk. What excites you most about this mission?

Violet: Delve makes the development process much more transparent and objective. There are all of these very complicated tools in the industry that require formal training to use, and ultimately, only point to one subjective rendering. Delve’s ability to scale expertise beyond just experts helps us provide access to top-tier planning in many places that wouldn’t otherwise have access. What's most exciting about that is being able to take development to places where it may have been even harder to navigate, and to help people everywhere understand all possible design outcomes.

Brian: What excites me is the impact of the product. We all know there's an affordability crisis in cities. Delve can actually help cities build more housing. We help find the solutions to questions like, “how do we fit 20 percent more units into the same site than we thought we could while making sure it doesn’t compromise on any of the values or quality of experience?” I think back about the work we've done with customers, and a lot of it has been exactly that. Helping to solve those problems is huge.

What inspires your work each day?

Violet: I’m grateful to be able to work on something that’s ambitious and that I really care about. We think the traditional development process has a lot of room for growth, and we’re determined to improve it. The people on our team are genuinely good humans who want to see that change, and we're actively working with development teams to enhance their process. It really is motivating to feel like you're making a difference, and to see the industry start to change.

Brian: The fact that I'm learning something new every day makes this work so meaningful to me. There’s so much expertise on the team across every discipline possible — development plans, design, urban design planning software, engineering, product management, product design. We have a super talented team that works really hard and cares about their work. So the ability to do my job each day and walk away with something I didn't know the day before is pretty enthralling. And, of course, it helps that we're all doing this to serve a mission and vision for something greater.

To learn more about Delve and the team behind the software solution, visit https://www.sidewalklabs.com/products/delve.

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