Meet Virginia Scapinelli, Co-Liv’s Head of Impact

Virginia is passionate about analysing new lifestyles and anticipating how these will translate into new space usages and needs, in her words “catalyse real estate futures”.

The Co-Liv Network

Virginia’s not new to our organisation: in 2018 she kicked off the Co-Liv Global Summit with her keynote “Anatomy of Coliving”, and just recently she launched the Italian virtual meetup series and helped setup a new local team.

Gathering a double expertise in architecture and consulting, Virginia has helped major real estate groups in the creation of innovative concepts, in particular around coworking and coliving.

Virginia is passionate about analysing new lifestyles and anticipating how these will translate into new space usages and needs, in her words “catalyse real estate futures”.

How do you currently define yourself and what drives you?

I am a big picture kind of person and I like when what I do has a real purpose in life. As a result, I often challenged myself to take risks and bet on the inner voice telling me “I have an intuition, this is the right thing to do!”. And after great times through architecture studies, joining the architecture office OMA and moving one year to Qatar for a mega-project, getting an MBA and switching to strategy and innovation consulting in real estate for Stonup, and now joining the architecture office Upfactor specialised in developing densification projects on top of existing buildings, I am very happy to have listened to that inner voice all along!

First driver for me is clarity on “why” we do things, fuelled by a good dose of instinct and risk-taking.

Virginia Scapinelli

Another aspect that drives me, which is quite related to the previous one I believe, is the long term thinking. In architecture and real estate things happen slowly. Complex buildings for example, normally take 5–10 years to be executed, from idea to project delivery. On the other hand their lifespan is extremely long, sometimes covering centuries or even millennials. And how impressive, mysterious, evocative and rich are those artefacts and how precious they are to our identity as human beings! My own definition of “good design” is when something we create (a tool, a piece of music, a building, a pair of sneakers…) continues to serve its purpose and evokes emotions after years and years, regardless of who is experiencing it.

In a nutshell, I support the logic of doing less, wisely and qualitatively.

Thirdly, I am fascinated by people, and in particular, listening to their stories, their passions and adventures. We can learn and achieve so much just by asking someone to share with us his/her skill and by collaborating. This, mixed with a good dose of curiosity is the key to creating great things, I believe. In a dream world, I would spend my time travelling the planet meeting cultures and learning local traditions. In the real world, I still do this, but mostly during my free time…

The fil rouge of all these stories is my passion for studying the connection between people and places, the manifestation of cultures in their physical settlements. I come from a design and real estate professional journey, and ultimately I want to help this industry to better serve users needs and help people thrive. We live in challenging times from an environmental and societal point of view. Construction and real estate sectors carry along big matters to be solved, starting from the reduction of carbon footprint along a building’s lifespan, the provision of affordable housing (but more in general of any kind of space), the fight against loneliness and stress conditions in urban areas.

The time has come for the real estate industry to make big changes!

What passionates you about coliving and why are you actively promoting the coliving scene?

Through my previous consulting position, I had the chance to accompany major real estate players in the creation of new concepts, mostly coworking and coliving ones. It is passionating because there are so many aspects to consider when conceiving such a concept, and no coliving looks alike! Despite a common starting point (providing an all-inclusive living solution), the result is systematically different — it’s like telling a new story every time. Launching a coliving goes well beyond the simple setup of a space, it’s about HOW you do it and all the decisions that inevitably you need to take. Which type of clientele you target and why? Where are your sites located? Which services are you going to provide? Which features will make the living experience a memorable one?…

Thanks to coliving, I am able to look beyond the mere architecture level. Thanks to coliving (but also coworking and the new forms of “space as a service”) real estate borrows from experiential industries (i.e. event, F&B, wellbeing…) and, from being a business of squared meters, it becomes a business of people and services.

I am glad to see that much needed transformations are happening since a few years within the real estate sector: from conceiving static objects it now shifts to thinking user-centric, it integrates and interconnects services, it activates places through new types of programs, business models and temporalities, it includes fresh ideas and initiatives coming from startups and real estate non-experts.

One major advantage brought to us from the challenges of our times is that many sectors are obliged to change and find new solutions in order to survive; I see coliving as a great opportunity for the residential sector to evolve.

What’s your personal vision and thoughts on the future of coliving for the year to come?

I believe coliving simply reflects new living needs and new market demands, and should be seen as a suitable solution for some people, not everyone. Despite its still very limited market penetration, this model has seen incredible growth in the past decade and has proven its international appeal. We count today hundreds of successful operators, ten figures investments and occupation rates of 100–95% for many sites, sometimes down to 80% in Covid times, proving a good level of resilience and counter cyclical characteristics.

As said, this is just the beginning; as of today the predominant user base being addressed can be described as a young, single, professionally active and mobile individual, but many operators are now developing concepts for new forms of families, intergenerational living, and so forth. We can except in the near future that the coliving phenomenon will onboard broader types of clientele, even resulting in micro-segmented offers targeting very specific lifestyles, reaching all types of regions both urban and rural, with sites being ran by global operators and backed from large institutional investors, to more simply family-ran kind of typologies.

The residential sector is a gigantic one and extremely heterogeneous, even if coliving takes up only a few percent of the total housing inventory, I believe the result will be already huge.

You recently joined Co-Liv as “Head of Impact” — which opportunities do you want to create for the organisation, its members, and the coliving industry?

After having launched our virtual meetups series in Italy, I’ve joined as Head of Impact and I am now a proud member of the association’s executive team. My mission is to drive the association towards the achievement of the best possible outcomes for its internal and external stakeholders, and my main focus for this year is the definition of Co-Liv’s impact measurement framework and KPIs.

What I like about this role is the possibility to collaborate transversally on various projects, with a people & result oriented posture. I get to interact with plenty of other initiatives within the organisation, detect new opportunities for members and for Co-Liv, create synergies across stakeholders, pilot new partnerships… Navigating from one-to-one interviews to global surveys, I stand for acknowledging the voices of our movement for then feeding the organization’s decision-making and activities creation.

I do believe the future is win-win.

Thank you for being part of this movement! How can people reach out and what can you mostly help them with?

I’d love to connect with individuals or companies involved in the coliving industry, get to know your visions and challenges, and explore new collaboration opportunities between you and Co-Liv.

There’s also another interesting opportunity: creating the very first coliving project through a vertical extension of an existing building. Basically, thanks to Upfactor’s geographic information system services, we allow developers, investors and operators to detect real estate opportunities that are now “invisible”, simply because literally up in the air!

Remember: sprawl in NOT the only solution to find new land.

Please reach me out here:

With lots of co-love,

The Co-Liv Team

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