Mid-Rise: The Future Of Urban Development

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As Ontario’s population continues to balloon, the province – along with developers – need to address the increased demand for housing, while also developing strategies to protect our greenbelt and farmland. The key is to work towards increasing population density in urban areas, with a creative blend of mixed use residential. This is something I’ve written about in the past. This need to intensify along major transit routes, and in pivotal areas of the city, is beginning to inevitably make way for an increase in the development of mid-rise buildings.

Mid-rise buildings offer an amazing number of benefits. For starters, they bring a neighbourhood to life by offering new retail and culinary options/opportunities on the street level. Offering shops and necessary amenities allows residents to become much less dependent upon vehicles, as does door-front access to transit. In contrast to many high-rises in the city, mid-rise buildings have family-sized living spaces, which make them attractive to families who may not be able to afford a detached, multi-room home in the city. Then there’s the sheer benefit of human scaled buildings that allow the sun to shine on the sidewalk – and the height of the buildings to comfortably complement the width of the street; however, the widespread embrace of mid-rise by builders in the GTA is not without challenges.

Key obstacles include: the cost of land, the lengthy – and expensive – development approval that closely mirrors that of high rises, and concerns from single-family residential homeowners. Some homeowners feel that the future of small local shops will be jeopardized, and that there may be a potential loss of privacy and sunlight as mid-rise buildings spring up next to their homes.

It is clear though, something needs to be done in order for the GTA to meet the goals set-out in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which sets intensification targets for urban growth centres and requires a minimum density to be achieved by 2031. Mid-rise buildings offer a viable solution to the population growth, while adding economic benefits and maintaining the charm of Toronto’s urban aesthetic.

Net Zero Homes in Canada

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As the population in Canada increases, so do the demands for energy. For this reason, Canada (provincially and nationwide) has invested a lot of money in green, renewable energy. Unfortunately, this investment has yet to positively affect the wallets of Ontarians, who continue to experience rising hydro rates. Amidst the most recent increase, consumers are more concerned than ever with how much energy their homes consume; however, not as many people are concerned with the amount of energy their homes actually generate. Over the last decade, a number of products have made it possible to make our homes more efficient by lowering the amount of energy it takes to complete tasks such as lighting, cooking and laundry. The question is: how do we take that to the next level? That’s where Net-Zero building comes into play.

Net Zero is a building practice that uses a multitude of renewable technologies to build homes that consume either less or an equal amount of energy than they produce on an annual basis. Net Zero’s history in Canada dates back to 2004’s Riverdale Net-Zero project in Edmonton. To date, it’s not exactly a “market friendly” practice due to issues around cost, feasibility and the lack of a community-sized demonstration necessary to gain widespread acceptance by builders and buyers.

One project is aiming to increase the amount Net-Zero housing nationwide. The ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative is working with five homebuilders across the country to build at least 25 Net Zero homes. Mattamy Homes, Minto, Provident, Reid’s Heritage Homes and Construction Voyer, along with a number of partners and consultants, are aiming to complete construction by 2016, according to the initiative’s website. The project’s aim is to double the number of Net-Zero homes in Canada. But could it become a standard? As I’ve mentioned before, consumers generally aren’t willing to pay more for green features – regardless of the long-term savings potential they offer. If builders can find a way to address the issues around affordability, Net Zero will become a no-brainer.

Messenger for Business: Increasing Engagement with Homebuyers

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Amidst reports of its decline, Facebook continues to dominate all aspects of social media ­– and many aspects of general web activity. With over 90% of all brands reporting that Facebook is an element of their marketing plan, it’s clear that the platform is healthier than ever. This past March at their annual F8 conference, Facebook unveiled another way that businesses will be able to utilize the platform to engage directly with their audience: Messenger for Business. In simplest terms, the development tool will allow businesses to better integrate Facebook’s native messenger chat into their websites, which will allow for next level to live-chat capability.

What can this new development mean for homebuyers and builders alike? Let’s explore a scenario.

Imagine that you’re a potential homebuyer searching home listings in your area. You come across a new community that you’re instantly in love with, and decide that you’d like more information. You notice a live-chat pop-up and click on it. It asks you for your Facebook info, and after a quick login you’re connected directly with the builder. You ask a number of questions, and receive feedback. Sensing that you’re extremely interested, the builder invites you to book an appointment. They offer you a few available timeslots. You’re not sure if the times work for you, so the builder tells you to simply let them know. Because the website’s chat applet has been using the Facebook messenger platform, the whole conversation is archived on your Facebook, and you’re now connected directly with the builder. Two days later, using your mobile phone, you open up the Facebook app and accept an open appointment time. The conversation is archived, so it’s easy for a representative of the builder to quickly see the message trail – and respond appropriately. The day before your appointment, the builder sends you a message with an easy to read Google map. Below is an example of how an interaction could take place.

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Unfortunately, this feature isn’t available just yet. Facebook is slowly rolling it out with a small group of large US brands, but a representative recently revealed that we could see a release for all pages/businesses within the next 4 months. It’s very exciting, and has the potential to further personalize the homebuying process – and to create a strong community of engaged buyers. If you’re interested in Messenger for Business, Facebook is currently allowing parties to sign up for updates.

The Rise Of Smart Watches

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If recent patterns are any indication, smart watches are nowhere close to slowing down in either sales or sophistication. The proof is in the pudding: 6.8 million were sold in 2014, which is more than double the 3 million sold in 2013. With the release of the long prophesied Apple Watch just two short weeks ago, 2015 is shaping up to be a great year for the platform; in fact, 957,000 Apple Watches have been sold thus far. What does this mean for advertisers and developers? Much like the increase of mobile over the past decade, the smart watch platform presents both a host of new design challenges and intriguing opportunities to engage with consumers.

How can smart watches be used to sell homes? The Pilot Group Company detailed one clever possibility. Imagine you’re out for a walk, and your watch sends you an alert: a home around the corner fits your price range and specifications. With a simple voice command, your watch guides you to the house. You love what you see and decide you’d like to book an appointment. With another simple voice command, your watch sends an alert to the agent who can then contact you directly. Now imagine that same experience applied to future communities and new builds. That’s the seamless experience that the platform has the potential to offer homebuyers.

It doesn’t have to stop there either.

With the built in components that monitor health and vitals, there is the possibility of using your emotions to not only gauge your reaction to and automatically act on homes, but also to build up a profile based on your emotional response to specific elements within a home. Imagine if your physiological reaction to children at a park helped an application ascertain that you’re considering children, and thus look for homes with room to grow. Imagine if increased agitation towards loud music at night helped an application to steer clear of homes close to university housing. This is the kind of next level development that is coming down the pipeline.

Apple is estimating that they’ll be shipping 2.3 million watches in 2015 – and that’s just one maker, and one watch. With the smart watch user base rapidly growing, it’ll be exciting to see the innovative applications that will start to pop up over the next year, and how brands begin to capitalize.

Sean Mason Wins Green Builder of the Year, Low-Rise

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Last week, the BAM team stood by our client, Sean Mason, as he was awarded Green Builder of the Year at the 2015 BILD Awards. If you’ve been following the progress of Sean’s project, a forward thinking and sustainable smart townhome community in Barrie, you’ll understand why this award is such a big deal. From top to bottom, Sean’s homes are raising the bar on green design – and his sales clearly reflect the homebuyers’ response to his fresh, environmentally sound living spaces.

Sean Mason is no stranger to green development. He previously led Mason Homes (his father’s company) to be the first ENERGY STAR standard builder in Canada and has won BILD’s Green Builder of the Year award twice in the past – but this new community is the first for Sean Homes, which is Sean’s own company. Sean was up against one of our other clients, Empire Communities, who won the award last year. Both nominations are a strong testament to the innovative green branding campaigns that BAM develops for its clients. We couldn’t be more proud.

Sean also won a second award for Best E-Mail Marketing Piece. With nine nominations in total, and two wins, it was a great evening for Sean – and BAM!

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