Wood Mid-Rise Is On the Rise

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Last week, BILD held a seminar to discuss the technology, challenges, and benefits of 6-storey wood construction. Architects and builders have been grappling with some of these issues since the amendments to Ontario’s building code to allow mid-rise wood frame building took effect in January of last year. It’s without question a huge improvement in our industry, as building similar structures using concrete is both expensive and grossly inefficient. Mid-rise structures are desperately needed along many of the major streets here in Toronto. Currently, many younger families are forced to move outside of the city to find affordable homes.

Wood is natural, strong, durable, renewable, and – of course – greener. 99% of every tree is used in the manufacturing process, and it takes much less energy to manufacture, meaning a reduced carbon footprint. Challenges, though, include logistical construction issues, concerns around fire, and some of the physical properties of wood. For example, wood shrinks over time, which could cause potential issues with the structural integrity of the building. However, these concerns haven’t stopped developers such as FieldGate Urban and Hullmark, who are behind Heartwood The Beach, Toronto’s first wood 6-storey residential building located in the Beaches. Curated Properties and its top-tier architecture and design team are also developing a similar project called Cabin, located at 45 Dovercourt. Both of these projects are currently featured in the Spring 2016 issue of Toronto Builder Magazine.

With Cabin now 70% sold, it’s clear that the demand for affordable mid-rise homes in the city is real; it’s only a matter of time before more developers begin to line the streets of our city with funky, innovative, 6-storey wood designs.

Cardboard Offers Innovative Solutions For Brands

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Virtual reality – as cool as it is – definitely isn’t for everyone. For one, it isn’t free, which can limit the audience. Dependent on the system you choose to go with, there’s a headset to purchase, and customized experiences take engineering and programming to develop; however, the rise of Google Cardboard, offers a huge opportunity for brands. It leverages smartphones, which most consumers currently possess, and creates immersive, unique VR experiences without the need for a complicated learning curve or expensive hardware. For those who don’t know, Google Cardboard is a complete virtual reality platform developed at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris. It’s commonly used with low-cost viewers, made of foldable cardboard (hence the name), 45mm plastic lenses, and a magnet or taped lever to operate the screen.

Regarding real estate, builders could – instead of traditional brochures – offer branded cardboard viewers, complete with instructions for downloading a simple web based app for either IOS or Android phones. The app could take users on a Cardboard compatible tour of a virtual sales centre, complete with home designs, prices, and interactive site tables.

There are some 360-degree cameras which are currently available – meaning brands can develop their content in-house, and use hosting through YouTube to deliver the content to clients, or to third party apps. If you haven’t explored YouTube’s 360-degree video capabilities yet, you’ll want to go ahead and do that. VR is the future, but leveraging Cardboard’s potential is an excellent way to provide innovative experiences to traditional homebuyers without scaring them off.

BILD Award Nominations

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Last week, nominations were finally announced for the 2016 BILD Awards, which recognizes excellence in sales, marketing, design and construction of new homes in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). This year, we’re excited to be three of the four projects nominated for Best Digital Marketing Campaign — for three of our most exciting projects to date. First there’s Queensville, a multi-phase, 6000 home project in East Gwillimbury. Secondly, there’s Lakebreeze, a large scale, waterfront community that is going to transform the town of Bowmanville. Lastly, there’s Pine River, a multi-builder project located in Angus. Additionally, we were nominated for Best Sales Video for Queensville.

Over the past year, BAM has put a strong focus on digital innovation, especially as it applies to our marketing campaigns. We’ve employed creative Facebook advertising, cutting edge SEM techniques, and industry leading websites. We’ve offered clients advanced functionality such as web/email personalization, Interactive site tables, backend CRM integration, online preview appointment booking, and – in the case of Pine River – the ability to actually reserve your home design and lot right on the website. We’ve been changing the way our clients generate registrants and, as a result, make sales. The results we’ve helped our clients achieve this year is something we’re incredibly proud of, but these nominations have us over the moon. They’re truly a result of the hard work the entire BAM team has put into these massive projects.

We look forward to seeing all of our clients and friends at the awards this April and hopefully walking across the stage with them as we celebrate everything we’ve been able to achieve.

Could Virtual Reality Be The Future Of Real Estate Sales?

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For the past few years, the technology industry has been buzzing about the imminent consumer release of Oculus Rift, a new virtual reality headset that allows users to enter virtual worlds. In 2012, Oculus VR, the company behind Oculus Rift, began releasing developer kits to allow developers ample time to create innovative applications for the product before its release. Applications developed thus far range from medical testing to games – but more exciting to me is the potential for real estate. 89% of homebuyers say that virtual tours are either very or somewhat useful, so it stands to reason that they would find tremendous value in virtual reality tours that could take standard web tours to the next level.

One company already employing these types of tours is Arch Virtual, who has been working with Chicago-based Panoptic Group to create virtual reality experiences for all of their upcoming development projects. This allows investors, and homebuyers, the opportunity to explore their forthcoming living and/or office using the Oculus Rift headset. When watching the video version of their latest project, we can see full scale, rendered examples of how a homebuyer can see fixtures, furnishings and finishes in the unit.

Potential homebuyers of the (not so distant) future could visit sales offices, and be escorted to an Oculus Rift station where they can explore home designs, and sample features. They could be updated in real-time, allowing them to sample everything from flooring to cabinet colours on the fly. To take it a step further, the sales office itself could be an exclusive downloadable application allowing Oculus Rift users to attend openings virtually, should they have the hardware. This could potentially eliminate the need to construct physical home models, which would present a significant savings to builders. The possibilities are endless.

Statistics show homebuyers who used virtual tours as a significant portion of their home-buying experience spent an average of two weeks with a realtor looking at homes, compared to those who didn’t – they spent an average of seven weeks looking for their homes. It seems like this type of technology has incredible potential, so it’ll be exciting to see how it grows.

We’re Growing…Digitally

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It’s no secret that digital marketing is becoming the main focus for many agencies. There are many reasons for this: it’s more immediate, innovative, cost-effective and impactful. With the average Canadian spending 41 hours a month online, Canada ranks second across the globe in Internet usage, behind only the United States with 43 monthly hours on average. These numbers show that the bulk of the country’s consumers are living their lives online. Marketing has becoming more regionalized, and more localized – even more individualized. Breaking free from the constraints of traditional advertising is allowing marketers (like us) to create immersive experiences that take campaigns to the next level. This means that in lieu of static solutions, we have an opportunity to really interact with homebuyers in ways that we never could before. We can deliver tailored content to the right audience, at the right time, which amplifies our results.

We embarked into the digital realm years ago, and it’s thrilling to see how it’s paid off. As an example, I spoke about marketing automation a few times last year – and I can tell you that as we continue to develop and implement it into our clients’ campaigns, the results we’re achieving are everything we hoped they would be.

The numbers don’t lie: print is in constant decline, and digital media is now bigger than national TV advertising. Here at BAM, we’re extremely passionate about digital – and we’re not just talking the talk, we’re walking the walk. Currently, we offer a number of services to our clients, such as personalized web experiences and email campaigns, innovative social media advertising, digital/interactive site plan tables and much more. We’ve grown, and are continuing to grow, our team as well as our capabilities. Digital, as we predicted, is proving to be the future of our company. I’m excited about the projects we have on the horizon.

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