Compiled and edited by Judy Penz Sheluk
Last November, we called on industry leaders to comment on the coming year. The response was amazing so we decided to do it again this year. We asked you tell us what builders and renovators can do to succeed, what your projections are for 2012, what design trends and innovative solutions you look to for success in 2012, and about educational initiatives for builders and renovators. Here’s what you had to say...
Builders & Renovators
Building Innovative Spaces
Boaz Feiner, President
We have been at the forefront of a growing philosophy in low-rise housing design that makes innovative interior living spaces a priority. There is a tradition in the space planning of an average sized home to include a living room and a family room on the main floor, often to the detriment of both. However, by eliminating the living room and adding this square footage to the Great Room we are able to create a larger family lifestyle space that flows into the kitchen and breakfast area. A formal dining room can still be offered in these homes. The design goal is to present the homeowners with the most flexibility in how they use the space, as well as to accommodate different needs as the family changes.
Another innovation is to separate the mud room entry from the laundry room. Locating the laundry on the second floor, near to the bedrooms is a practical design feature that residents appreciate. Garages, too, have been configured to allow for easier recycling and composting, as well as equipment storage. Knowledgeable home seekers are best served when builders push traditional concepts of what sells, to deliver homes that anticipate and in some cases create demand.
Design/Build: A Winning Bid
Kawartha Lakes Construction
Scott Wootton, President
Kawartha Lakes Construction (KLC) has been building for over 20 years. Ten years ago, we decided to embrace a design/build model, and it’s proven to be a winning bid. We now host a showroom with two designers on staff to help fully round out the design/ selections process, which has allowed us to get projects out of design and into production sooner. Moving to this model has also brought us a clearer vision of what our Pipeline and annual Volume budget for the upcoming year will be, and has improved our long range planning immensely. No longer are we waiting for people to show up with plans in hand, only to get in the “bid line-up.” I strongly urge other builder/renovators to consider this model. It introduces the builder/renovator to their clients sooner and allows for a planning opportunity for both the client and builder: a win/win opportunity for both.
Barry Fenton, President & CEO
I’m bullish when it comes to 2012 projections for condominiums. The Toronto market has been incredibly resilient compared to other A-class cities around the world. I believe that this city’s condominium values will continue to rise over the next several years for many reasons, beginning with the issue of vacancies. Toronto’s rental market is very low, which is creating some frenzy on the condominium side. More than 125,000 people migrate to the Toronto area each year, which means demand is continually on the rise. Our condominium prices are the least expensive of North America’s A-class cities, and our interest rates remain low. We’ve created infrastructures downtown that are like cities within cities, so the desirability of living in these urban areas is more favourable than ever. At Lanterra Developments’ most recent condominium opening in midtown Toronto, 3018 Yonge, we sold 161 units out of 179 in one week, at approximately $735 per square foot. The end purchasers are shrewd and they understand great value, so 2012 should be robust.
Blurring the Indoor/Outdoor Lines
Great Gulf Group of Companies
Alan Vihant, Senior Vice President, High-Rise
Today’s condominium purchasers enjoy freedom from lawn and landscaping chores, but they still want to interact with the outdoors. The result is the trend toward unique indoor/outdoor living experiences that enable suite owners to go from their living room to a generous balcony, or from an amenity space to a spacious lounge area on a rooftop or terrace.
The line between indoors and outdoors becomes blurred in these spaces, and it’s a good idea to over-provide when it comes to the minimums set out in the City bylaws. At Monde Condominiums, for example, the indoor/outdoor rooftop space is nearly one-third acre in combined size and has innovative features such as an infinity-edge pool. To maximize views, builders are also incorporating things like curtain wall glazing for large expanses of glass, and sculptural building designs that accommodate more terraces.
People want luxury in their suites as well: stone, wood flooring, ample storage. Builders need to be clever about designing compact suites to minimize wasted space. Another forward-thinking technique is to offer flex spaces. Some of the suites at Monde can have the den be part of the living room or the bedroom. The key is to evolve our designs as our buyers change over time.
Tightening Our Green(belts)
Patrick O’Hanlon, President
To be successful today, companies like ours have to be both a developer and a builder. The mounting costs of HST and development charges, combined with green legislation (the protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine and the greenbelt) which further reduces the amount of land that is available to develop, have had a huge impact on land cost, making it almost impossible to be only a new home builder. Gone are the days when buying serviced lots and building houses was enough to sustain you.
All of the risk is on the developer/builder; it is no longer a shared partnership. To develop land on either side of the greenbelt, which is also economical to build upon, has become an art and a science. It is a big challenge to get through the approvals process in a timely fashion and, once you do, the key to making even a modest profit is to ensure the end product is what people will want to buy at the price that you need them to.
Canada has avoided the world recession now facing many countries because of the stability of our banking system and housing. It’s time to ask why the government continues to tinker with housing.
Selling with Social Marketing
Brian Brown, Vice President
“Yesterday’s formula no longer applies” is the simplest way of capturing our industry today. Market volatility and economic uncertainty require that we continually question and re-evaluate the way we do business. Despite this condition, the condominium market continues to flourish, especially in Toronto’s downtown core, and we as an organization go on exploring new opportunities.
It’s an exciting time, and we recognize that we have to change the way we design our developments, communicate and build relationships. Non-traditional channels (i.e. Facebook, Twitter), online media tools and sources, and portable digital devices (Blackberrys, iPhones, iPads) have helped us share information in new ways; market our projects in a more dynamic, inclusive manner; and forge stronger ties with the communities where we build. An example is the “Design an Ad for The Bond” contest that introduced new Facebook connections and fresh voices expressing how this condominium “bonds” with its surroundings and the people who live there.
This evolution led us to establish a full-time Social Marketing position within our firm and has opened our eyes to new ways of creating interest and excitement in our developments. Success in this industry requires that you remain open to new ideas and encourages an internal culture of adaptability.
Future Forward Renovations
Michael J. Martin Luxury Renovations
Mike Martin, owner
The Federal government’s Home Renovation Tax Credit should generate business for legitimate contractors, although the program could be cancelled anytime. Provincial and municipal agencies are also offering incentives and awareness campaigns to help industry growth with such incentives toward home efficiency and environmental stewardship. Economists are predicting a lean year ahead and we advise renovators to keep a close eye on their bottom line.
The demographic is changing with 1,000 retirees a day in Canada. Therefore, renovators should gear themselves toward barrier-free renovation projects. Our huge ageing population is healthier more than ever before and they will continue to gain in numbers for years to come. Automation and efficiency is a primary concern for this demographic, and renovators should try and educate themselves with these elements to tap into this huge market. There are several courses currently running and more and more are developing as we speak.
Green renovations will continue to be an important facet of any project. Demands for “Green homes” include everything from HVAC systems to building materials to product finishes. Tying in a renovation to an existing house requires much up-to-date knowledge and technical know-how to make it “one” with a home. Design trends come and go, but generally they follow suite driven by current market demand. Professional renovators, who are honest, hardworking and continue to do superb workmanship, will remain on-top.
Industry Leaders Speak 2011