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Business - Written by on Friday, September 18, 2009 10:00 - 0 Comments

Gautam Lamba
Collaborative Construction

Condominium developers are rushing to take advantage of the recent upswing in activity among condo buyers in Toronto. Pre-construction condominium bookings are not new and developers have been aggressively providing incentives to those who choose to pre-book. However, why not try to entice buyers by providing more non-financial incentives that appeal to the emotional and aesthetic reasons for buying a condo. So far, such incentives focus on decisions that are cosmetic in nature such as paint colours, flooring options and fixtures.

The next logical step would be to give buyers complete discretion in the design of their condo. For example; a buyer could decide where to place walls, cut out kitchen windows, install arches and redistribute space among rooms and move in to a space that is truly their own and completely unique. The only inflexible components would be the support beams and sanitation system.

This concept is not entirely new. It is essentially the decision making power afforded to those who build independent homes, loft-style apartments and, more recently, buyers in the luxury town-home markets (). There is no reason it could not be applied to promote sales of residential condos targeted at buyers in other segments that are larger in terms of market size.

For buyers this means:

  • Greater sense of ownership from having engaged in the design as alluded to here
  • Increased customer satisfaction and higher resale value due to increased uniqueness.
  • Though the overall cost may rise a little the modifications, are relatively cheaper as a developer has better economies of scale than an individual buyer
  • Less time and effort is needed to make it suitable for occupancy

For developers:

  • Higher booking rates translate into; greater cash inflow from deposits; higher likelihood of securing financing due to fulfillment of the financier’s occupancy criteria, and a stronger sales pitch to the later clients – E.g. we sold X% within the first 2 months etc
  • Improves viability of small and mid-scale developers who see larger proportions of unfinished projects
  • Lower likelihood of buyers abandoning the deposit and/or balking
  • Easier accommodation of excess demand of a particular type of condo. E.g. buyer can adjust walls to create extra rooms or change the layout to match another one
  • Take advantage of prosumer engagement to gain insight into customer trends. (read more about prosumers, here)
  • No delays in matching demand, when faced with the process of amending floor plans to accommodate more of one type of condo – i.e. buyers can self-serve their needs by modifying their space on their own

What of the technology?

That too exists, and can be applied as is to suit this purpose. Moreover, the design software is even available as free-ware in some cases. The developers simply provide a customized version to buyers as a CD with their particular floor plan on it.

Looking ahead it is not hard to imagine the concept being applied to the building in general and develop sites with flexible exterior design to allow inexpensive additions in case of excess demand. Examples of such design principles can be seen in other countries and a similar policy for independent residences is actually being actively promoted by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). When such technology becomes popular in the residential markets, it would be possible to build buildings that offer the above benefits to every future owner as well, and likely increase the re-sale values of such property.

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