In my last post, I shared some highlights of a conversation I’d had with a number of real estate leaders in Vancouver, where I live, the central takeaway from which was that, while certain pandemic pressures were certainly easing, a variety of challenges remained, including supply-chain constraints and the twin challenges of high inflation and high interest rates.
Less than a year later, with over $388.6 billion in major real estate projects currently underway in British Columbia, I think I can say there is unparalleled opportunity for the development industry in the city to transform and innovate. This certainly was at the forefront of discussion at the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s first-ever forum on major projects. It was my pleasure to moderate one of the three panels, “Cutting-Edge Projects and Innovations in Construction,” and in this post I’ll outline what I believe to be the four biggest upcoming trends.
Kids, cars and public transit hubs
The first major innovation trend to catch my attention stems from an existing mall site. You’d be right to assume the redevelopment includes increasing the footprint. What’s new, though, is how they’re going to put those millions of square feet to use.
It won’t just be retail. There will be nearly three thousand residential units and many of them will be built without parking availability. I am seeing more new proposed developments with reduced or no vehicle parking. This detail was a bit of a surprise to me, especially since the units at this existing mall are going for between $2 and $3 thousand per square foot. If there’s a vision here, what is it?
Boomers have created a significant amount of wealth, and they’re paying it forward to the next generation, helping their kids in a near-impossible housing market. The upcoming generation hasn't yet earned the money required for independent housing close enough to downtown Vancouver, so their parents are either buying a unit for them outright or are contributing a significant amount toward the down payment.
Here’s the kicker: young people don’t want cars. They'll happily commute on public transit to an onsite job if they’re not working remotely, and they’ll just as easily rent a car or use a ride-hailing service for a trip to the mountains or for lugging things across town.
The development industry knew of this trend and designed their project to integrate fully—not just with the mall, but with the all-important transit station. This development is already changing people’s perceptions of what it means to own real estate and constitutes a major cultural shift in how people live, work and play.
Expect to see more mixed-use mega-projects around public transit.
Getting (out) more while staying in
Case in point: another innovative project in the city is also built around a transit node. In this case, the concept of housing is given, shall we say, a new lease on itself. It’s a purpose-built community, combining retail, an office tower and residential units all in the same location. This one is especially interesting post-COVID, when we’ve gone from relative isolation, through super-isolation, to longing for greater connection.
In fact, with a little imagination, we can envision microunits. This isn’t a new concept globally, but it would be somewhat new for the GVA. Imagine condos without kitchens, or shared kitchens. Imagine common living rooms and laundries, a fitness centre, a library, and even a cafeteria with a fine dining chef. This would advance a solid solution for both the housing crisis and environmental protection. It's affordable living with the personal financial benefits of much pricier real estate.
Adieu the predominant vision of single-use residential construction.
Holographic virtual planning
When I said “amplify technology” in the title of this post, I didn’t mean simply updating your spreadsheet package. I’m talking holographic software that is precisely to scale. In it, you can walk into the construction and see—to an inch—what’s going on. Through artificial intelligence and virtual reality, the architect, the interior designer, the engineer—everyone involved—can see the space in real time and try out changes and catch mistakes before they ever happen.
Imagine being able to build a 40-50-storey building in a month using pre-fab and 3D printers. This is large-scale construction technology that will only improve in the selection and usage of materials and the sophistication of aesthetics and architecture.
Hello to next-level technology you won’t hate.
Data any way you need it
Now imagine a digital transformation protocol so powerful that it allows for all your software to be parked within a single hub. It separates the bad data from the good like a next-gen sorting machine. Then it can extract and manipulate the data any way you need it, creating dashboards that operate in real time, facilitating and supporting your cashflow management. This is here, and available now.
It was developed by KPMG’s Digital Transformation team, and we’ve had several major clients already use and benefit from it, saving time, money and headaches while creating efficient projects that speak to their vision as industry leaders.
There’s so much for this city, and for the construction and real estate sectors in BC and Canada more broadly, to be optimistic about. For me, participating in events like this major projects forum puts faces on that optimism and helps me think more carefully and creatively about the role my team and I can play to help make the possible real. More and more of it is about how we use technology, sure, but all of it is about how we live our lives—with and for each other.
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