Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

3-D renderings could be your best new sales tool

Canadian Contractor

“Nothing blows the socks off a prospect more than a 3-D color rendering.”

As more contractors choose a design-build business model, the ability for prospects to accurately visualize their new home or renovation becomes part of the sales effort. Perhaps nothing does that than a thrilling 3-D rendering. Beyond your reach, you say? Not so! Every contractor large or small can bring 3-D to the client negotiation table.

What is your business model? Are you design-build? Do you have on-going relationships with favoured outside designers? Do you take designs as they come and work with the client’s choice? In any of these situations, there is a 3-D rendering solution for your company.

It’s easy to see why even the most basic 3-D rendering is so much more interesting and helpful for clients

Why 3D?
“It’s the future,” says architect Rod Young, commenting on the importance of 3-D rendering. Young’s Orillia, ON practice includes commercial, institutional and select residential projects. He finds that in each case, there are good reasons to incorporate the 3-D presentations into the client conversation. “Nothing blows the socks off a prospect more than a 3-D color rendering,” he told Canadian Contractor. “Everybody wants to know what it’s going to look like. It’s a natural human response. We respond much faster to what we see than to what we hear.”

Successful selling is a combination of making a big first impression and then following up with the details. A 3-D presentation can help do that. It can open up meaningful client communications concerning flow, interior and exterior finishes, furniture placement and sunlight patterns throughout the day.


“3-D rendering not only allows clients to visualize the completed project, it allows them to make adjustments without wasting time or money on materials and labor.”
Lindsay Haley, President, Precision Contracting, Brockville, ON

Programs are widely available at all levels of sophistication and price ranges, and do not necessarily require advanced technical knowledge to function. In his design practise, Young has even had clients come to him with their own renderings in order to clarify what they have in mind. “Programs today are so simple yet so sophisticated,” he said.

At the same time, 3-D rendering can be a distraction if not properly integrated into the process. While acknowledging that they are a powerful sales component, Paul Gallop, President of Men at Work Design Build Ltd. of Toronto cautions, “Deployed prematurely, they can sometimes be a distraction and can consume excessive hours of designer time, unproductively obstructing the bigger picture objective of arriving at a functional space plan and scope of work that achieves the customer’s program objectives within their budget.”

“We do 3-D rendering right the way through, starting with preliminary space planning to final design. The clients love it! We hook up the lap top to our big screen in the boardroom and walk the client through their renovation, just like it’s completed. It’s one of our best marketing tools.”
Wayne Sage, President, Harwood Design Builders, Winnipeg, MB

More than just a sales tool
The ‘WOW!’ factor for clients is certainly an obvious reason to present your design ideas in 3-D. However, it can go beyond the pure visual treat for the client. Exterior and interior renderings, even animations, can be useful for gaining zoning amendments and setback approvals, or to placate municipalities, review boards and neighbors harboring concerns about the impact of a proposed new home.

“Some real estate agents actually hire us to do renderings of their listing to show the possibilities of the property. That can turn into a project for us as well!”
Wayne Sage, President, Harwood Design Builders, Winnipeg, MB

While 3-D is important from a sales standpoint, it can also play an important technical role too. Once the project gets the go-ahead, 3-D renderings can address important nuts and bolts by bringing all parties to the project together. Architectural 3-D renderings can also help obtain gain financing from investors and banks, for example. These people need to be sold too!

Even more, 3-D renderings can catch flaws that a traditional 2-D drawing might miss, allowing design adjustments to be made faster and more cost effectively. For example, interior designers can test out colors, landscapers can better visualize their canvas, engineers can assess the visual impact of their decisions, and custom mill-workers can bring ideas forward in a way that eliminates any guesswork. Collaboration across the project’s entire scope is improved.

“We always want our clients to envision what the space will look like prior to the construction phase.  It’s too late once we get there for construction.”
Lindsay Haley, President, Precision Contracting, Brockville, ON

There are 3-D options for contractors of all sizes
Contractors should self-assess their capabilities and needs when determining which of several routes to choose.

Do I have staff available that can learn the software?
Although not all programs are complicated, familiarity and repetition will make the time spent by staff more efficient. If staff is not available, out-sourcing the 3-D rendering to a third party studio is a good option. These services come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. Don’t be surprised if some of them are even on the other side of the world!

3-D programs can ‘render’ at different levels.

Do I need high quality 3-D for all my projects?
Outsourcing might also resolve another issue for many contractors — the flexibility to alter the level of rendering quality, from modelling to texturing, to all-out life-like color depends on the project. For example, a highly demanding, detailed and expensive project might deserve the virtual reality of advanced shading and shadowing and fly-through animations. It comes down to cost, ie. what can be absorbed as standard and what must be charged out as an extra service.  If the ultra –high-end requirement is only occasional, an outright purchase investment may not be necessary.

Some rendering programs can be attractive because of their low prices and apparent simplicity. Steve Barkhouse, President of Amsted Design Build in Ottawa, ON, uses 3-D rendering in his contracting business, but notes that using lighter programs can in fact be misleading and less accurate, limiting their intended purpose.

“Our usual approach is to offer design service packages on a fixed-price basis. Renderings  can be a wonderful aid to help a customer visualize and get excited about how their home can be transformed.”
Paul Gallop, President, Men at Work Design Build Ltd., Toronto, ON

Are there options other than outright purchase?
The selection of rendering programs is international — they come from all over the world. And no, you don’t have to purchase the software. However, although prices have come down significantly in recent years, they might still be out of the reach of smaller contractors.  To answer those situations, many sophisticated programs are available on a monthly or annual subscription basis. This can keep costs within a budget, particularly if not every project calls for 3-D client service.

“We use the 3-D to bring our clients into their ‘new’ home so that we can nail the function and flow with their assistance and understanding. It’s a great tool for building excitement and our clients love it.”
Steve Barkhouse, President, Amsted Design Build, Ottawa, ON

What if I work with outside designers and architects?
Most designers and architects have 3-D rendering capabilities of their own. If you find yourself working with a new design team, you should ask them to provide 3-D renderings as part of your joint collaboration. As a team, you and the designers can then present the best sales pitch possible to the client.

Interested in adding 3-D rendering to your business practice?
Here are some resources to explore:
An overview of popular rendering programs
Ratings on the top 10 rendering programs
More software choices

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1 Comment » for 3-D renderings could be your best new sales tool
  1. Cad Services says:

    Thanks for sharing this information is useful for us, also I read an article on the same theme

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