Along the shores of Langford Lake, in the hills of southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, sits a small, but growing, housing development. Unlike most housing developments you see these days, these houses are not looming McMansions, but instead are small, not much bigger than cottages. Welcome to condo-sized homes, and welcome to Kettle Creek Station.
Just 30 minutes away from the provincial capital of Victoria, Kettle Creek Station features a number of innovations, aimed at a target market of beginning families and empty-nesters. The homes themselves are small, but laid out in such a way as to maximize their useful space. This creates inexpensive detached homes, complete with full yards, in the same general price range as a semi-detached townhouse condominium in the region. However, from a Greener Ideal point of view, the most interesting innovation is the use of geo-thermal heating and cooling throughout the project.
Geothermal heating and cooling systems extract energy from the earth, using the temperature difference to heat or cool a home. A heat pump runs the system, extracting warmth in winter, and in summer dumping heat. The hot or cold air is distributed through the house by a normal forced air system, like with a conventional gas- or oil-fired furnace. The air tends to be cleaner, though, as there are no combustion by-products like carbon monoxide to worry about.
The only energy input that is required to run this system is electricity to run the heat pump, and the blower fan. Not only is this desirable from an environmental point of view, it makes sound economic sense, too. A home with geothermal heating and cooling can expect to save between 30% and 70% on heating costs, and 20% to 50% on cooling costs.
Adding a geothermal system to an existing house can cost $10,000 – $15,000, which can be a sound decision, depending on your long-term heating costs. However, at Kettle Creek, they are part of the standard home package, and given the real estate market on southern Vancouver Island, have added little extra cost to each home, but much in the way of added value.
Kettle Creek’s environmental good sense doesn’t stop there, though. The exterior of each house is clad in concrete fiber board, a long-lasting alternative to wood and other siding materials. Made from recycled wood fiber and concrete, concrete fiber board is expected to last 50 years or more, if properly maintained with a coat of paint approximately every 5-7 years.
Other environmentally aware details used at this development include low-flow showerheads and toilets. While southern Vancouver Island gets a great deal of rain in winter, it gets very little over summer, and water conservation is an important issue there. Double-glazed vinyl windows increase the home’s efficiency for both heating and cooling purposes, while long-lasting fiberglass shingles protect the roof from the winter’s incessant rains.
Kettle Creek Village is just one of several new housing and commercial developments taking place on southern Vancouver Island that utilize new green construction materials and make use of geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling. As environmental awareness continues to rise, geothermal and other green energy solutions should truly enter the mainstream.