AUSTIN – (By Dale King, Realty News Report) – Whisper Valley, a large planned community under development in the area Austin area, is tapping alternative, sustainable energy sources, including geothermal energy, for all its heat and air conditioning needs.
Though Whisper Valley is not the first project to feature sustainable, energy-smart homes, the project’s developer says it is the largest project (slated to have 7,500 homes at build-out) of its kind to have “energy neutral” homes capable of producing as much energy as they consume.
Whisper Valley’s homes will be equipped with Bosch geothermal pumps for heating and cooling, roof-mounted solar panels, energy-efficient Bosch appliances and other green-building technologies.
The 2,062 acre community, near the suburban Austin community of Manor, will have single-family, multifamily and commercial properties with a build-out value of $2 billion, according to the project’s developer Taurus of Texas, a subsidiary of Boston-based Taurus Investment Holdings.
“We are seeing a great response from homebuyers who want the latest technology and most energy-efficient homes at an affordable price,” says Douglas Gilliland, president of Taurus of Texas.
Taurus formed a subsidiary, EcoSmart Solution LP, to develop and implement the alternative energy programs that Taurus will incorporate into Whisper Valley.
When the northeastern Travis County community is completed, it will be one of the largest energy-efficient housing developments in the nation.
A geothermal heating/cooling system connects homes via a pump system to the “area four to six feet before the Earth’s surface where temperatures are relatively moderate year-round,” said Jay Egg, a certified geothermal designer, mechanical professional, author and speaker.
Inside each home is an indoor unit connected to a loop system buried in the yard and filled with water and anti-freeze. “Water circulating in the system brings heat into the house,” Egg said. “In the winter, the system is reversed, and it pulls the warm air out of the house.”
Whisper Valley was discussed in depth in a recent Metrostudy webinar. Shailesh Topiwala, director of corporate development for Bosch Residential Solutions, explained how geothermal energy is used for both heating and cooling. The fact that energy that literally comes from tapping into the upper level of the Earth’s crust has been around a long time, but it is advancing to a higher level through technology and new methods into the mainstream.
Green building is catching on. “In 2015, more than 30% of builders constructed fewer than 60% of new homes using green technologies,” he said. “By 2020, 51 percent of single-family home builders will be going green.”
There are three top driving forces, he said: Energy efficiency, healthier indoor environments and durability and resilience.
Whisper Valley will also boast some 700 acres of parks and open space with a network of trails, streams, meadows and forests. Amenities at Whisper Valley will include a community center, resort-style pool, play areas, a fitness center, hiking and biking trails.
Whisper Valley will help the city of Austin achieve its progressive carbon-emissions targets for new homes, Taurus says. The city has set a 2050 target to reduce carbon emissions to zero for all buildings and houses.
When completed over the next decade or so, Whisper Valley will likely have some 7,500 homes and apartments, plus more than 2 million square feet of retail and neighborhood services, restaurants and commercial space.
The complex is being built in three segments. A company spokeswoman said 60 homes have been sold to date, and 30 of them are now occupied. Phase I of the community is scheduled to bring 239 homes — 200 single-family houses, and 39 townhomes.
Residences in the first phase will range in price from the low $200,000s to the $370,000s.
The second and third phases could bring an additional 700 homes, said officials from Taurus.
In addition, each house is being wired for Google Fiber, which is roughly 100 times faster than current internet speeds.