Builders have broken ground on the largest Zero Energy Ready community in the United States, a $2 Billion development that can teach builders and developers about the cost-effectiveness of geothermal heating and cooling in large-scale communities.
This Zero Energy Ready master-planned community in Austin, Texas, known as Whisper Valley, aims to balance renewable energy technologies with cost-effectiveness to appeal to new demographics of homebuyers.
Using geothermal technologies to market a lowered monthly utility bill is just one technique that developers at Whisper Valley are using to increase appeal. An EcoSmart energy management system, controllable thermostats and Google Fiber Internet are three other standards that community developers are using to target first-time homebuyers.
“With EcoSmart’s energy delivery program and super-fast Google Fiber available in every home, we’ve created a revolutionary approach to developing new home communities in order to offer the latest technology and energy-efficient homes at an amazingly affordable price,” says Douglas Gilliland, president of Taurus Investment Holdings of Texas, the developer of Whisper Valley.
Other builders and developers should consider following this community’s lead by stacking different technology standards to meet a range of homebuyers’ expectations.
Construction, Tech Integration Begins in Whisper Valley
The master plan was developed by Taurus Investment Holdings, but due to the community’s overwhelming size, multiple builders will be working on the project at various times.
Whisper Valley’s first neighborhood, called Whisper Rising, features homes built by Avi Homes and Pacesetter Homes. Combined, these two builders are constructing 30 homes ranging in size from 1,200 to 3,100-sq. feet.
In addition to the builder partnerships, developers at Whisper Valley have also partnered with geothermal and solar installers, as well as appliance manufacturers, to streamline integration when each home is finalized.
“We partnered with the best companies in the world to design, create and invest in Whisper Valley’s technology and infrastructure upfront,” says Gilliland. “Committing to that standard gives homeowners the most innovative technology in a new home starting in the $100Ks.”
Builders are currently filling reservations from homebuyers for the first 237 homes in the community. The first section of 30 homes is being built now and is expected to be ready for occupancy by spring of this year. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2027.
The Cost-Effectiveness and Benefits of Geothermal in Large-Scale Communities
Due to infrastructure costs, a geothermal standard may seem out of reach for many builders—however, in large-scale communities, a geothermal standard can be cost-effective.
In multifamily or large production communities, geothermal infrastructure costs are reduced because the infrastructure process is streamlined. Instead of hiring an installer to work on just one custom project, the installer can quickly work through a community to streamline infrastructure construction.
The community’s geothermal system is based around a Thermal Energy Supply System (TESS) which is designed to save homeowners up to 65 percent on typical monthly energy usage. The TESS is installed during the initial phases of the development and becomes a part of the community’s infrastructure.
A Bosch geothermal heat pump uses geothermal energy stored in the TESS to heat and cool the house, but integrators at Whisper Valley have taken the renewable tech one step further by using it to provide domestic hot water.
In addition to a lowered monthly cost, Whisper Valley’s development team chose geothermal to meet the new energy-efficiency standard of Austin, Texas.
“All of our homes will be capable of achieving the carbon-neutral standard promoted by the City of Austin for all new construction homes,” says Gilliland. As more code changes deal with energy usage standards, builders should look for innovative ways to meet changing codes without sacrificing appeal or money.
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