Whisper Valley Development Relies on Geothermal Heat Pumps
Global developer Taurus Investment Holdings (Boston) has officially opened its $2 billion sustainable community, Whisper Valley, in East Austin, Texas. The company’s vision is to attract buyers who want to lead a socially responsible lifestyle with affordable and energy efficient homes in a sustainable development.
“We came to Austin because there is already an appetite for sustainable living and we’ve had a terrific response,” said Douglas Gilliland, president of Taurus of Texas. “What makes us different from other eco-developments is the size and scale of Whisper Valley and the ability to offer high-tech, sustainable homes utilizing renewable energy sources without sacrificing affordability. In fact, the resale value of these homes will be higher because of the features that we have already built into them.”
Homes in Whisper Valley start from the low $200s to $400s and feature local builders Pacesetter Homes and Avi Homes. The 2,062-acre mixed-use development consists of over 700 acres of open space, residential neighborhoods and planned retail, consumer services, restaurants and commercial sales. Every dwelling at Whisper Valley is an Eco-Smart Certified Home, and includes an innovative geothermal heating and cooling system using a geothermal heat pump to save up to 65% on typical monthly energy use ($150-$300 per month, depending on home size).
Each home has a geothermal heat exchanger in a single vertical borehole near the lot boundary, connected to a larger geothermal loop field that maximizes efficiency. In addition to the Whisper Valley geothermal systems, solar panels will generate electricity to achieve zero-energy capable homes, which designed and built to meet the City of Austin’s forward-looking carbon-neutral standard for all new residential construction.
“The key to making (our) model work is that we dealt with the upfront cost of providing the geothermal heat pump and the solar by creating a unique financing program… where the consumer can pay for that investment in the home through savings in their energy costs,” said Gilliland.
“Geothermal heating and cooling equipment is one of the most efficient today, based on information from the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Geo-Enterprises president (and GEO board member) Phil Schoen, whose company is handling geothermal drilling and pipe laying for the Whisper Valley development. “They rate it as much as 50 or 60 percent better than conventional heating and cooling equipment because it leverages our natural soil temperatures underground with the ability to exchange five units of energy for every one unit of electrical power consumed.”
“When it comes to the loopfield portion of our program, it is very important to us to create a very reliable system, every building lot has one bore-hole… we are connecting those boreholes to a district loop for the entire Phase One development, which includes 237 lots,” explained Eco-Smart partner Axel Lerche. “So, through the district piping system, we create significant savings on everybody’s utility bills. Our homeowners are paying Eco-Smart a small fee per month on a 25-year term. And this monthly payment should be lower than your savings on your utility bill, so it’s a win-win situation.”
As the first Google Fiber master-planned community in the world, Geo-Enterprises is install-ing fiber optic cables at Whisper for super-fast 1GB Internet service. Other elements of the innovative EcoSmart program include smart home technology with Nest Thermostat, Nest Camera, Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector and Google Home Assistant. Every home will also be equipped with high performance home appliances and are pre-wired for a garage-mounted electric vehicle charging station.
Other amenities at the development include a 5,000 square foot. community center with resort-style geothermal heated pool, creative play areas, a fitness center, a multi-purpose event and activity room, Show Kitchen and a Discovery Center served by two electric vehicle charging stations. Whisper Valley is an official Tesla Destination Charging location.
The Whisper Valley development also features 700 acres of parks, miles of planned hike and biking trails and greenspace including the 600-acre Whisper Valley Public Park. There are plans for two school sites, a transportation hub and a fire station. Whisper Valley will also offer a comprehensive organic farming program in partnership with Lettuce Networks, offering fresh, nutritious organic food grown right in the community and delivered to residents.
With its geothermal heat pump systems and other innovative energy technologies, Whisper Valley is a model for the future of housing in America. Its developers are creating a long-term sustainable solution to carbon emission reduction and energy efficiency. And they are doing it with affordable homes for middle class consumers. Brett Goodman, a lead home appraiser in the Austin area, is buying in Whisper Valley. “I went to a Whisper Valley developer’s meeting along with other appraisers. Coming out of that meeting, I was sold. I totally like the idea behind the whole community…energy efficient, locally grown produce, the green spaces, the amenities, etc.”
Publication date: 11/20/2017