Edmonton developing world’s largest carbon-neutral neighbourhood

Photo courtesy of Blatchford

Photo courtesy of Blatchford

Edmonton Developing World’s largest carbon-Neutral neighbourhood

One of the world’s largest planned sustainable communities is now selling homes for its first phase of development.

Located 10 minutes from downtown Edmonton, Blatchford is designed as a carbon-neutral neighbourhood powered entirely by renewable resources.

“There will be 30,000 people in Blatchford living and working in a sustainable way,” said Tom Lumdsen, development manager for Blatchford.

The vision for the Blatchford community was approved by Edmonton city council in 2010 while the area redevelopment plan was approved two years later. Construction officially began in summer 2015.

Formerly Edmonton’s Municipal Airport, Lumsden said the 536 acres of land will be both socially and financially green by creating a community enhanced for pedestrian traffic and energy-efficient living.

It’s a very forward-thinking opportunity to show that Edmonton is more than just an oil and gas town.
— Tom Lumsden, Development Manager

The first phase of the neighbourhood – Blatchford West – will include a park with a plaza, playground, community garden and orchard. The completed neighbourhood – including Blatchford East, Blatchford Park and Blatchford Market – will be built with a town square, a civic plaza and two LRT stations.

Environmental sustainability is slated as a key motivator for the community. As such, Blatchford is working hand-in-hand with home builders to create an entire neighbourhood that is both energy-efficient from the start and sustainable on many levels, including walkability, transit-use and local food production.

The community will also support city council’s greenhouse gas targets detailed in Edmonton’s Energy Transition Strategy, as well as the city’s goals for climate resilience, healthy city and urban places, each outlined in ConnectEdmonton: Edmonton’s Strategic Plan 2019-2028.

Photo courtesy of Blatchford

Photo courtesy of Blatchford

Blatchford’s Energy Strategy

According to Christian Felske, director of renewable energy systems with the city of Edmonton, Blatchford has devised a three-pronged energy strategy – including energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy resources – in order to reduce overall energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

First, Felske said project builders must meet certain green criteria to conserve the energy used, both during construction, and within the homes and buildings once construction is complete.

“The builders have to adhere to green building codes, which from the onset use less energy than a business-as-usual building in Edmonton, Alberta,” said Felske.

The buildings will all be high-performance buildings and have features such as energy-efficient windows, low-flow fixtures, increased insulation, smart room thermostats, and a tighter building envelope to reduce heat loss. Further, builders will be required to stick to a recycling program during construction to reduce the amount of materials going to the landfill.

Second, after construction is complete, the community’s thermal energy needs for heating, cooling and domestic hot water will be delivered through an energy-efficient system called a District Energy Sharing System (DESS.)

A low-carbon energy system, Blatchford’s DESS replaces the need for traditional furnaces, air conditioners and boilers in homes and buildings.

“With every building in Blatchford connected to the DESS, it allows us to provide a very efficient sharing system,” said Felske.

Blatchford’s final energy strategy focuses on renewable energy sources, like geoexchange fields. By harnessing geothermal energy below the earth’s surface, a geoexchange system draws heat from the ground for heating during winter months, and uses the ground to reject excess heat and provide cooling during summer months.

According to Felske, all the energy for heating, cooling and domestic hot water used by Blatchford homes and buildings will come solely from renewable systems.

To make up Blatchford’s geoexchange field, 570 geothermal wells have been drilled under a stormwater pond. This field will service the first stage of Blatchford’s DESS.  Down the road, solar installations will be used to offset additional electricity needed to power the DESS.

Blatchford-West-3.jpg

While the focus is on Blatchford’s energy strategy, Felske said the community will have other integrated sustainable features, mainly around water retention and recycling. These include low impact development design features like bioswales (a landscape design that helps remove pollution and debris from surface runoff water) as well as rain gardens, urban agriculture, and naturalized, drought-resistant landscapes.

Lumsden said while the entire project will take 20-25 years to complete, the City of Edmonton, as the developer, is constantly looking at emerging and future technologies for community-scale energy systems so Blatchford can meet its goals of being 100 per cent renewable and a carbon-neutral community.

Given that the infrastructure in the community is new, there are no legacy systems in place if Blatchford does not achieve net-zero. However, since Blatchford will be developed in stages, it will give developers the opportunity to adapt to changing renewable energy technologies.

Lumsden added while Blatchford had only recently announced its list of builders, there have been lots of people interested in putting money into the community. The first homebuilders are anticipated to start construction on townhomes this year, with residents moving in upon completion.

“The council of the day made the decision that this is what they wanted to do with this special piece of land,” he said. “[It’s a] very forward-thinking opportunity to show that Edmonton is more than just an oil and gas town.”