Life is Better at EchoHaven
What if we could build suburbs that preserved the natural landscape, featured super energy efficient homes, built a sense of community — and had no vinyl siding? The neighborhood of Echohaven in northwest Calgary is doing it.
A typical suburban development scrapes the site bare and parcels it into lots. At the end, a park might be created or a pond or natural space rebuilt. Echohaven, on the other hand, preserved 60 per cent of its natural spaces from the beginning.
The development preserved its unique knob-and-kettle foothill topography with ponds, creeks, forests and wildlife by parceling off 24 small lots with big natural spaces owned by the neighbourhood condo association.
Instead of a big backyard, kids get to play in a neighbourhood creek or a forest. And the landscape has a purpose.
“Typically, there’d be storm sewers that carry all the runoff from the site down to the Bow River through a series of pipes. We’re reducing the amount of infrastructure by retaining all the storm water management on-site. They feed the ponds, the storm water contributes to the ongoing viability and health of the ecosystem here,” says Dave Spencer, one of the founders of the Echohaven project.
The homes also collect rainwater for use in toilets and the yard, which reduces demand on the city and saves homeowners money.
Every home must meet a minimum Energuide 84 rating. That’s an extremely energy efficient home.
There are no gas lines. Up to 60 per cent of the heat it needs comes from sunshine streaming in through high quality south-facing windows. Spencer recommends an insulation minimum of R40 walls, R60 for the roof and R30 under the slab. His net-zero house has R60 walls and an R100 roof.
Former oil and gas guy turned investment advisor and Financial Post columnist, Martin Pelletier moved into Echohaven in May of 2014 and he loves it.
“What made it really attractive to us was the community feel to it, the healthy aspect to it, and the environmental side, the stewardship. We own the land together through a condo association, so what you see here will never change,” says Pelletier.
And Echohaven is doing more to build community. They’re planning to build a community greenhouse where everyone who lives in the neighborhood will get their own growing space.
This has been a 20-year labour of love for Spencer. And while the project was a lot of work (and, thanks to civic and provincial rules and regulations, a lot harder than it should be), it is nearing its end — and for Spencer it was definitely worth it.
“I think it’ll be easier in the future to do it. We’re just kind of a little laboratory, how to do things a little different in the suburbs, creating a more sustainable city environment. I think it’s worthwhile,” he says.