Solar Suburbia: Drake Landing


No streetfront garages, there is a back lane system

Jacob described the plans for Canada's greenest suburb, Drake Landing, last year. It is in Okotoks, a half hour south of that Radiant City, Calgary. Now it is built and while it looks a little barren without the trees in, Patrick White of the Globe and Mail visited it and was impressed. he writes:

Drake Landing sold out soon after construction was announced in 2005, with buyers coming from as far away as Seattle and Quebec. The homes were originally slated to sell for less than $300,000, but with the Okotoks real-estate market booming, the new homes are being resold for closer to half a million dollars.

They have attracted a few dozen families whose ecological orientation binds residents more than neighbours in most suburbs. On a recent weekday afternoon, neighbours chatted over their fences, swapping tips on tweaking home furnaces for efficiency, and xeriscaping, a landscaping method that minimizes water use.

"There's definitely an us-versus-the-world mentality here," says Maria Cameron, a stay-at-home mom. "We're all a little different here."


solar panels on garages

[Purchaser Jennie Willings] heard about a development that promised to incorporate dozens of green attributes such as a gutter-and-barrel system that saves rainwater, sustainably harvested lumber, recycled drywall and insulation that makes the homes 30 per cent more efficient than standard abodes.

The kicker was the 800 solar panels attached to garage roofs.

The black panels transfer solar heat to an antifreeze solution that is relayed by underground pipe to a central heat exchanger. There, the antifreeze passes its heat to storage tanks full of water. During warmer months, the hot water is stored in boreholes sunk 37 metres beneath a town park. The water warms up the surrounding soil to temperatures as high as 80C. During winter, the heated soil acts as a kind of subterranean furnace, warming up water that is then circulated to homes.

"I don't pretend to understand all of the technology," Ms. Willings said. "But I know it works."

In March, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the town "the greenest community in Canada, and maybe the world." In June, a dozen central energy planners from China toured Okotoks looking for sustainable solutions they could use to remedy their country's growing pains.

One of the stops was Drake Landing, where they might have seen Ms. Cameron's four kids frolicking in the front yard.

"I never saw myself living in the suburbs," Ms. Cameron said. "I always thought suburbanites were totally two-dimensional, that they drove the same cars and kissed the same wives. I guess I was wrong." ::Globe and Mail

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