While building a green home may sound like a progressive idea, the building process is often too costly and time consuming for people of all incomes. In response to the changing needs and values of homeowners, a planned community called Whisper Valley is working to change the way people develop neighborhoods.
The new development, located 20 minutes from downtown Austin, Texas, is a model for an energy efficient lifestyle. The goal of this project is to build a better residential community by focusing on sustainability, new technologies, and affordability.
Located near Walter E. Long Lake, the eco-friendly development spans across roughly 2,000 acres that will blend natural features like parks, trails, and forests with residential neighborhoods. For homeowners, there will be a selection of 7,500 new single and multi-family homes and apartments. For businesses, space will be dedicated to create village-like centers along with schools and a fire station.
The community also offers an organic garden and recreation center to help neighbors connect with each other through their environment. The development team integrated an EcoSmart system to provide an energy saving infrastructure to create an effective, eco-friendly community, where the fee is the same or lower than a traditional utility bill.
Development group, Taurus, is responsible for bringing this green community to life. The company’s chairman, Lorenz Reibling explains how sustainability was a crucial aspect when developing Whisper Valley, “At Taurus, we believe we must consider the impact of our actions upon future generations, particularly in the context of a product as durable as real estate. Being sustainable – taking an environmentally, socially and economically responsible approach to development – is our defining principle.”
The homes themselves come with ultra-efficient geothermal heat pumps which are pre-installed and use thermal properties to heat and cool homes efficiently. The community also allows residents to use energy from solar panels without having to deal with installations. Efficient kitchen appliances and nest smart home thermostats help conserve water and energy use.
One of the selling points of this green community is that the homes are cost effective because they are priced in the low $200,000 range. While this isn't affordable for everyone on the market, it's considerably less than homes with comparable features.
County commissioner, Jeffery Travillion, shared his optimistic outlook about the new development with Austin’s NPR and noted that affordable communities like these are a step in the right direction, saying, “We will also be talking about and working toward programs that make it possible for teachers, for public employees and for others to be able to live in the community as well.”
To keep rare bat species in an area where they thrive, a community that's already created nearly 100 sustainable homes is changing their street lights. These new red LED bulbs will allow humans to continue operating at night while the bats can avoid it.
Mountain gorillas remain an endangered species, but conservation efforts such as regulated tourism and habitat protection has increased their population over the last 35 years. It's jumped 25 percent in a specific African region in the past eight years.
China continues to deal with rising population in their cities, and that includes immigration from other regions of the country. To promote local food growth, 1,000 "Slow Food" villages will be created in an effort to educate those on culture and sustainability.
One of the biggest databases of pollution that's been picked up off the streets has been upgraded to make the experience easier. Litterati, downloadable on iOS and Android devices, now allows for better collaboration, advanced tagging, and easier photo uploads.