When Frank Kernick, developer and owner of Spring Creek in the scenic town of Canmore, decided to build his upscale mountain neighborhood to a higher environmental standard, use of geothermal heating and cooling was a natural fit.
He first learned about this renewable, sub-surface energy source through his training as a mechanical engineer. Then he applied it to his home in Invermere B.C., and the Invermere Lakeview Meadow’s community recreation centre.
“I converted the rec centre I built in Lakeview Meadows from propane to geothermal because at that time there was an exorbitant increase in the cost of propane,” says Kernick.
“It was killing the Lakeview Meadows community association just to heat that pool.”
Seeing the benefits of this solution in action, he decided when planning his Canmore Spring Creek development, that each of the residential buildings and commercial projects like the iconic Malcolm Hotel, would have geothermal in-floor heating and air cooling.
Canmore is fortunate to have a strong aquifer system with over 200 feet of gravel full of ground water underneath the valley floor, explained Kernick. These are permeable layers of rock bearing fluid that can be used for heating and cooling purposes.
“Using geothermal is part of our environmental commitment,” says Kernick, whose family has owned the Spring Creek lands since 1927. “I’m staying true to my word.”
This heating and cooling method helps Spring Creek improve its level of energy efficiency by about 35 per cent.
In most cases, the cost to setup geothermal in a residential application for the developer is around $20,000 more per home than conventional methods.
But Spring Creek has had practice. Continually improving its processes, the developer now uses geothermal for a cost that is approximately equal to traditional options.
Spring Creek is a master-planned neighbourhood, bordered by two spring-fed creeks, that offers condos, single-family estates, villas, apartment style condominium buildings with vacation use, and a seniors’ residence.
Its location combines the convenience of easy access to downtown Canmore with sweeping views of the Rockies.
Beyond helping the community reduce its emissions, Kernick says geothermal heating and cooling typically elevates the level of comfort one feels inside their home.
It also helps Spring Creek homeowners save on their monthly utility bills.
Spring Creek’s Tamarack Lodge — an 81 -unit tourist home complex will be the first building in the community to have a solar panel array on its roof.
“Because geothermal doesn’t use gas, it uses power, when I add a solar array, it will bring energy efficiency up in our buildings,” says Kernick.
“It’s our strive to always continue to improve the energy efficiency in our community,” he adds. “Everyone wants to get to net zero. It’s a goal for Canmore, it’s a goal for Canada, a goal for the world, to reduce our carbon footprint.”
Buildings at Spring Creek also include green-minded elements such as insulation that is designed to be more energy-efficient, and triple-glazed windows, among others.
Their insulation also helps buffer transfer of sound, making the homes not only comfortable, but peaceful, as well.
“You can have a stereo blasting next door and you will not hear anything,” says Kernick.
These features and others helped the community earn Canada’s first ever Platinum certification through the BuiltGreen Communities pilot program earlier this year.
BuiltGreen Canada is a third-party, industry-driven national certification program.
Backing up a home buyer’s confidence in Spring Creek is the developer’s membership with the Alberta New Home Warranty Program.
“They give us great support,” says Kernick, on the company’s membership with The Program. “They give us great technical support, and great support with our homeowners, if there are any questions that maybe we cannot fully answer.”
When complete, the community will have about 1,000 residential units and 250 hotel suites. At the time this was written, about 50 per cent was built out.
Shovels turned for the start of construction on Arnica Lodge, which is now selling, earlier this year. The Tamarack, which is 95 per cent sold out, is slated to offer possessions in the first quarter of 2022.
Many units at Spring Creek have Tourist Home permitted use through the Town of Canmore. With this approved use, condominiums are permitted to be used as either a permanent residence, short-term rentals, or long-term rentals.
This allows those who own these units to earn money from nightly rentals that will help offset mortgage payments.
The Town of Canmore controls the tourist homes allowed, preserving the integrity of their residential areas and ensuring essential housing options for permanent residents
“The thought and passion that has gone into Spring Creek Mountain Village is visible and felt as soon as you enter the community,” says Michelle Rogers, account manager for the Alberta New Home Warranty program. “There is a real commitment from the team to constantly strive towards finding innovative ways to give back to the community; support the residents and respect the environment in which they build.
“Through this, they have created sustainable, appealing and complimentary ways to integrate themselves into the ecosystem that is the beautiful community of Canmore,” she adds. “We are pleased to be partnering with them, and love watching their dedication come to fruition.”
This story was originally published in July 2021 on the Alberta New Home Warranty Program’s blog.