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September 01, 2008

From the ground up

Birchwood doing its part for the planet in Royal Oak

Darlene Casten

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Kermit the frog once sang that its not easy being green, but he would have to change his tune if he knew how easy it is to be a friend to the environment when buying a home from Birchwood Properties.

It doesn’t matter if you are an eco-freak or indifferent, if you are buying from Birchwood you will be doing the right thing for the environment.

Currently Birchwood is building in the last phase of Royal Oak Estates,   an established northwest neighbourhood with all the amenities—including shopping, transit and designated school sites—bordering Stoney Trail and 85 Street.

Birchwood is a leader in all-round environmental initiatives. From the time ground is broken on a home, the focus is on having as little impact on our earth as possible. It begins with the lumber that makes up the skeleton of the house, bought from a supplier who provides wood from a third-party certified sustainable source, which means the trees are not taken from a clear cut forest, but from one that has been earmarked for long-term, sustainable growth.

As the construction continues, tradespeople are asked to recycle as much as possible. The builder provides recycling dumpsters for the excess wood, metal and other products that can be broken down, re-shaped and reused. Once the home is ready for some finishing touches the environmental touches become even more apparent.

Water conservation, energy conservation and environmentally-friendly products all come into play. No tap or faucet is forgotten. Whether you are flushing or scrubbing, water being used is minimized by low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets.Even outside, rain barrels are catching any precipitation that can be used to water flower beds and lawns.

When the walls are ready for a coat of paint, low-volatile organic compound (low-VOC) paint is all that will do.  Carpets, hardwoods and adhesives are also low-VOC types.

Adele Kerr, marketing manager for Birchwood Homes, said environmentalism doesn’t only mean a healthier earth.

“It is important to have a strong focus in terms of the environment, both on the impact of the home but also on having healthy homes,” Kerr says.

Products like formaldehyde-free insulation and furnace filters that block dust and allergens are other among what keeps Birchwood homes green and clean. Energy Star appliances, low-E windows and a high-efficiency furnace attached to a programmable thermostat also keep energy usage and costs down. With all that said, when you walk into Birchwood’s side-by-side craftsman-style show homes on Royal Oak Drive you don’t notice anything unusual.

As you approach the homes, front porches with cultured stone pillars bring to mind a cold glass of lemonade on a warm night.

At the P3, a 1,307-square-foot two-storey, your eye is drawn to the maple flooring, the expansive nine-foot ceilings and open feel on the main floor. In a clever move a half-bathroom is tucked away down a small set of stairs off the kitchen. Across the hall is the door to the unfinished basement, an extra 600-plus square-feet for potential future development.

Upstairs space abounds with three bedrooms and one-and-a-half baths.

In the kitchen as you admire the shaker cabinets it is easy to stumble on a fun and functional recycling centre, with three colourful and deep bins to keep your paper, cardboard and tin organized.

Next door, the 1,342-square-foot P4 is equally grand for its pricetag, but finished with darker hues from rich, dark hardwood but a similarly open living area. The kitchen serves up scores of cabinet and counterspace, black appliances and a contrasting brick-patterned backsplash of subway tiles. A large window above the sinks and double doors leading out from the dining space make the most of natural light, a green feature in itself. Upstairs, all residents are treated to spaces of their own, with three generous sleeping quarters and two bathrooms, including a master ensuite.

It takes some poking around and observation to notice the subtle environmental differences in these homes. When you walk in, you're met with the cool air from the high-efficiency furnace that circulates air from the basement and low-E windows and extra insulation keep that air in the houses. The homes smell new, but not overpowering—perhaps a testament to the low-VOC products that cut down on chemical smells.

Birchwood sales assistant Colleen de Menezes said she is proud to offer environmentally-responsible homes to her customers. “It is for our kids’ future. The more we care the more they will care.”

The P3 starts at $412,900 while the P4 is priced from $422,900, including lot and GST. The P3, the P4 and a third model with a porch can also come with a rear garage for a limited time.

Birchwood offers six models in Royal Oak Estates, half with a front porch and  the other with front-attached garages. Porch homes will be serviced with paved alleys, and a number of garage homes back onto or face a green space. Homes in the area start from the low $350,000s. NL

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