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September 01, 2008

In their element

Innovative Okotoks interpretive centres helping homebuyers to a better Lifestyle and cleaner air

Jasmin So-Armada

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The heavy toll of living in what can be unhealthy surroundings has many searching for a solution. For Lifestyle Homes, taking that leap to greener initiatives is not an option but a responsibility. “We believe that sustainable construction is the way to go,” says John Groothius, vice-president of operations for Lifestyle Homes.

He says Lifestyle Homes’ responsibility starts at the heart of its mission statement: Being able to apply a sustainable approach to business practices that in turn benefits clients, the community and the environment, achievable through the new green program called Elements. “For us at Lifestyle Homes, Elements is an initiative that focuses on educating people about sustainable homebuilding,” says Groothius.

To this end, Lifestyle is launching two new interpretive centres in Drake Landing in Okotoks, opening their doors to the public September 27. The “Elements” interpretive centres draw inspiration from the four natural pillars of the planet: earth, water, energy and air, and form the basis for the four different home packages in the Elements program. Earth packages focus on using planet earth’s natural resources; water packages focus on conservation and consumption; energy packages draw heat from sustainable heating sources and lastly, air packages concentrate on cleaner indoor air. “These are not your average homes. We call them interpretive centres because these homes are there solely to educate people about alternative ways to greener living,” says Groothius.

The interpretive centres will have innovative eco-friendly products on display for people to touch and feel in person. “They will also witness some testing that will go on at the interpretive centres,” he adds.

Although there are four different home packages to choose from, the beauty of the initiative lies in its flexibility and countless permutations within each. “It’s like an a la carte approach, ” says Groothius, noting people can choose from any of the floor plans Lifestyle Homes builds and then pick from any of the four Element’s home packages, that in turn, also come in different levels of intensities.

Earth-friendly choices include recycled organic carpet; high-grade window insulation; a grey water system that re-uses household sources of wastewater; geo-thermal systems that rely on the constant temperature of the earth for heating and cooling; and low-volatile organic compound (low-VOC) paints.

The interpretive centre duo will also showcase different ways homeowners can use earth’s finite resources. For example, the first embraces the earth element, using products locally sourced or reclaimed, including hardwood floors that came from an old barn. “We realize that certain products take a lot of energy to manufacture. This house gives people ideas on how to keep energy cost down, how to rely less on fossil fuel,” says Groothius.

The second takes its inspiration from the air element, and will be a  healthy home which strives to create as clean an environment as possible. “We are able to do this by using HEPA filtration for the air and the use of heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) which can do up to nine air exchanges in the home,” he says. Also unique in the second home is a living wall of plants that aids in keeping the interior allergen-free, while all furnishings and interior design components are free or allergens and use vegetable dyes.

Elements interpretive centres mark a first for Lifestyle Homes, but Groothius says the move makes sense given the market is increasingly headed towards environmental awareness. “At the end of the day, it’s better to build a house that’s high performance, one that aids in reducing the sick building syndrome.” While it is more expensive to build an eco-friendly home, the four Elements packages give people more flexibility, and mean entry-level or high-end homebuyers tread a little lighter on the earth, with the most advanced technology. “Elements allows us to do this,” says Groothius. NL

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