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2019 Green Home of the Year Award Winner: Loud as a Whisper

This giant net-zero-ready community brings geothermal energy to a new high.

To understand the success of the Whisper Valley community in Austin, Texas, one has to look underground: The project’s geothermal loop energy supply system, GeoGrid, reduces each home’s energy consumption by 65 to 70 percent, cutting monthly heating costs by about 80 percent.

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Project Stats

Name: Whisper Valley, Austin, Texas
Architect/Designer: Pacesetter Homes
Builder: Pacesetter Homes
Developer: Taurus Investment Holdings
Photographer: Courtesy of Pacesetter Homest 

Combined with photovoltaic panels and products such as Nest thermostats and Bosch appliances, all 7,500 houses currently in or planned for Whisper Valley are net-zero capable and are consistently HERS rated in the teens and low 20s, far below the new construction industry standard of about a 60 rating.

According to EcoSmart Solution Founding Partner Axel Lerche, builders are excited about GeoGrid because it can be installed upfront—just like water, sewer and electric utility lines—driving down the cost by about 40 percent. It allows them to utilize planned home designs and then easily hook up to the loop system during construction.

GeoGrid’s loop system features 5 miles of Rehau RAUGEO PEXa, vertical ground piping that enables the sharing of energy among homes throughout the block, keeping electrical costs down for everyone. Some homeowners’ energy bills, for example, can be less than $7 to $60 per month, way below the $300 usually seen from other homes in the region. Builders, meanwhile, can add their projects onto an existing line, instead of building a separate geothermal system for each home.

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Lerche notes that EcoSmart’s philosophy is built around affordable sustainability—a concept that took years to perfect for builders, partners, investors and residents.

Whisper Valley homes start in the low $200,000s, making them affordable for buyers ranging from young couples to empty nesters. “Whisper Valley’s sustainable lifestyle has attracted all types of homebuyers who want to reduce their carbon footprint and protect our environment,” the company notes. “[And] Whisper Valley is having a major impact on residential real estate development by demonstrating that sustainable development appeals to today’s homebuyer and is not only good for the environment, but it’s a good investment.”

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Pacesetter Homes, Avi Homes, Buffington Homes, AHA Dream Homes and GFO Home are builders involved in the project. Construction will continue in phases for at least several more years.

EcoSmart has been recognized with an award for Innovative Energy Design at PCBC, a leading real estate conference in California, and has been a featured presentation nationally at the Urban Land Institute and internationally at EXPO Real, the largest European real estate investment conference. Whisper Valley was also named Best New Community in Austin by the Home Building Association of Austin, and has received major media coverage on its sustainable concept. 

Key Components

Alternative Building Systems: GeoGrid EcoSmart Solution energy efficiency program
Appliances: Bosch
Automotive (Electric Car Charging, Etc.): Prewired for Tesla EV charging system
Home Controls: Nest thermostats
Insulation: High-density spray foam in walls and attic spaces
Landscaping: Tella Firma Foundations
Lighting: LED fixtures throughout
Plumbing/Plumbing Fixtures: Rehau RAUGEO PEXa vertical ground piping
Smart Home: Google Fiber; Google Nest
Solar: FRE Renewable Solutions; Canadian Solar modules and Fronius inverters
Structural Components: Tella Firma Foundations slab-on-grade foundation
Telecommunications: Google Fiber internet service
Water Heating: Bosch Thermotechnology geothermal heat pumps