Sun Rivers

A community in bloom

Ten years ago the company’s vision was to create a resort community with a bundle of lifestyle amenities to cater to any standard of living. The most prestigious address in Kamloops, B.C., the project is a community that will offer lifestyle, entertainment and business all in one place.

Leslie Brochu, vice-president of Marketing and Public Relations for Sun Rivers, says, “It is an entire community with a range of housing product, from condo, townhouse, adult community living to large estate lot. There is a village centre with commercial and retail—coffee shops, gift shops, a green grocer, and a spa and wellness centre, various amenities people can walk to and enjoy as well. And there is a walking trail network, community gardens and championship golf course.”

Complementing all that green space the project is also Canada’s first geothermal community, serviced by a private bundled multi-utility company. It provides leading-edge technology and the convenience of one monthly bill for utilities.

Geothermal technology involves tapping into the solar energy naturally stored beneath the earth. Every home at Sun Rivers sits on a major source of energy, its own backyard. The underground temperature stays relatively constant all year, at 13C year round, even though the outdoor temperature varies widely. Geothermal systems harness this constant, renewable energy source, and use it for heating, cooling and hot water.

Geothermal systems circulate a water-based solution through a loop of small diameter underground pipes. When heating, this solution absorbs heat from the earth and carries it to the geothermal unit, which compresses the extracted heat to a high temperature and delivers it to the home. When cooling, the process is simply reversed, and the resulting cool, dehumidified air is delivered to the home. In the winter the earth beneath the ground is used as a heat source and in the summer a heat sink. Each home at Sun Rivers has their own individual closed-loop system drilled vertically within the lot lines.

To date, 61 of the homes boast Built Green platinum status, which aligns with the highest level of environmental practises. Brochu adds, “What the platinum status addresses is the efficiency of the home and the potential of environmental sustainability, less air leakage, more efficient, and more comfortable and healthier to live in.”

Sun Rivers also has a community association that operates, maintains and administrates community living and building practises that all contribute to a strong and connected community, and taking into account not only aesthetics but safety, security and fellowship.

So far there are 650 homes developed in the community resort, a third of the way to completion, with 1,000 residents. The organisation is currently developing multi-family units which will increase the pace. The aim, by the end of 2012, is to reach 50 per cent completion.

“One of the unique things about Sun Rivers is we are about five minutes from downtown Kamloops,” says Brochu. “One of the beautiful things at Sun Rivers is that proximity yet there is a real sense of being on vacation every day.”

The environmentally sustainable community will participate in July’s Communities in Bloom, a Canada-wide beautification program that awards ratings for achievement in floral displays, landscapes and urban forestry. Sun Rivers’ goal is to rank 5/5 and move on to compete internationally. “Communities in Bloom is really about pride, places, people and plants, and so that is what building a great community is about,” says Brochu.

Sun Rivers mirrors the fundamental premises of Communities in Bloom, with its focus on communicating with residents, how they can get out and enjoy the land they occupy, building pride in the community, and sensing how the residents fit into their neighbourhood.

Canada has a lot of resort communities but Sun Rivers aims to be among the best of these. Brochu says, “We are looking to put the challenge out to other resort communities to say we all have a responsibility to build and contribute to strong and healthy communities, and we’re all doing our part.”

In the meantime, the organization is well on its way, having just received an award from the Canadian Home Builders Association. “We are very honoured to receive that award because we are up against some very large development companies who are building right across the country,” says Brochu. “To be in that league and competing against that level of competence is a bit daunting but when you are successful it is thrilling and humbling at the same time. What it has done is reinforced all the years of planning and our commitment to our fundamental plan, addressing those strong planning principals and delivering to our residents.”