REHAU radiant heating system combines with geothermal energy source to warm residents of eco-minded Alberta community.

Nestled among the Canadian Rockies on the former site of the historic Canmore dairy farm in Alberta, the 70-acre Spring Creek is an innovative residential community gently integrated to preserve and enhance the area’s natural waterways, forestry and mountain views.  With his longstanding experience developing mountain communities throughout Alberta and British Columbia, developerFrank Kernick, the latest in a three-generation lineage of the original property’s owners, brought personal interest to the project, as well as a concern for its high level of environmental responsibility.

“Spring Creek has special meaning, both as the original site where my family and I grew up, and as the first sustainable community to be developed in the valley,” said Kernick.  “While mountain community development is, overall, a business that really makes you appreciate the beauty of nature, Spring Creek provides a signature example of what can be accomplished by working with and respecting the splendor of natural surroundings.”

In addition to incorporating the natural environment into Spring Creek pathways, medians, playgrounds and courtyards, all buildings slated for construction over the course of the next 12 years have been designed to include energy-efficient amenities and alternative energy sources. 

“Both the scope of this project and its strong emphasis on alternative energy sourcing has made it very exciting, while also challenging us to identify and work with the ideal product partners,” saidRalph Salm, president of Geo Furnace Technologies in Canmore, Alberta.  Geo Furnace Technologies is the designated heating contractor for the Spring Creek project, and will be working with Kernick during its complete 15-year duration.

The project, currently in its third year of construction, presently includes a 50 -,  48- and 59-unit residential building community, within which a number of live-work units have also been designed with customized ventilation and thermostat configurations to meet commercial code standards.  Each of the three buildings has been designed to incorporate integrated low-temperature radiant heating and geothermal systems as the main source of heat.

“Working with Frank and the development team, it is our goal to design each of the buildings with as little outside energy dependency as possible,” explained Salm.  “This means not only identifying the ideal alternative energy source, but also a heating distribution system, like REHAU’s RAUPEX® radiant heating system, that works as a complement to that energy source.”

Salm’s infloor heating experience, which now spans 12 years, led him toward geothermal energy sourcing after learning about the ideal low-temperature relationship between the two systems. 

“I’d become familiar with this concept from my building experience in Europe,” Salm explained, “and when I was weighing the energy source options for my own home’s infloor system, I thought I’d give geothermal a try.  That was in 1996, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Geo Furnace Technologies selected the cross-linked polyethylene (PEXa) pipe-based system from REHAU after learning about its unique advantages in relation to some of the project’s installation challenges.

“When kinks occur, we really liked the ability to reheat the RAUPEX pipe and have it ‘heal’ back to its original state,” Salm said.  “With the frequent temperature changes, kinks can be quite common in this area, and a job as big as Spring Creek Mountain Village can be significantly slowed without this kind of capability.”

Salm and his crew tested an initial 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) of RAUPEX on the jobsite, in temperatures ranging from below freezing to 70ºF (21ºC), after which the decision was made to continue with the product.

“Everyone loved how much easier the pipe made the job,” said Salm, “and as I already knew we were dealing with a quality product, that’s all I really needed to hear.”

Since that time, approximately 350,000 feet (10,6680 meters) of RAUPEX has been installed in the first two residential buildings, which are completed and occupied.  The third and most recently completed building, comprised of 69 vacation rental units, includes an additional 200,000 feet (60,960 meters) of RAUPEX.  The radiant heating systems have contributed to Built Green™ ratings for all three buildings, which achieved respective Silver, Gold and Platinum status upon their completion.

“We’re really excited to be part of this project, which allows us to work in a true side-by-side partnership with the people at Geo Furnace Technologies,” said Ben VanPanhuis, REHAU account representative in Vancouver.  “As a company we are focused on providing the latest in eco-minded and energy efficient heating technologies, such as the integrated low-temperature radiant heating and geothermal systems  incorporated into the Spring Creek buildings.  It’s wonderful to see our joint efforts with Geo Furnace already resulting in Built Green-status heating system efficiencies.”

In addition to supplying its radiant heating system components, which are slated for inclusion in all future buildings, REHAU also worked with Geo Furnace Technologies to identify the best manifold solution for each type of residential unit. 

“We were admittedly having some challenges developing manifolds that would easily balance all the system loops, while also operating quietly,” Salm said.  “Also, for the larger penthouse suites, we needed a manifold solution that could accommodate up to 16 loops, which was no easy task to tackle on our own. 

“The PRO-BALANCE® manifolds REHAU recommended are very high quality, with exceptionally quiet actuators.  Also, I’d estimate that the built-in balancing valves for each loop allow for about a 15 percent increase in labor efficiency.  The service and support REHAU has provided thus far is nothing less than exceptional, and we couldn’t be happier with it.”  According to Salm, a total of 170 manifolds have been installed in the first three buildings, with additional manifolds planned for installation as future projects move forward.

In total, the project is expected to include several million feet of RAUPEX.  “It’s pretty phenomenal if you think about it,” Salm said, “and we’re expecting to hit the ‘one million feet’ mark in just the next two years.”

With the third residential building completed this April, Frank Kernick and Geo Furnace Technologies are already looking toward some of the community’s future projects.

“We are planning for a number of small shop spaces to enhance the ‘village feel’ for both residents and visitors from the nearby town,” Kernick said.  “Other plans include an opera house, 22 townhomes, 32 multi-family houses, and a 200-room, five-star hotel.  Needless to say, we’re going to be quite busy over the next few years.”

“Frank and I have done some great work together in the past, from a 100-percent, geothermal-driven 26-unit residential project in the Invermere, B.C. community of Lakeview Meadows, to the conversion of its recreation center pool from propane to geothermal,” Salm said.  “Spring Creek continues to be one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on to date though, and I still get excited when I see the pleasantly surprised reaction of new residents to the quiet, comfortable and environmentally responsible way their home is heated.  I look forward to our further efforts in moving the Spring Creek project to completion, and to working in partnership with REHAU every step of the way.”