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Green housing the way of the future

Posted by: R. Freeman on Monday Oct 10, 2009
One of the first housing developments ever powered by a combination of wind, solar and geothermal energy sources is being eyed for Chilliwack's Promontory area by local entrepreneur Henry Rempel.

The 83-year-old developer born in Yarrow admits it's a risky venture, but he's no stranger to risk and besides, he says, he believes "green" housing powered by renewable energy sources is the way of the future.

"Ultimately, I think the general public knows there is no other choice," he said. "I think this is definitely the way the world is going to go."

The homes built to environmental specifications on the 102 bare lots in the Solara Homes development in Promontory Heights will be powered by a "revolutionary" three-source energy supply system developed by Oasis Powerhouse.

Developer Archie Guvi said the system that combines a wind turbine, solar cells, and heat drawn from underground geothermal sources - plus the energy-efficient construction of the homes - will result in a "near net-zero" use of BC Hydro electricity.

"On some days you may be able to put power back into the BC Hydro grid," he said.

How soon a homeowner makes up the cost of the system in hydro savings depends on how much energy the homeowner consumes.

But Guvi said "Canadians want to do their bit to reduce their carbon footprint" and a Nielsen survey conducted this year backs up his claim.

According to the survey, 82 per cent of Canadians would invest more for a green-certified home, not just because of the cost-savings but the improved health and safety benefits as well.

"We need to make renewable energy homes more accessible - that is what motivated the development of Oasis Powerhouse, and that is why I'm so excited to see it launched at Solara," Guvi said.

Guvi also makes it clear he's excited about his partners, Rempel and his wife Mary.

"It's not about money-making for them," he said. "It's about giving back to the community because this is where their roots are."

"They wanted to leave a long-lasting legacy to the community," he said.

Rempel said he's known for taking risks, buying land in Chilliwack and elsewhere in B.C., trusting his business sense on where the next demand for development will appear.

He isn't in the land development business to lose money, of course, but Rempel said his "ultimate" motivation is giving back to the community and donating to the various charities he supports around the world.

"Life has no purpose, you have to create a purpose for it," he said. "Once you create a purpose for it, that's what motivates you."

Rempel is certainly motivated, getting up early each day, and rarely taking a vacation.

"Some people take more vacations in one year than I have in my whole life," he said.

"And I never get burned out," he added. "Frustrated, maybe. Waiting for people to get back from their holidays."

The grand opening of Solara Homes starts at noon Oct. 10 at 42755 Vista Place. A show home demonstrates the views available from the lots, and a builder will be on hand to answer questions.