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The old marketing maxim is sell the sizzle, not the steak.
Sifton Properties is taking that approach in convincing people to move into its new West 5 development — Ontario’s first solar-powered neighbourhood.
A presentation centre that Sifton opened last month has a theme park feel — crammed with cutting-edge technology and kid-friendly gadgets and toys aimed at selling a futuristic, environmentally-friendly lifestyle and a walkable, village-style community with a population of 4,000 to 5,000.
“This is the next opportunity for planned communities. We see this is as a blueprint for the future. It’s a lifestyle of energy conservation and community,” said Sifton Properties CEO Richard Sifton.
He said the company has a history of innovation, having launched Berkshire Village as a model community back in the 1970s.
The greeter at the presentation centre is Zip, a Jetsons-style cartoon dog, and his pal Dean, who guide you to the displays:
• A virtual reality system that allows you to walk through neighbouring Kains Woods, complete with closeups of the critters.
• A smart fridge with a video display that allows you to catalogue contents and order groceries.
• Interactive touch pads that highlight community features.
• The Cube, an interactive video floor pad that lets kids play games such as soccer or table hockey.
West 5 will have about 2,000 residential units, including townhouses and lowrise and highrise units, along with ground-floor and stand-alone commercial units.
Every building and even the parking lots will feature solar panels that feed eight megawatts of electricity into the grid — enough to cover all the power the community uses.
Sifton said it’s the higher density that makes the solar-sufficiency possible.
“Single family homes have spaces in between and you lose the opportunity for solar. Higher densities are better, more efficient.”
The heart of the community will be a central square for events such as movies, concerts or yoga classes.
The plan is to have all the units rentals initially, but some may be sold as condos in the future as the concept gains acceptance.
“Once we get into the mainstream rental market, it will become something people want. . . . ‘Prove to me that it works’ — that’s what we are doing,” said Sifton.
The complex was launched last year with the opening of Sifton’s new corporate offices, the first space to be occupied on the 28-hectare site.
The first of the townhouse blocks with 87 units is nearing completion and the first dozen or so tenants have moved in.
In a sign that pets have become family, the next building will be a pet centre with a vet, grooming and doggy daycare. That will be followed by a medical centre (for humans) and a 10-storey, 115-unit apartment building in the middle of the community.
That apartment will be the first highrise net-zero building in Ontario.
“This had never been done in Canada. We have all kinds of challenges,” said Sifton.
He predicts it will take about 10 years to complete the West 5 development.
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Environmental features of the West 5 development
• Solar panels on all roofs
• Solar streetlights
• Rainwater collection systems
• Permeable concrete to allow rainwater drainage
• Double-paned, triple-glazed windows
• Modulated heat pump HVAC systems
• Smarthome energy monitoring
• Energy-efficient appliances
• Electric vehicle charging stations
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