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Sooke project showcases Totangi's long-term thinking

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Woodland Creek wows with style, comfort... and a geoexchange system

With a company history of more than 40 years and two generations, Totangi Properties embraces the long term approach.

So it comes as no surprise the Victoria-based land management and development company builds homes that couple environmental values with visual appeal and a focus on community.

"We think in terms of, 'What's a good fit for a family? What's going to deliver a good, long-term value to them?'" says Blair Robertson, one of two brothers who own and run Totangi.

Robertson's father started the company in the late 1960s, and over the years the family purchased several tracts of land that have allowed it to develop its projects slowly.

"We typically don't do smaller projects, and that's because our land bank allows us to look at our land and go through a very thorough process of planning and design and working with the community," he says.

Green building in Sooke

Totangi has demonstrated how this works in their Woodland Creek project, a planned residential community in Sooke on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

"I'm a dad with a couple of young kids, so I know what they're bringing home from school and the important values that they're developing around the environment," says Robertson. "That got me thinking about what's good for the environment.

"The BuiltGreen certification, and EnerGuide rating — it's getting easier and more cost efficient to do these things because the materials are more available, and the suppliers and the trades are becoming more accustomed to these systems."

Totangi works with BC Hydro's Power Smart New Home Program to improve and promote its energy efficiency features. (Power Smart supports BuiltGreen certification when homes reach a minimum rating of EnerGuide 80.)

Geoexchange at Woodland Creek

In conjunction with its builder, SC Smith Building Co., Totangi is now using geoexchange systems that provide heating, cooling and hot water in all its new Woodland Creek homes, bringing their EnerGuide rating to around 83.

The system adds to the base price of the home, but Robertson stresses that for thoughtful buyers, it's worth it.

"People are looking for a bundle of goods," he says. "When I meet people that are going through the homes, they're certainly impressed by the quality of the construction, the quality of the finishes. Then that's backed up by the fact that, 'Wow! Not only is the product visually appealing and the design is tight and attractive and I'm thrilled to be living here, but it's also easy on the pocketbook in the long term because of the energy efficiency of the home.' And, it's a more comfortable living environment."

And the kudos roll in. Woodland Creek was a finalist for the 2011 Georgie Award for best single family detached home up to 2,000 square feet and under $350,000.

With new home technologies comes a need for education for the homeowner. It's important that a purchaser learns how to operate thermostats and understands how a geoexchange system works.

"But it's not complicated technology," says Robertson. "It's just about learning to run the system properly."

Where do we go from here?

Robertson is betting on energy efficiency growing in importance over time.

"EnerGuide ratings have now appeared in MLS listing information and on property disclosure statements," he says. "As more people become familiar with energy efficient technology for homes it's a benefit when they go to sell their place.

"The resell market is pretty competitive, so if somebody on the block has a house that's a low energy efficient home and you've got the high energy efficient home and everything else is the same, then people will be probably drawn to yours."

He adds that while he doesn't think a buyer would balk at purchasing a house they like just because it's not BuiltGreen, it is becoming increasingly important in the buying decision because it just makes sense to be efficient.

"It's consistent with our company values, and consistent with our family values," he says. "And it's consistent with what expectations are for a number of people in the market today."