Published on Thu, Sep 11, 2008
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Horizon offers environmentally
sensitive ‘turn-key’ residences

By Jack Kintner

Fred Bovenkamp has changed his strategy for selling home sites in his 185-acre Horizon development that stretches across what were once cow pastures and wooded slopes, and that feature some of the best views available in the area.

Lying between Birch Bay Village and the intersection of Shintaffer Road and Semiahmoo Parkway, virtually every parcel in the extensive property will boast either an eagle’s eye view of the San Juan Islands and Olympic Mountains or of Mt. Baker.

Bovenkamp’s strategy involves selling what he called “turn-key” packages that are essentially finished units rather than empty building lots, and a key sales feature are the ways that the high-end houses have been designed to blend in with and have minimal impact on their environment.

The houses are expensive, from $600,000 to well over $1 million apiece, and in this first phase are situated on very large lots. Many of their innovations, however, could easily be adapted to new construction or adapted to existing structures.

The 74 units in the first phase sit in the northwest corner of the Horizon at Semiahmoo development tract just south and west of Semiahmoo Parkway.

More than 100 acres will eventually be developed on what’s a broad southwest facing slope that not only gives all the home sites excellent views – it’s one of the few places in the area from which one can see the San Juan Islands – but also affords virtually unobstructed exposure for owner-added solar power and water-heating devices.

When built out, residences will vary from stand alone houses, bungalows and cottages to condominiums and recreational cottages. In the first phase, Seattle architects Olson, Sundberg, Kundig and Allen have concentrated on minimizing the development’s impact both visually and practically.

Houses are available in 18 different “coastal contemporary” floor plans all of which have large southwest-facing windows with an extended roof that acts a lot like the bill on a baseball cap, providing shade when the sun is high in the sky in the summer but allowing it to flood the houses, most of which have minimal interior walls, in the winter.

In addition, builder Travis Rohrer of Top Line Builders in Bellingham specified gas-filled low emittance (low-E) windows that are coated to reduce heat loss in winter but also reduce heat gain in summer.

As compared to most tinted and reflective glazing, low-E glass provides a higher level of visible light transmission for a given amount of solar heat reduction.

The houses are insulated so well, according to project general manager Devin Sanford, that no air conditioning is needed.

Any surface that touches outside air is insulated with 2.5 inches of urethane foam, and the houses and crawl space – none of them has basements – are sealed so humidity can be controlled underneath the radiant heating slab.

“We’ve got the places as sealed as we can make them, with R-25 wall insulation and R-45 in the ceilings,” said Rohrer, “and then in turn ventilate with owner-controlled heat recovery ventilators (HRV’s) – fresh air vents – in each room and space.”

Rohrer placed a 1,000 gallon cistern in the ground with a pump system to irrigate gardens, and the landscaping focuses on using native drought-tolerant plants whereever possible.

Decorative landscaping in the road medians consists of rain gardens that are fed by runoff from the yards and roads that are all sloped to collect water in specific places.

“I’d like to somehow get a gray water recovery system to somehow save the 10,000 gallons of fresh water that gets flushed every year,” Rohrer said.

“We’re sure to get county-level green certification on this project and are awaiting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, which we hope to get.”

LEED is a national green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council that provides standards for environmentally sustainable construction.

For those who doubt the efficacy of providing for solar power and water heating, Rohrer pointed out that Blaine gets as much solar exposure as Kenya, Africa, primarily because we have longer days.

All the wood used in the construction is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.

“Which means we can go right back to the exact spot the wood was harvested to make sure it was done responsibly.

“These are nice homes but a lot of this stuff can be done anywhere,” Rohrer said.

For more information contact Horizon at Semiahmoo general manager Devin Sanford at 371-8031 or visit the Horizon website at www.liveathorizon.com.