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Calgary suburb 'really combines sustainability, technology and agriculture'

Tamer El-Masri in his edible garden with Jeremy Zoller from Sunshine Earth Works and  Brad Robertshaw from Adept.
Tamer El-Masri in his edible garden with Jeremy Zoller from Sunshine Earth Works and Brad Robertshaw from Adept. - Don Molyneaux
CALGARY, Alta. —

Think of it as Little Town on the Prairie — 21st Century style.

Springing from flat, agricultural land in Springbank, five minutes outside Calgary’s west city limits, the 1,750-acre new community of Harmony already hosts one of two eventual lakes forming the largest man-made water system in the region.

These 140-acres total of lake water — and Canada’s only Mickelson National Golf Club — will provide premium, resort-style recreation for an all-ages community that, at build-out, will see between 10,000 and 12,000 residents. But they are both, also, an integral part of a unique water resource management system.

“We believe where we can have the most impact on our environmental footprint is in water use,” says Bordeaux Properties CEO and president Birol Fisekci. Harmony’s co-developers — Qualico Communities and Bordeaux — have, from the beginning, had sustainability at its heart, including environmental (including high efficiency buildings, reduction of construction waste), social (a village hub with retail, a seniors’ residence and a hotel, and the only private community with its own art and culture masterplan), and fiscal (including an employment centre).

Harmony has already won two regional Community of the Year industry awards since launching home sales in 2015 (200-plus homes of an eventual 3,500 are already built). But more importantly, residents have embraced its sustainability and wellness model.

Tamer El-Masri, Stephanie Robison and their three daughters moved into the community, from Royal Oak, on Valentine’s Day. They surrounded their three-storey Broadview Homes model with an “edible forest” that, like Harmony itself, takes preservation of water resources and environmental protection seriously.

“It really combines sustainability, technology and agriculture,” says 45-year-old Tamer, an IT account manager, of the permaculture garden surrounding all sides of their house. The garden includes area-hardy apple, plum, cherry and pear trees, raspberries, Saskatoon berries, and strawberries, a growing list of herbal and medicinal plants like evening primrose, and pollinators such as lilacs.

All the plants will be fed mainly from a passive irrigation system on the garage roof collecting rainwater.

Stephanie, a mining/petroleum engineer, describes Harmony as a community doing things right for sustainability, meeting her own personal values to address climate issues collaboratively.

She grew up in Australia with a horticulturalist mother and “the magic of gardens and gardening and always wanted to pass that on to my kids.”

Harmony’s first lake opened this year, filled with 1.9 million cubic metres of water from the Bow River, with a double filtration system that has shallow filtration for lake recreation use and deep filtration for the community’s drinking water. Natural wetlands on each street gather run-off with drainage and slow, controlled filtration into vegetated bio-swales. These also providing habitat for a variety of birds and muskrats. Everything leads to Harmony’s state-of-the-art water treatment plant, one of the most advanced in North America, that includes 400,000-cubic-metre storage of reclaimed water.

Having its own water management system is unique for a Canadian residential community and it educates area children about the importance of the non-renewable resource through interpretive nodes along 25-kilometres of pathways and wetlands, and water treatment system tours by more than 1,000 kids, says Willie Miller, Bordeaux Field Operations, involved in both the golf course and water system construction.

On the 240-acre golf course, rolling elevations are built from 3 million cubic metres of dirt excavated for the first 40-acre lake. Almost 4,000 planted trees, swaths of white sand traps, and sweeping ponds provide an amenity long enough to host a PGA Tour event.

The golf course is an expensive amenity at a time others have shut down and become residential land, but it is unique because it’s a key part of Harmony’s water retention and reclamation system. Water flows under the greens and sand traps into multi-levelled filtration ponds otherwise known as golf water hazards. Next year, the whole course will use reclaimed water.

And while Mickelson National/Windmill Golf Group own and operate the course (all 18 holes open 2020), the land is owned by Harmony. Only 56 homes will sit in a peninsula-like island along the course.

“Community residents have social memberships at the club and part of their monthly dues go toward maintenance of the water system,” says Fisekci. “There is no concern about the future viability of the golf course.”

While not releasing the cost of the lakes and golf course, the overall development will contribute $1.3 billion to the regional economy.

The El-Masri/Robison family loves Paintbrush Park, across from their home, where the neighbourhood gathers, and the lake, already used for paddle-boarding and kayaking. Tamer will test fishing skills next year with the lake’s stocked brown trout.

But they are most proud of the sustainable, connected community, the home that provided more value for their money and their garden, which was designed and built with Sunshine Earth Works and Adept Landscapes.

“In the garden, everything has a purpose; there’s diversity and resiliency and it will only get better each year,” Tamer says.

THE DETAILS

COMMUNITY: Harmony
AREA: Five minutes from Calgary’s west boundary, in Springbank, Rocky View.
PRICES: Two new show home parades open over the next two weekends.
DEVELOPER: Qualico Communities and Bordeaux Properties
INFORMATION: liveinharmony.ca

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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