Here Comes the Sun
Solar power will be a key component of Sifton Properties’ groundbreaking new development in west London, that also will include harvesting rainwater and salt-free roads.
Green, green, it’s green they say,
On the far side of the hill,
Green, green, I’m goin’ away
To where the grass is greener still.” — Green Green, The new Christy Minstrels (1963)
Reality is that Sifton Properties president Richard Sifton and his partner, Milfred Hammerbacher of S2E Technologies, stayed right here in London to launch a Canadian first — a totally green ground-breaking concept for an entire “energy-smart” community on the western edge of the Forest City.
To be built over the next 10 years, the first state-of-the-art SMART community called The Village at RiverBend will eventually house 2,000 people in homes, apartments and condominiums and attract a day-time working population of an estimated 6,000 to 37,200 square metres (400,000 square feet) of commercial development.
(SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-sensitive. The name of Sifton’s partner company, S2E, simply means “Sun to Earth,” spelling out the advances in solar-power technology that have made economically feasible the whole concept of tapping the sun directly as a primary source of energy.)
“Definitely, from my research, this is going to be unique in Canada, a real showcase,” Hammerbacher said.
“The Village at RiverBend will be one of the world’s most advanced communities built with new technologies. With the first building constructed next year, this will be a community within which all Canadians will want to live, work and play,” Sifton said.
The partners expect the first sod to be turned next year in the totally energy-independent, rainwater-harvesting, 28-hectare (70-acre) community as part of Sifton’s extensive and multi-faceted RiverBend development in a large loop of the Thames River just west of the London Hunt Club.
The cost of this ambitious project? Asked the question directly, Sifton skated around it, saying “hundreds of thousands of man hours over the next 10 years” would be required to build the project.
“As we continue to evaluate technologies within the community, we will have a better idea on total project investment.”
Essentially, the evolving community will see every suitable roof and exterior wall covered with solar panels.
“Some buildings will harvest more energy than they use, some less. But on the whole their demand on outside power will be net zero,”
Hammerbacher said. At the same time, Sifton said, harvested rainwater will be used to fill swimming pools (that can then be heated by solar power), flush toilets and used for showers. Then the “grey water” would be purified to water lawns and gardens.
The first tenant is already secured — Sifton Properties will move its headquarters from 195 Dufferin Ave. in downtown London to The Village at RiverBend, Sifton said shortly after the partnership with S2E was announced.
“Our new head office will be in the first building to be completed, followed by some residential and commercial,” Sifton said.
Hammerbacher said the search for a partner started more than a year ago, after S2E completed a major solar-farm contract with the Japanese energy giant Samsung.
“Our original presence in London was due to the Samsung Renewable Energy Project’s commitment to bring jobs to London,” Hammerbacher said.
“The reason the SMART Community project has worked so well is purely London. It’s Sifton, London Hydro, the city government and London Economic Development Corp. (LEDC) — exactly the kind of partners you need to tackle such an innovative project.
“We are lucky to be here,” he said.
S2E engaged in lengthy, detailed research and a marketing study to establish that the ambitious new venture would be technically and financially doable, Hammerbacher said.
Sifton and Hammerbach said the LEDC played the key role in getting Sifton Properties and S2E together.
“We were looking at something like this before, but not to the same degree,” Sifton said. “We have always wanted to be ahead of the curve (in the development industry),” Sifton said.
“We own the land and they (S2E) are assisting us with the technical evolutions — which particular site is best suited for the various aspects” of the whole development,” he said.
Though London has a reputation as a conservative burg, “people are interested in the project, want to know more about and want to take part in it,” Sifton said.
He doesn’t know the construction timetable for the radical new village over the next decade, but said the housing units offered will range in size from “small, single-bedroom up to 2,400-square-foot condos.”
In the meantime, an already well-established broad network of universities, colleges, scientists and other interested parties is likely to keep on producing new ideas and products “over the next two years that are going to make this type of development even more available and affordable,” Sifton said.
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THE VILLAGE AT RIVERBEND
- 28 hectares (70 acres) bounded by Oxford St. W., Kains Rd., Shore Rd. and Westdel Bourne
- 2,000 single-family homes, condos and apartment units
- 37,200 square metres (400,000 sq. ft.) of commercial-retail space
- Solar rooftops and facades capable of producing eight megawatts
- Urban gardens, mixed-use trails, salt-free roads and sidewalks
- Electric vehicle charging stations
- Full use of rainwater and surplus heat resources
- Recycling water to flush toilets and water lawns.
- Founded in 1923 by Harry Sifton, who built his first house at 587 Rosedale Ave., where it still stands today.
- Has broad range of housing and other developments under its belt, the most spectacular being 1 London Place, London’s tallest building, and the most diversified the Riverbend development at the western edge of the city that includes a golf village and a retirement village.
S2E Technologies Inc.
- Co-founded in Waterloo by Milfred Hammerbacher, the company’s chief executive officer with an international background of 26 years in photovoltaic (solar energy) technology, manufacturing and business development; and Carlos Fernandez, president of the company, who has an extensive background in senior management along with more than 10 years’ experience in the photovoltaic solar industry.
- Hammerbacher and Fernandez have international experience in the solar industry.