Appia’s Solo District Creates Largest Water-source VRF System in World

One of the newest residential developments in Vancouver that’s been turning heads lately is the Solo District project. Captained by Jim Bosa of Appia Developments, the neighbourhood development in North Burnaby, British Columbia will encompass more than six acres of land with four residential towers, each reaching higher than forty stories, with a total of 1400 dwellings. The buildings are targeting LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Platinum certification, the highest possible environmental standard for sustainability.

One part of the energy equation that is helping Solo meet LEED Platinum requirements is harnessing geo-thermal energy. Fēnix Energy was contracted by Appia to design and install a geo-thermal exchange system that will operate as an independent utility for the purpose of heating and cooling homes within the buildings. Via a network of pipes drilled deep into the ground, thermal energy is harvested from the building during the summer months and stored in the Earth’s crust. It is then reused during the cool winter months. The thermal energy is distributed as necessary through a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) system.

Solo District will be the largest water-source VRF system with geo-exchange in the world,” says Edward Smith, P.Eng., LEED® AP, Managing Director of Fēnix Energy. “It was designed to be energy efficient and allow the sale of thermal energy and the creation of a utility model. It requires more investment at the outset but the return on investment is greater because of increased efficiencies and the perpetual sale of thermal energy.

As with any sustainable building development, steps need to be put in place to ensure the mechanical systems are future-proofed. Edward says that that the Solo District project is unique in this way because the mechanical systems in place are both upgradeable and flexible enough to plug-in other sources of renewable energy such as solar or wind.

Because it’s a low-temperature operating system, any other sustainable energy options can be installed now or in the future,” he says. “That’s the fundamental difference between this system and a traditional district-sized energy system.

With the first of the four buildings close to completion and the second building having laid its foundations, Fēnix Energy continues to work with the  design teams to optimize the thermal energy utility.

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