Mulching for article

As featured in The Chronicle Herald.

While many developments haul truckloads of rock, gravel, top soil, mulch and fill into the project area, these resources are managed differently by Terra Firma Development Corporation, the developers of Forest Lakes Country Club.

Civil Construction Manager Andrew Alcorn oversees resource management including a gravel-crushing initiative at the new resort community just 30 minutes from Halifax in West Hants, NS. All of the gravel and rock for building the roads is manufactured from rock generated onsite from development activities.

“Reducing carbon footprint is essential to our commitment to environmental sustainability and over the life of the project, we’ll save tens of thousands of loads of material from travelling in,” says Alcorn. “This result represents significant fuel savings in addition to reducing the wear and tear on the local roads from all of those trucks.”

But gravel-crushing is just the beginning. With more than 1,700 acres in West Hants, Forest Lakes Country Club is making a name for itself by being at the forefront of energy efficient development.

In many communities — especially within Halifax where the houses are close together — it isn’t possible to retain many trees. Because Forest Lakes is a rural resort development, they are able to save many original trees and they will also actively transplant trees in order to save them.

“There are a lot of nice young trees on some of the properties that will be developed, so when the time is right, we will take those native trees and transplant them to other sites,” says Alcorn.

Forest Lakes will also be one of the largest developments in Canada — if not the largest — to implement rainwater harvesting, with most of the single-family homes in the first phases of development using rainwater harvesting exclusively.

While it’s a relatively unique concept to some homeowners, Alcorn says it’s a technology that’s been around far longer than drilled wells — and it benefits everyone in the community, even those without the innovative underground tanks.

“It helps not to tax the groundwater supply and it also helps with stormwater management,” says Alcorn. “It’s also easier to treat than groundwater.”

Their model homes demonstrate their commitment to Low-Impact Development (LID), which minimizes the amount of natural landscape that gets disturbed, which also makes it easier for the ground to absorb rainwater.

Terra Firma embraces a culture of environmental preservation and conservation including best practices in construction techniques. Typically, with development projects, trees are clear cut, stumps, root mat and top soil are stripped and disposed of offsite during land clearing operations and much of the wood fibre gets chipped up and hauled off along with the grubbings. However, at Forest Lakes, the wood fibre and native top soil are front end separated, processed and recycled where possible for beneficial use within the development during the construction cycle.

“We recycle wood fibre into bark mulch for ground cover, use wood chips for erosion control, and we converted some raw wood into our own outdoor furniture down by the boathouse. Native topsoil is also removed from developed areas, screened and then re-used for landscaping within the development,” says Alcorn.

Homeowners are encouraged to use solar power and the future Village Centre with retail shops and restaurants will use energy sharing between its buildings.

While the resort community has a long list of impressive qualities — including the only Nicklaus Design golf course in Atlantic Canada — Alcorn says many homeowners are choosing Forest Lakes for its commitment to intelligent design and sustainable building practices.

“Energy efficiency is top of mind for a lot of people,” says Alcorn. “They really appreciate the low-impact development strategies offered at Forest Lakes.”