The first residents are beginning to move into new homes in Whisper Valley, a green housing development near Walter E. Long Lake in eastern Travis County.
While this type of eco-friendly housing is usually cost-prohibitive, the homes in Whisper Valley start in the low $200,000s, says Douglas Gilliland, president of the developer, Taurus of Texas.
“What we’ve done is make [eco-friendly] technology available to the first-time homebuyer,” he says. “So this type of lifestyle, we’re finding, is very much in demand; people that can live efficiently live in a healthy environment.”
The homes in Whisper Valley are designed to produce just as much energy as they consume. Each house comes fitted with a solar panel on the roof. Inside, a small heat pump uses the natural thermal properties of the earth to heat and cool the home. Gilliland says the device works sort of like a refrigerator.
“We’re just separating the heat out of the air, and if it’s the wintertime, we’re pushing the heat into the house,” he says. “If it’s the summertime, we’re pushing the heat down into the earth, and we’re bringing the coolness out of the earth.”
The project has gained the support of Travis County Commissioner Jeffrey Travillion, who represents the growing part of the region that includes Whisper Valley.
“I think it just brings a lot of ideas together that historically have not been associated with East Austin or eastern Travis County,” he says.
More than 25 homes have been sold in Whisper Valley so far, and more are under construction. Ultimately, developers plan to build about 7,500 homes.
Travillion says he has yet to hear any pushback about the new development from longtime residents, perhaps because of its emphasis on affordability. He hopes the costs at Whisper Valley will open the door to homeownership for people who can’t afford to buy in the Austin market. The median home value within the city limits is $327,000.
“We will also be talking about and working toward programs that make it possible for teachers, for public employees and for others to be able to live in the community as well,” Travillion says.