Sonders Fort Collins is an exciting new age-targeted master planned community in northern Colorado that appeals to households that share an interest in healthier and more sustainable living. This segment of buyers believes their housing choices can have a profound impact on their health, well-being, and the environment. For them, sustainable living is not a buzzword but a way of life.
The KGA team was tapped by project developer Actual Communities to design Sonders Fort Collins amenities, which include a learning center, pool, a series of activity-specific studios, parks and open spaces. At completion, Sonders will include approximately 375 homes connected by energy-efficient community amenities and an extensive trail system. Primary home builders include Thrive Builders and Bridgewater Homes. Single-story plans equipped with solar power come zero energy ready and with a host of options for aging in place that allow homeowners to live longer in their homes independently.
Through the partnership of Actual Communities and Aimbridge Energy Group, the KGA team is thrilled to trailblaze this type of sustainable master planned community development, one of the earliest of its kind in the country.
Table of Contents
- Why Sonders, Why Now?
- A Focus on Renewable Energy
- Sonders Learning Center
- Engaging Outdoor Spaces
- Creating More Sustainable Communities
Actual Communities Principal Dan Nickless came to KGA with his concerns about a lack of quality housing options for seniors and our aging population. Most baby boomers are of retirement age, and millions opted for an earlier retirement during the early days of COVID-19, according to the Pew Research Center. Generation X follows close behind, with the oldest members of this generation approaching age 60 in the next two years.
Better Active Adult Housing for Aging in Place
And for many of these individuals, age is just a number. They’re learners, adventurers, and ready for their second act. For these discerning buyers, the standard active adult 55+ community or assisted living facility simply won’t do.
Through Sonders, Nickless and the team at Actual Communities are developing an age-targeted community that promotes lifelong learning and reflects homeowners’ shared values. “We recognized we need to create a community that is attractive for aging in place and that’s also more sustainable and energy efficient,” says Nickless.
While the community is marketed to people 55+, Actual Communities is building an age-inclusive environment that welcomes younger and mature families to purchase, whether they choose Sonders as their forever home or to be closer to their aging parents.
Additionally, the Sonders demographic is more educated about our earth’s finite resources and desires to make a values-based decision on their next home purchase. In a recent market research email to its subscribers, John Burns Research & Consulting concurred with this home buying trend, writing that “consumers choose communities that reflect their ideologies and attitudes more so than their life stage.”
The future homeowners at Sonders Fort Collins understand that the homes and communities in which they choose to live should lessen their environmental impact as much as possible.
One of the ways to create a more resilient and sustainable community is by using renewable energy. A community that generates its own power can save residents’ costs and lessens its dependence on public utilities. Summer heat waves in particular risk overwhelming utility providers’ electrical grids, leaving them vulnerable to shortages and blackouts.
That’s why Sonders Fort Collins presented a wonderful opportunity to use direct current or DC solar power for its various amenity buildings and parks. Most residential solar systems run on alternating current (AC) energy, which means the power harnessed by photovoltaic panels must pass through a converter before it can power a home’s appliances. DC energy uses its own microgrid and does not require any conversion to power most non-residential fixtures and applications.
Benefits of DC Energy Generation
- Energy efficient: DC solar is more energy efficient, as this type of system isn’t susceptible to the normal conversion losses in an AC system.
- Easier operation: DC is simpler to install and maintain, and is more resilient in commercial applications.
- Safer storage: DC’s lithium battery storage system is low voltage and provides ample capacity for storing excess solar energy generated during the day so it can be used at night.
- Energy independent: A DC microgrid operates independently from a utility’s power grid, so it’s not affected by service interruptions.
Sonders Fort Collins DC Powered Amenity Features
With the guidance of Aimbridge Energy Group, KGA and Actual Communities are bringing DC power to various features and fixtures throughout Sonders Fort Collins amenities. They include:
- Outdoor lighting
- Access control
- Security systems and monitoring
- Irrigation systems
- WiFi hotspots
- Exhaust fans
Sonders Learning Center
At the heart of Sonders Fort Collins is the Learning Center, the central gathering space of the community that will provide year-round programming for residents in a close-knit, campus-like setting. “Sonders buyers are interested in continuing education, and the cottage-style buildings are small enough to welcome a more intimate audience and one-on-one attention,” says John Guilliams, KGA partner + director of design.
Three distinctive and contemporary studios offer various classes, workshops, and events to promote lifelong learning and well-being. A main building anchors the amenity, with a larger gathering space, a kitchen with bar for light refreshments, and a technology center for residents. An outdoor pool and spa, pickleball courts, and a bocce ball court round out the amenity space.
The ARTS Studio provides opportunities to learn about and experience fine arts, crafts, and other creative pursuits.
The BODY Studio is a place for movement, recharging, and relaxation. Residents are invited to enjoy a selection of low-impact exercise classes to invigorate and connect the body and mind.
The IDEAS Studio is the community’s educational hub, featuring educational opportunities with guest lecturers and speakers, and special topical seminars.
The studios’ square footage has been scaled down to reduce the maximum number of occupants for improved health and safety. Exteriors balance the community’s welcoming yet modern aesthetic with low maintenance and durable materials. Large sliding glass or folding doors can open to the campus’s shared outdoor space and bring in fresh air and natural light.
Outdoor amenities at Sonders are designed to engage and inspire. The community’s use of renewable energy will be on full display throughout its several parks, open spaces, and trail system.
This dynamic community park is not only a welcoming gathering place for Sonders residents but a dramatic visual showcase of the community’s commitment to renewable energy.
The park’s demonstration area includes three energy-producing solar flowers and wind turbines. The site’s decommissioned oil pump was remediated and repainted in bright colors by Colorado State University art students, creating a public art installation that symbolizes the replacement of traditional energy sources with renewables.
“The demonstration space is a vivid narrative that shows our transition from the old way of harnessing energy through fossil fuels to today’s renewable energy technologies.”John Guilliam, KGA partner + director of design
The park will also feature EV charging stations, an amphitheater, and multiple open spaces for community gatherings and events.
Residents can grow their next farm-to-table meal at Flourish Park, a community garden and sensory environment that welcomes dirty hands and friendly faces. Native plants, shade trees, and ample seating areas invite park revelers to rest, relax and mingle. Open space is large enough for a farmers market and other events. A network of community trails connects parks, the learning center, and pool to each new home neighborhood and encourages outdoor recreation.
Renewable energy, building design, and wellness-focused programming at Sonders is an exciting step forward toward building healthier and more resilient communities for 55+ active adult buyers and their families. We’re excited to be among the leaders of future-forward and more sustainable master planned community development.
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