Norton Commons
, the New Urban development in northeastern Jefferson County, is about to build what it calls “the largest 100-percent geothermal residential community in the United States.”

About 1,800 lots in the development's North Village – which is currently vacant land – will be heated and cooled using a network of underground loops rather than electric- or gas-powered air conditioning units and furnaces. 

The North Village will include single-family houses, multi-family buildings, condos and townhomes.

Drilling for the underground cavities beneath the first 50 lots will begin next week, Norton Commons said in a press release Tuesday.

“Introducing geothermal heating and cooling to our North Village development will allow our homeowners to improve the indoor and outdoor comfort of their homes at significant energy savings,” said Norton Commons managing director Charles A. Osborn III in the press release.  “Geothermal heating and cooling is a natural fit for Norton Commons as we constantly seek to provide our residents with the ultimate lifestyle experience and all the classic conveniences of a mixed-use community.”

So how much will the geothermal system, which is more expensive to install than conventional utilities, add to the price of the homes? Norton Commons issued a statement that did not include figures, but said they're working with manufacturers and distributors "to keep to keep the pricing impact on homebuyers to a minimum."

The statement continued: "Because of the large scale nature of the project, manufacturers, distributors and even drillers were able to provide very competitive pricing as compared with traditional HVAC units for the installation of the efficient units. In addition, there is currently a substantial federal tax credit for the purchase of geothermal units that each homebuyer will be able to take advantage of, further mitigating any increased costs. Homeowners will also enjoy significant savings in energy costs over time."

Although a suburban development, Norton Commons incorporates traditional architecture and mixed-use neighborhoods with shops, cafes, offices and restaurants within walking distance of residences. Single-family homes sit close together with prominent porches and no driveways or front-facing garages.

The development includes a YMCA and land for a planned Jefferson County Public Schools elementary and preschool.