warm thoughts


Written on: July 27, 2022

See how the 1,000-home Fawn Lake community enriched neighborhood life with a renovated and revitalized clubhouse building.

From the Propane Education & Research Council

The propane-fueled fire pit at Fawn Lake Country Club, designed by Warming Trends, has a 48-inch-diameter flame within a 90-inch-diameter pit filled with lava rock and realistic ceramic logs. The outside of the fire pit is finished with hard scape to match the clubhouse.

Developers know that the right amenities can bring a community to life.

At Fawn Lake, a gated golf community in Spotsylvania, Virginia, that amenity is the Fawn Lake Country Club. The clubhouse is the central hub for social activity in the neighborhood, counting about two-thirds of the community as members. As the neighborhood doubled in size to about 1,000 homes today from the time the original clubhouse was built in 2001, the club, developer, and community homeowners association decided to expand and renovate the building.

The clubhouse doubled in size with two new wings, a second kitchen, and a large outdoor patio. In addition to the existing Harbor Club restaurant, the building now boasts an event space called The Cove for weddings and celebrations, and a more casual restaurant (the Lakeside Grille).

Like nearly all the homes at Fawn Lake, the clubhouse is fueled by propane to provide a variety of gas amenities. Propane’s most central role in the addition, however, is a breathtaking fire pit that has become a gathering hub for the community.

“Between the 18th green and the grill, it’s definitely one of the first things you see,” says Bret Shifflett, the country club’s general manager. “It’s great for families. It’s great for guys after golf. It’s great for Friday nights in the cooler season. In the off season, we do a lot of outdoor music — just have the fire pit going, listen to outdoor music. It’s a really big deal.”

The Best Community Amenities

From clubhouse heating and water heating to commercial kitchens, pool heating, and fire features, a lot of a community’s most desirable attractions and gathering spaces require gas. For communities in areas such as Fawn Lake with no access to natural gas, developers often turn to propane as a solution to make their project more attractive to buyers.

Harris Baker, president of HBH Gas Systems, has consulted on many master-plan communities fueled by community propane systems and seen a variety of innovative gas community amenities. One developer found a warehouse full of old New York gas lamps, outfitted them for propane, and installed them along the community’s main esplanade with photocell sensors allowing them to automatically switch on at night.

Another example is The Harbor on Possum Kingdom Lake, a lakeside community near Fort Worth, Texas, with a community propane system. The community is packed with resort-style amenities, including a pool that serves as a popular party destination and is surrounded by barbecue grills and fire pits operated on timers. An inn at the resort used a bank of propane tankless water heaters with a recirculating pump so every unit has instant hot water always available.

Supporting Clubhouse Operations With Propane

Fawn Lake’s clubhouse uses propane for both mechanical systems and lifestyle amenities. The three sections of the building are each heated with a propane furnace, and during the renovation, the club upgraded its existing power-vent water heater to a pair of high-efficiency propane tankless water heaters. A nearby lawncare facility also uses propane for its primary heat.

Propane cooking equipment in the clubhouse’s two commercial kitchens is critical to the club’s restaurant operations. “Most of the pieces of equipment are powered by propane, whether it’s a steamer, a fryer, flat-top char-broiler, salamander, you name it, it’s all working on gas power,” Shifflett says. “I don’t even know if we could provide enough electricity to make it work for everything in there.”

It’s the clubhouse’s outdoor amenities that have truly transformed the guest experience, especially with outdoor dining quickly growing in popularity during the pandemic. The club worked with its propane supplier, Blossman Gas, to implement a bottle-exchange program for its outdoor patio heaters.

Blossman also helped the club work with fireplace manufacturer Warming Trends to design its centerpiece fire pit. The resulting feature is about 90 inches in diameter with a 40,000-Btu flame that rises about 24–30 inches, lighting up the night sky. The electronic ignition is controlled by a switch controlled by the staff behind the outdoor bar.

“It’s just been a perfect partnership for our needs for outdoor dining and creating a certain atmosphere, a private club feel,” Shifflett says. “I think it’s a really important key for us and for other clubs to just kind of celebrate outdoor dining. And especially with COVID, it’s been phenomenal. You can dine spaced out in outdoor areas and still be warm there by the fire pit, so it’s really been a big key.”