By Kathy Grawe
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)
If you have ever lived in Atlanta, then you know exactly how chaotic and busy the city can be, especially with traffic. But just 25 miles south of the airport, is Serenbe, an award-winning Biophilic Community located in The Chattahoochee Hill Country area. Biophilia is the idea that humans have an instinctive bond with other living systems, so the idea behind this Biophilic Community is to harmonize the lives of the residents with nature. I had my first Greenbuild experience here where I participated in a fascinating day-long tour of the area.
On the bus to Serenbe, we listened to an informative talk about The Ray, an 18-mile solar-paved highway in Troup County. Along The Ray highway is Solar Powered Vehicle Charging, a Tire Safety Check Station, Smart Planting, Bioswales, Climate Modeling, a Pollinator Garden, Rubber Roads, and V2X Connected Technology, and it is an extremely innovative measure in transportation. You can learn more about this technology showcase and highway on their website.
What exactly is Serenbe?
Serenbe is a beautifully master planned live-work-play community that is modeled after English villages and made up of five hamlets. Each hamlet has a theme: Selborne Hamlet focuses on The Arts, inspired by the 1930’s when the Arts movement came through America; Crossroads Hamlet, inspired by the 1800’s, where all the buildings and homes are white; Mado Hamlet focuses on Health and Wellness; Grange Hamlet focuses on Agriculture and has a blacksmith shop; and Phase V will focus on education. Serenbe is one thousand acres in size with over fifteen miles of trails, seventy percent of the land is dedicated green space and thirty percent is for development. There is a wide variety of architecture from contemporary to traditional. There are modern farmhouses, townhomes, condos, cottages, estate homes, and variety of other buildings serving different purposes. For example, Serenbe offers lodging, shopping, dining, concerts, plays, cooking classes, an organic farm, a seasonal farmer’s market and much more. Serenbe is a certified Earth Craft Community, which means it met a variety of criteria on community design, water management, transportation infrastructure, and more. The homes and buildings here are full of details and clearly built to last.
With this, in addition to other activities such as trail walks and horseback riding, Serenbe is a great place to live, spend the day, a weekend, or longer.
What we learned on our tour
Serenbe’s co-founder and CEO, Steve Nygren, lead us on an amazing tour of Serenbe which allowed us to see most of four Hamlets by foot, we walked about 3 miles on nature trails that connected everything. We walked through the different hamlets and saw that almost each house has a front porch and the front lawns have no grass. No grass means lower water bills, as well as no chemicals anywhere, and with no lawnmowers it makes for a quiet place to call home. This is just one of the innovative ideas the developers behind Serenbe came up with to create an inclusive and environmentally conscious community.
The streetlights are a work of art and were custom designed for each hamlet, while they also mark where a footpath is.
We were also shown several examples of how stormwater is managed throughout the property with rain gardens that carefully collect and direct the water downward to retention ponds. A round retention pond will become a water feature for future townhomes in the newest Hamlet named Mado.
Serenbe also boasts a variety of health benefits that residents can enjoy, because of its pristine nature and focus on sustainability. For example, there are 120 children at Serenbe with no asthma. By 2035, 50% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be expected to be spent on health, so the benefits of a community like Serenbe are even stronger when considering elements like the quality of life. On top of this, residents are teaching their children to look out for themselves because we live in a time when we are raising fearful children. The program at Acton Academy is based on the book titled “Last Child in the Woods”, which aims to promote survival and critical thinking skills. There have been studies showing that children’s brains are not developing the way they used to due to nature deficit disorder, so they are essentially not developing common sense.
As we continued our tour, we noticed that there were edible plants such as blueberry bushes along some of the paths. Also, a medicinal garden was planted in the courtyard inside 2 rows of new cottages, there is also a 25-acre organic farm with a CSA program and a seasonal Farmer’s Market that that runs April – November. The farm is currently being converted to a no-till farm which will save thousands of dollars in diesel fuel for the tractor. All food here is grown sustainably and in the community, so even this is as healthy as it can be.
Serenbe has 650 residents and a very diverse population. People move there for several reasons but they find their neighbors are their favorite thing there.
There are two things that unite everyone.
- A sense of hope in a world of pessimists, this changes the entire attitude.
- Everyone has a passport and a global outlook.
Planned communities are becoming more and more common, some are doing rural, some are doing new urbanism, some are built around a stadium. No other planned communities are encompassing everything that Serenbe is doing.
My Top Takeaways
- Since this community is being developed over time like a town, there are no cookie-cutter homes. It is truly nice to see something different. With front porches and numerous walking paths it has a friendly feel about it, community is part of the plan.
- The 40,000 acres of land in and around the community make up The Chattahoochee Hill Country. There is also The Chattahoochee Hill Country Alliance which was formed in 2003 by bringing together 500 landowners and changing the local zoning to a program that allows Transfer of Development Rights (TDR).
- I am very impressed by the way this community supports the arts and the environment. Their Play House has received national recognition as well as AIR Serenbe, their Artist in Residency Program. There are a variety of events happening throughout the year that are open to the public.
I personally enjoyed the unique homes, the organic farm, the animals, and the many ways to connect with nature as well as people at Serenbe and what better way to learn about Serenbe than from the co-founder and CEO himself, Steve Nygren.
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