Serenbe, an eco-development

Took an interesting road trip this past Saturday with my sister, Gina, to Serenbe, a planned community about an hour south of Atlanta near Palmetto. It looked like an easy drive, until we missed the very first exit on the directions. Ending up in Newnan, it was a bit of a backtrack from overshooting the route – but we finally found the compound, thanks to phone directions from the Hill’s desk person.

Steve Nygren, a local entrepreneur who made his fame and fortune with the Pleasant Peasant restaurant chain, is the visionary behind Serenbe. He and his wife bought the first 60 acres in 1991 and have developed with a focus on environmentally sound practices and the preservation of 70% green space while they added 40,000 more acres over the years. A good history of their work and the resulting Chattahoochee Hill Country Community Plan can be found here and the master plan concepts here.

I wanted to see the community and Gina needed corn from the organic farmers market – produce from Serenbe Farms. We made it just before it closed at noon.

Steve Nygren was walking towards us while we hit the Farmers Market.

Next on our list was lunch at The Hill restaurant. One pizza, one flatbread w/smoked salmon & fresh greens. Fresh blueberry pie for dessert.

Gina with her crispy pizza.

We ended up having a nice chat with Nygren at lunch. He was kind enough to draw directions back to Atlanta on our paper tablecloth.

The entire village is friendly and has an upscale eclectic feel in its design and layout – reminiscent of some small towns in southeastern PA, where I last lived near Philly. A recycled door to townhouses or condominiums could just as easily be found in the Westside arts district of Atlanta.

Atlanta’s own supreme garden designer and philosopher, expert on old flowers and passionate visionary for all things green, Ryan Gainey, worked on the landscaping for the community and has been retained as the horticultural advisor.

Cottage-y looking certified Earthcraft houses with no front lawns allowed! No noisy lawnmowers or leafblowers = fewer emissions. Water comes from the city of Atlanta and while there is plenty of landscaping, much of it is geared towards low maintenance.

I hadn’t expected the  zero-energy Bosch house to be so designer focused, but it was lovely to tour. I readily admit to a lack of interest in decorative accents, so you can review Southern Hospitality’s wonderful blog post for the look.

Equipped with a geothermal heat pump, solar panels on the roof, an electric heat pump water heater and Toto toilets and sinks, Bosch’s first zero-energy house in the US  is just that: highly energy efficient and designed to sell back excess energy to GA Power.  An AJC journalist recently produced a good article about geothermal energy and the house. Hardwood floors look like reclaimed wood, but come from managed forest resources and certified by the Forest Stewardship  Council.

I was taken with the Bosch smaller footprint washer/dryer and their accompanying enclosure. And that drying rack, set in the wall next to the appliances, is a marvel of old fashioned design. I want one.

We missed touring the HGTV Green Home, but you can read about it here.

This video shows Nygren talking about Serenbe and some shots of the community. A Flickr set shows more downtown architecture and some of the surrounding land.

And Terry Kearns has another fantastic architectural overview and video of Steve Nygren’s ‘Artist Talk’ at his blog, Architecture Tourist, here.

Finally, the New York Times has a great write-up from 2009 here. Well worth the drive, don’t miss the exit for South Fulton Parkway just past the Atlanta airport!


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2 Responses to Serenbe, an eco-development

  1. Terry says:

    Very fine tour. It’s hard to imagine the energy, cleverness, and charm it has taken to make Serenbe happen. Mr. Nygren has more than enough of all 3. Yet he still has time to explain it to you personally. Bravo.

  2. V says:

    Thanks, Terry. I agree – Nygren is a powerhouse.

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