The Serenbe Hamlet: Fall/Winter 2021

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COMMUNITY MODEL Building For a Net Zero Future


f you know what the IPCC is, you are paying very close attention to the climate crisis.The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. It’s written for policy makers,“to provide them with a regular scientific assessment on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, [and] to put forward adaptation and mitigation options.” In August they released their sixth climate assessment, calling it a “code red for humanity,” and stating “changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion - such as continued sea level rise - are irreversible…” Um, gulp. However, there is hope, as strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change. While benefits for air quality would come quickly, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilize. So, we need “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” When problems seem too big to tackle, many of us turn inward and shut down - or binge watch Netflix. The good news is, multiple corporations and governments around the world have 2050 Net Zero plans and initiatives that are paving the way for reductions. Let’s break down some readily available solutions focusing on Georgia and Serenbe. According to our friends at Drawdown GA, we need emissions reductions in 5 key areas: electricity, building & materials, food & agriculture, land sinks, and transportation. Since it’s hard to envision life 30 years from now, they started with a 10-year plan to reduce emissions by one-third by scaling market ready solutions that are both achievable and cost competitive more good news. Serenbe has been a champion of many of these solutions since its founding in 2004, and we continually implement new ones, highlighting many in the new Lupo Loop pocket neighborhood of Mado. When Serenbe Founder Steve Nygren discovered the property back in the ‘90s, his early intention was to save the rural land outside of Atlanta from urban sprawl. He feared that his paradise in the woods would be turned into strip malls and cookie cutter homes, so he set out to build a place in conjunction with nature, instead of against it. Steve was already an early environmental adopter, one of the first Prius owners, the family grew their own vegetables, and his wife made homemade baby food before it was the cool thing to do. With the vision set for Serenbe, Steve set out to further educate himself on the best practices in building development,


farming, and energy reduction. A primary environmental solution Steve has focused on is protecting greenspace. And we’re not talking about a small fenced-in park with a few trees. Influenced by the English countryside, Serenbe’s neighborhood hamlets are designed based on sacred geometry principles with buildings clustered along omega forms, resulting in minimal land disturbance, allowing 70% of the land to remain untouched. This gives residents the unique opportunity to walk out their back door and explore a forest full of trails, trees, and tranquility that becomes their backyard. Hamlets are connected via sidewalks and 15 miles of trails, encouraging residents to walk rather than use a car, reducing pollution and fossil fuels. Land conservation is still the platform on which all other Serenbe development is layered, and by saving all that land as greenspace, the trees, forests, and farms become carbon land sinks, storing more than 1.3 million tons of carbon per year (just on 1,000 acres at Serenbe). Serenbe’s trees also remove nearly 1,500 tons of pollution each year, (this equals the annual carbon emissions of 182,717 cars or 106,792 single family homes), and because of wind patterns that means cleaner air not just for Serenbe, but also for Atlanta. Southface’s Earthcraft building certification program was brought in next, as it is designed to address the challenging energy, water and climate conditions of the Southeast. This program results in better built environments and more resilient communities, with Serenbe being awarded one of the first Earthcraft Communities in 2005. The Earthcraft building program reduces energy demand by 30%, which equals 1,100 lbs of greenhouse gases/year and is required for all homes and commercial buildings in Serenbe. The next idea was to make local farming an integral part of the community, and Serenbe kicked off the Agrihood movement in community development and is seen as a model for creating a new agrarian economy. Twenty acres are set aside for organic farming, with close to 10 of those acres under cultivation, run by an on-site farm manager and team that grows over 300 varieties and 60,000 lbs of produce each year supporting a CSA and Saturday farmers market, and providing fresh food to the local restaurants. Traditional developers have focused too little on how big of an impact the buildings and materials in our homes have on the environment, but Serenbe offers solutions to these challenges. Since the beginning, Serenbe has been building with geothermal heating and cooling, utilizing the Earth to heat and cool buildings resulting in less energy use, less noise pollution