The design of Serenbe was inspired by the past and built for the future.
At Serenbe, the philosophy is that a community is a living part of its natural surroundings, not something to be built at nature’s expense. It exemplifies a core belief in biophilia—the theory that there is an instinctive bond between humans and other living systems. This approach values nature as well as children, adults and elders.
The master plan for Serenbe calls for multiple hamlets based on English villages, all designed on sacred geometry principles with buildings clustered along serpentine-like omega forms fitted to the undulations of the land. This method of arranging the community requires minimal land disturbances and allows the community to reserve large areas of undeveloped green space.
Every facet of community development design is based on traditional values and the principles of environmental sustainability. These principles touch everything from methods of construction and certification to the organic produce grown by Serenbe Farms.
Some elements of this design are obvious, while others are subtle or even unseen.
Download the Excel file “Subjects of Study and Research at Serenbe & Chattahoochee Hills” to learn how both communities offer real world, living laboratories that connect with college and university degree programs. Click on degree fields in the Excel file to open links to U.S. Department of Education program descriptions. Note that Excel can be viewed but is not fully functional on some mobile devices.
Serenbe’s land use planning demonstrates that development can be accommodated in relationships with nature rather the imposing the built environment in a way destructive of natural resources. Of Serenbe’s 1,000 acres, a minimum of 70% will always be preserved.
This goal is accomplished in a variety of ways. One is to minimally disturb the land by building on smaller footprints of property and to use front porches opening on the street at many homes rather than the traditional long front lawn. The consequence is a closer-knit community where neighbors know each other, a dramatic reduction in the need for cars within the community, no toxic chemicals poured to keep grass green, less water use, and so on.
In addition, all building is designed to reduce the impact on the land and preserve existing flora and fauna. It is standard practice in many developments to clear cut construction sites eliminating the natural landscape. And many times local utilities require flat and clear swaths for utility right-of-ways. Once the right-of-way is provided for gas, water, power, phone, internet, etc. only a barren landscape remains. The local government then requires a high percentage of this land to be covered with landscape to prevent storm water runoff. And the cheapest way to provide this is to cover the barren area with sod that – again – requires excessive amounts of water, chemicals and human time to maintain.
Land use that respects and preserves greenspace also results in cleaner air. Environmental pollutants in the air resulting from lawn chemicals, pesticides, smog, and other factors strongly contribute to asthma and other respiratory ailments. While the CDC reports that 10% of the children in America suffer from asthma, there are no such reported cases in Serenbe, which is largely attributable to natural landscaping and the preservation of land in Chattahoochee Hills.
Serenbe Farms is a certified organic farm that provides over 300 varieties of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruits to each of its farm-to-table restaurants, a Saturday farmers market and its annual community supported agriculture (CSA) program. Choosing local, organic food supports the local economy and preserves the environment, and provides a diet that is far healthier than one based on processed foods loaded with preservatives.
Serenbe demonstrates best practices in conservation of resources and renewable energy by incorporating geothermal heating and cooling, solar power, net zero homes, and natural and non-toxic landscaping. Water is conserved by landscaping and naturally treating wastewater for ornamental irrigation.
Serenbe is an EarthCraft community, meaning that 100% of homes and commercial buildings must be built to EarthCraft standards. EarthCraft is one of the nation’s most successful regional green building programs. It was developed in 1999 by the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association and Southface, and now boasts over 40,000 certified homes and a commercial-building certification program.
While EarthCraft compliance is the baseline for Serenbe, many homes go beyond that. A Proud Green Home was recently completed involving many partners, and is certified to Earthcraft Platinum standards that are even more stringent. In addition, there are several Net Zero Energy homes already built and more planned.
Unique is the Bosch Experience Center, the first of its kind in the world and located at Serenbe. The Center provides the opportunity to see how various energy systems can work together in the home or business.
Utilizing such practices requires dedication to preserving the environment in all phases of planning, design and construction.
It is standard practice to clear cut and grade construction sites eliminating the natural landscape. And local utilities often clear rights-of-way leaving only a barren landscape remains. Local governments then requires a high percentage of this land to be covered with landscape to prevent storm water runoff. And since the cheapest way to do this is to use sod, the result requires excessive amounts of water, chemicals and human time to maintain.
Awareness and progressive model regulations at Serenbe have addressed ways to tackle these issues. This change embraces the concept of introducing housing into nature rather than eliminating the natural landscape by scraping developments bare thus forcing people to live in a completely “man-made” community.
Utilizing a clustered septic system and an on-site waste treatment facility using natural techniques, single family housing units in Serenbe fit on smaller lots. Freed from the individual leech fields required by conventional septic systems, Serenbe features clustered villages of homes and shops, which allows a higher percentage of the subdivision‘s overall land to remain undeveloped than what would normally be found in comparable subdivisions.
There currently are more than 10 miles of paths and trails throughout the 1,000 acres of Serenbe. Where possible, the community has created paths along the bioretention storm water corridors. These paths are planted with edible landscapes andnaturalvegetation, which encourage balanced eco system corridors.
In built areas, Serenbe is reminiscent of neighborhoods from decades past. Residents walk to restaurants and sh
ops, walk their kids to school, and walk to see their friends and socialize. This reduces the need for cars, conserves energy, reduces pollution, and promotes good health not only for individuals but also for the community as a whole since it offers interaction between neighbors.
Dark Sky Preservation
Serenbe actively embodies the dark-sky movement, which is a campaign to reduce light pollution. The advantages of reducing light pollution include an increased number of stars visible at night, reducing the effects of unnatural lighting on the environment, and cutting down on energy usage.
Nocturnal animals can be harmed by light pollution because they are biologically evolved to be dependent on an environment with a certain amount of hours of uninterrupted daytime and nighttime. The over-illumination of the night sky is affecting these organisms, especially birds.
Light pollution has also been found to affect human circadian rhythms.
The dark-sky movement encourages the use of full-cutoff fixtures that cast little or no light upward in public areas and generally to encourage communities to adopt lighting regulations.
By keeping stars visible, it opens a universe of questions and exploration for our children.
At Serenbe, children and adults are becoming aware of the actual source of food, as well as its seasonality, because of such practices as planting blueberries and other edible fruits at all crosswalks
Development projects that incorporate edible landscaping, or that promote gardens in the family yard or terrace, produce enjoyable results in a short period of time. Plantings can be made in wide range of varieties from bush form to vines, offer healthy food options, and add natural color and life to a community.