In the Chattahoochee Hills region outside of Atlanta, Georgia, the Serenbe sustainable community offers connections between nature, culture, and the art of living.
The 1,000-acre mixed-use community is anchored by a 25-acre farm that provides produce for residents and restaurants throughout the Atlanta area. Reminiscent of old English villages, the community of hamlets connected by looping country roads and well-worn footpaths, links residents to each other, schools, shops, restaurants, cultural and recreational events as well as the natural environment.
The community of Serenbe requires all homes built there to be EarthCraft certified as part of its commitment to sustainability. The EarthCraft program was established in 1999 by the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association and Southface Energy Institute, EarthCraft is a green building certification program that serves six Southeast states. EarthCraft certified homes demonstrate energy costs that are, on average, 30 percent below those of a typical new home.
A new home in Serenbe takes energy efficiency to the next level: net zero energy use. Net zero homes produce as much energy as they consume, through renewable energy sources. One of the keys to producing enough energy through solar panels is to reduce the overall demand for energy in the home.
One of the best ways to do that is to make geothermal heating and cooling a part of the home. Geothermal does not use fossil fuels. Instead, geothermal heating and cooling works because the earth absorbs about 48 percent of the sun’s energy, leaving a fairly constant underground temperature between 45° F (7° C) to 75° F (21° C). Geothermal technology uses this stable temperature to transfer heat to and from the earth, instead of using the air in the more common air-source heat pump systems. A home geothermal system includes a geothermal or ground source heat pump and a ground loop system made up of pipes buried in the ground. A water/antifreeze solution flows through the pipes, absorbing heat from the earth in the winter and moving it to the geothermal system inside the house. Once there, the heat is condensed and transferred to the air that is circulated throughout the home, providing warmth when needed. In the summer, the process is reversed as the system absorbs heat from the air inside the home, similar to how a refrigerator extracts heat from food to make it cool, and transfers that heat into the ground through the same ground loop.