After their success in designing affordable sustainable houses as part of their program Social Justice Architecture, student architects at Auburn University’s Rural Studio are planning to expand to mass production. They will start execution at the bucolic new urban village of Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia.

Students along with professors at Social Justice Architecture program have been running their “20K” initiative since 2005, providing low-income communities with designs for sustainable homes at low cost. Just like the name of the initiative suggests, each house the students design cost $20,000 to be built by a contractor. The price breaks down to $12,000 for materials, while the rest go to labor and profit.

“We are eager to make our work more relevant to the needs of West Alabama, the Southeast, and possibly the entire country,” their website statement reads. Looking at the omnipresent American trailer park, where homes, counter-intuitively, depreciate each year they are occupied, they found themselves urged to take such a step to put both their education and passion at the service of the American community.

Serenbe is composed of four settlements with commercial centers serving each. These centers act as service hubs for art, health, agriculture and education. Throughout the year, the villagers also enjoy cultural events at the outdoor theater from Serenbe Playhouse, culinary workshops, festivals, music events, films, lectures, boutique shopping, art galleries, spa, trail riding, in addition to a robust Artist in Residence program featuring dinners and talks. The new urban village also enjoys a 25-acre organic farm which Serenbe calls ‘Saturday Farmer’s Market,’ a thriving CSA program and edible landscaping, including blueberry bushes along paths and sidewalks.

urban village

Via Serenbe.

Founded by Steve and Marie Nygren, the urban village began when the couple were enjoying a family outing, introducing their children to the Georgian countryside in 1991. Three years later, the couple sold their house in Atlanta and settled in what is known now as Serenbe – an urban village that brings urban features to an otherwise rural context. Serenbe is the fruit of efforts to protect the beautiful rural land the couple grew a great passion for, nestled in Chattahoochee Hill Country. The first house at Serenbe was built in 2004, and today the community is home to over 400 residents.

As the Nygren couple say, “If you want to change the world, you should start in your own backyard.”

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