Living in Sewanee, students can easily separate themselves from the impoverished parts of the rural Tennessee scenery surrounding us. Through various outlets on campus, Sewanee is eliminating this separation. Over the past fourteen years, Housing Sewanee has begun bridging this gap. Housing Sewanee is a non-profit organization modeled after Habitat for Humanity. Throughout the years, Housing Sewanee has built many houses for local clients who may be elderly, sick, physically or mentally disabled.
The board for Housing Sewanee is comprised of faculty of the university and many community members. Recently, the organization has turned to sustainable building. Within the past year, Housing Sewanee bought 6.1 acres located two miles south of the town of Sewanee on Sherwood Road. The goal of the land is creating a more sustainable neighborhood. This neighborhood will develop over time, but the planning process has already been started. Dixon Myers, the coordinator of the Outreach office, said, “The first home is going to be a demonstration home for energy efficiency. We are looking at solar, water source, geothermal, and high grade insulation.” An enthralling piece of the property is the natural spring producing twelve gallons of water per minute, totaling 17,280 gallons of water each day. The spring water will be the property’s main water source. The water cannot be consumed by humans but can be used for showers, bathing, laundry, dishwashing, etc. Along with spring water, solar panels will be installed to provide electricity to the homes. The solar panels will create power for each individual house, with the hopes of the houses being completely “off the grid.”
The organization is investing time and money to discover the best practices of sustainability to use for this property. The organization is testing the ground for the prospects of geothermal energy being used to heat the houses. According to Myers, as of now, Housing Sewanee is building and then will decide the future of the demonstration house. No matter the use of the first demonstration house, Housing Sewanee’s progress within the sustainability field is making houses more affordable for families in the long term, with the decrease and even elimination of some utility costs.