Unique Eco community where homes cost just $20,000 and inhabitants live off the land


A rural community created 15 years ago by a man who dreamed of living off-grid is thriving. 

Serenbe, in the Chattahoochee Hill Country south of Atlanta, is the brainchild of architect Dr. Phill Tabb, who decided that eco-friendly living could be a possibility and bought land to develop his idea. 

Residents living in the revolutionary green utopia now recycle their water, live off fruit and vegetables grown on a 25-acre organic farm and walk as much as possible via a network of inter-connecting trails. 

Some 600 people are now living off-grid in the experimental community, with the four hamlets boasting a school, shops and cafes – all with well-being and green living at the fore.  

The Serenbe community, just south of Atlanta, was designed by architect Dr Phill Tabb after he decided to opt out of modern life and try and live off the fat of the land; the quirky community has proved a huge success

The Serenbe community, just south of Atlanta, was designed by architect Dr Phill Tabb after he decided to opt out of modern life and try and live off the fat of the land; the quirky community has proved a huge success

The Serenbe community, just south of Atlanta, was designed by architect Dr Phill Tabb after he decided to opt out of modern life and try and live off the fat of the land; the quirky community has proved a huge success

Some of the houses across the four hamlets were designed by university students and cost just $20,000 to create

Some of the houses across the four hamlets were designed by university students and cost just $20,000 to create

Some of the houses across the four hamlets were designed by university students and cost just $20,000 to create

The idea of simple living sees villagers growing their own fruit and vegetables and waste water is recycled

The idea of simple living sees villagers growing their own fruit and vegetables and waste water is recycled

The idea of simple living sees villagers growing their own fruit and vegetables and waste water is recycled

The community was designed by Steve and Marie Nygren and is hidden amid 1,000 acres of natural forest landscape just south of Atlanta in the United States.

Homes – which are heated and cooled with ground-sourced heat pumps – were built into the landscape to minimize the impact on the land.

Manicured lawns are not allowed and fresh food is a natural asset with a 25-acre organic farm. 

There is also a seasonal Saturday farmers market and edible landscaping along paths and sidewalk.

The water system is eco friendly and vegetated wetland treats all the wastewater.

There are currently three restaurants, eight retailers, a gym, a day spa and a school on site. They are all connected by walking trails.

Left, Dr Phill Tabb decided if he wanted to build a unique rural community, then he had to start in his ‘own backyard’; the villagers now hold a farmers’ market with the produce they grow

The community has grown so much, it now boasts cafes, an Inn and even a school to educate the children who live at Serenbe

The community has grown so much, it now boasts cafes, an Inn and even a school to educate the children who live at Serenbe

The community has grown so much, it now boasts cafes, an Inn and even a school to educate the children who live at Serenbe

The villages' circular emblem is seen at various points across the rural community

The villages' circular emblem is seen at various points across the rural community

The villages’ circular emblem is seen at various points across the rural community

A spokesman for the village said: ‘Each of Serenbe’s four hamlets have complementary commercial centers focused on the elements of a well-lived life – arts for inspiration, agriculture for nourishment, health for wellbeing and education for awareness.

‘The vision for the community of Serenbe was born in an effort to protect the beautiful rural land justoutside of Atlanta known as Chattahoochee Hill Country.

‘They say that if you want to change the world, you should start in your own backyard. If that’s so, then Serenbe is quite a beginning.’ 

A group of architecture students were involved in helping Serenbe offer low-cost housing. 

Serenbe features some homes that were borne out of the 20k Home Project, a venture by students at Auburn University’s Rural Studio in Alabama, to create well-designed homes at affordable prices.

The initial aim for the project was to make a market-rate model home that could be built by contract for $20,000.

Housed on acres of forested land south of Atlanta, the option to live in green utopia Serenbe has become increasingly attractive

Housed on acres of forested land south of Atlanta, the option to live in green utopia Serenbe has become increasingly attractive

Housed on acres of forested land south of Atlanta, the option to live in green utopia Serenbe has become increasingly attractive

This would include $12,000 for materials and $8,000 for labor – making it less than the average price of a new car but does not include the price of the land.

Andrew Freear, director of Rural Studio, said: ‘We have discovered that while we can easily predict the cost of materials, the cost of labor, utility installation and application for building permission by region, local municipality, community and even neighborhood can change drastically.

‘The goal for the product line is to give the public access to the 20K product line homes.

‘The goal for the studio is to continue to design beautiful, affordable and efficient homes for our community.’


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