​HSI Home Almost Completed at Sherwood Springs

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

Nestled back a ways from the main road up the Mountain, Mickey Suarez, Michael Coffey and Peter Hunter hammer away on a smart, 750-square-foot home at 1835 Sherwood Rd.

The home is the first of a group of seven sites that are planned for Sherwood Springs area.

The project is being led by Housing Sewanee, Inc., (HSI) which was founded in 1993 and modeled after Habitat for Humanity. Since its creation, the organization has built 17 houses, all with no-interest loans and financial counseling for locals who are in the market for an affordable path to home ownership.

The total cost for the home has been estimated at $70,000, taking into account that a significant number of the materials used in the build were donated and that labor was all volunteer.

Construction on the home began about two years ago. Now, just a few months away from the home being complete, the organization is taking applications for potential occupants.

“We found this piece of land about three years ago, and it’s a little more than six acres. One of the key parts of the property is that it has a natural spring,” said Dixon Myers, co-founder of Housing Sewanee.

A key component of the home is its energy efficiency, which is made possible by the top-grade insulation, the scrap building materials that were donated from various community members, the solar collection system, and the geothermal electric system.

Michael Coffey, visiting professor of physics at the University, spearheaded the geothermal system and plumbing. Coffey said the main idea behind the geothermal system is to keep the cost of utilities low.

“We have 1,200 feet in 3-foot coils lying on top of each other, buried 5-feet underground. The main unit is a heat pump. What a heat pump does , if it’s used in a house setting, is exchanges heat from the outside air with the inside air. If it needs to cool, then it dumps heat into the outside from the inside. It works like an air conditioner, a series of compressions and expansions with some kind of cryogenic fluid,” he said. “Without electricity or gas, there is no energy expended on heating or cooling the air, so it’s a much lower utility bill with this system.”

Mickey Suarez, Housing Sewanee design and construction manager, said the utilities are something he and the others at the organization will be monitoring.

“We are going to start construction next door on our garage that is going to be used as a training center. We will be monitoring the utility use on a 24-hour basis. We’ll have a good handle going forward, and will be able to compare that with other designs. Each house will vary in size and footprint, and it will vary in some of the amenities to try to save energy,” he said.

For all that are involved, the energy-efficiency and low cost are worthwhile, but the goal of the project comes down to one thing—pouring into the Sewanee community.

“You give someone a place to live, the opportunity to fulfill a dream of owning a home, it can really change their whole outlook,” Coffey said.

The application process for the home is open until mid-May. For more information or to apply, visit <housingsewaneeinc.com>.