​Housing Sewanee Advances in Sherwood Springs

by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer
The first of nine planned energy-efficient homes in Housing Sewanee’s Sherwood Springs subdivision should be complete by the end of this year, officials said.
Housing Sewanee, operating through donations and volunteers, builds homes for people who cannot afford a house, while offering low- or no-interest mortgages. The new homeowner is required to contribute time during construction, similar to Habitat for Humanity.
“This is beyond a lot of their dreams,” said Mickey Suarez, Housing Sewanee design and construction manager. “They’re deserving people, the only difference is they didn’t quite get in the right profession or have the opportunity to develop those skills. They’re solid, hard-working people who deserve a lot more, a lot of times, than the shakes that they get.”
The family moving into the house, a single mother and her young son and college-age daughter, lived in a pickup truck camper for several years, Suarez noted, as he provided a tour of the upstairs bedroom.
The two-bedroom home under construction in Sherwood Springs boasts a number of energy-saving amenities, including a geothermal heating and cooling system and special Icynene foam insulation.
Icynene protects the house against air leaks and drafts, but with good insulation comes concern for the quality of air inside, Suarez said. To remedy that, Panasonic donated an energy recovery ventilator (ERV), which brings in fresh air and expels stale air, while exchanging heat in the air cycle to save energy.
Utilizing natural resources is part of the plan for making the homes energy efficient and better for the environment.
“We built this house with as small a carbon footprint as we possibly could,” Suarez said.
Builders are also using some reclaimed wood to help construct the home, and a healthy spring behind the house will supply water.
“The plumbing is set up so you can take advantage of spring water, but if we go dry, you can go to SUD (Sewanee Utility District) water,” Suarez said. “The summer was so dry, the spring dropped down to about a gallon and a half a minute, which is still a lot of water. Right now, the spring is probably producing 12 to 15 gallons a minute, so it’s really pouring out of there.”
A garage at the first Sherwood Springs home will serve as a training center, with information for people to learn more about conservation and energy efficiency, such as building a rainwater collection system or using solar power.
Suarez noted that volunteers are needed during the current phase of the home’s construction, especially those with carpentry skills. There is cabinet work ahead, in addition to landscaping and installing donated oak tongue-and-groove flooring.
Volunteers in the Service to America program recently spent time painting, and this summer volunteers from the Church of the Advent in Spartanburg, S.C., stopped by again to help with construction—the 21st straight year they have sent a group, Suarez said.
In addition to plans in Sherwood Springs, another single mother and her two children are moving into a Housing Sewanee home in the Midway community. Suarez said the organization built the house in the 1990s and recently reacquired it.
Leigh Ann Summers, who originally qualified for a future home in Sherwood Springs, will move into the three-bedroom house with her nine-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter.
Summers, 33, currently lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Monteagle. The caregiver for Tree of Life said her family has outgrown the apartment and she sleeps in the living room on a sleeper sofa.
“I’m very happy to have my own room now,” she said. “Everyone has their own bedroom and own closet; I mean, that’s major.”
She said the extra space will be nice, but the yard is the biggest perk.
“We’ve lived here (at the apartment) six years and my kids have been shafted when it came to going outside to play in the yard and they’re finally getting a yard,” she said.
“This is really impacting our lives tremendously,” she said. “We’re super thankful to everybody who has helped this become a thing for us.”
To volunteer, contact Mickey Suarez at <suareztn@aol.com> or (931) 636-0843. For more information, visit <housingsewaneeinc.com>.