​Housing Sewanee and FYP Students Work on Next Steps

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

Housing Sewanee, Inc. (HSI) finished the Sherwood Springs energy efficient home in December, and soon after, the first owner moved in. The first home planned for the Sherwood Springs area, this smart, 750-square foot home had been in the works for the past two years. Now that it is finished, the team is onto the next project.

Among the plans for the home was space specifically set aside for a small garage building on site. Dixon Myers, co-founder of Housing Sewanee, said they call it their demonstration building and plan to use it to demonstrate the systems at work inside the energy efficient home.

“We were planning on putting posters of all the energy efficient systems in the house to demonstrate how they work. This element is for the community to have tours. The idea came from Mike Coffey, who teaches physics at the University,” said Myers. “Then, when COVID hit, we started talking about whether we needed a 3D model. I built a one-inch to one-foot scale model. There’s actual water flowing through it that feeds this house and will feed all the houses in this subdivision. When school started, we realized we needed some kind of teaching guide. That’s when we reached out to Eric Keen, who had been planning his programming for first-year students.”

Keen, who is a visiting assistant professor of environmental studies, said the relationship with Housing Sewanee actually began in the fall of 2019 when Keen was working on developing a course on human relationship with place, natural resources and justice issues through the lens of the modern home. This academic year, students in the Finding Your Place Program (FYP) course began working with HSI during the second week of August.

“One of my priorities was for students to learn about housing issues in the Sewanee area and grapple with the global forces that have brought about local housing disparities. It became clear that HSI’s work was a case-in-point of what this class is all about,” he said.

Keen said the project between the FYP students and the HSI team has three main phases — the first is to develop the teaching guide that provides background information and detailed explanations on the sustainable systems powering the home and what the impact of those innovations might be on housing justice. The second is to develop instructional packets for how to give on-site tours for different audiences, and the third is to design displays that can be used in those tours to give an overview of the HSI mission and its use of sustainable technology in affordable housing.”

Kendall Moore, a freshman student and part of the FYP team, said the team has finished the reference manual for eight different energy systems.

Cuca Ramirez, an international student from Puerto Rico, said the next step is to create the teaching manual, which will teach to the tour guides how to explain the systems in the home and what effects they have on the environment.

“This project has given me an insight into what being a part of a community means. It amazes me how every student is genuinely interested in helping this project launch because we understand the impact it has on people of the community. Apart from learning about the economy, spring catchment, solar energy, reusable building materials, and other components involved in the project, I have understood the influence of working in teams. It is hard agreeing on something when every individual has a different opinion. Planning this project with 15 different perspectives has been a challenge, but that is what makes it so valuable. Hopefully, I will witness the fruitfulness of this project,” Ramirez said.

Since HSI’s creation in 1993, 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.

Myers said there are plans for a second house, which will be for a graduate of Blue Monarch’s residential recovery program, and HSI has enough money raised to install a roof, but funds are beginning to run low.

“We don’t really know any more than anybody else does. Things are really slow, but they are happening,” he said.

For more information about Housing Sewanee go to www.housingsewaneeinc.com