PALMETTO, Ga. — “We simply started out to save our own backyard.” That is how Steve Nygren, cofounder of Serenbe, a sustainable development community outside of Atlanta, began to describe the reason behind Serenbe and why so many people gathered to celebrate the community’s latest addition — the Bosch Experience Center.
HVAC professionals and other interested parties found their way 20 minutes southwest of the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Intl. Airport through Chattahoochee Hill Country on May 31, to witness the ribbon-cutting ceremony amid the quiet pine woods of central Georgia.
Richard Soper, president, Bosch Thermotechnology North America, served as master of ceremonies and explained that the Bosch Experience Center at Serenbe is the first of its kind in North America. The center serves as a teaching and interactive demonstration center for the array of Bosch products and technologies on display. The Experience Center showcases a suite of Bosch energy-efficient solutions, including aluminum structural materials from Bosch Rexroth, Energy Star-recognized appliances, and diesel systems.
The partnership between Bosch and Serenbe was lauded by many of the speakers, including U.S. Congressman David Scott, D-Ga., representing Georgia’s 13th District. Scott commended Bosch for its commitment to the environment and Serenbe for promoting an eco-conscious, sustainable lifestyle. On behalf of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Gretchen Corbin, deputy commissioner, Georgia Department of Economic Development, cited Bosch as a good corporate citizen and a welcome presence at Serenbe. “The partnership between Bosch and Serenbe is perhaps the best I have ever seen,” she said.
Bosch employs almost 25,000 associates in North America with consolidated sales of $10.6 billion for fiscal year 2012.
If all goes according to plan, people by the thousands, including HVAC contractors, will be making the trip to the Bosch Experience Center in the Serenbe community, and many will feel as if they have taken a step back in time to a simpler life. It is that kind of place. There are no lawn mowers; none are needed because of natural landscaping. There are no garbage trucks roaring down the street as trash is picked up in a more refined manner — golf carts. And, by the way, trash cans have been discreetly located below ground level so as not to be visible. Even the local water treatment plant is nearly invisible, or at least undetectable to most. According to Nygren, high school kids were recently taking prom pictures on one of the boardwalks which traverse the natural wetlands — also known as the water treatment plant.
Mike Mansuetti, president, Robert Bosch LLC, spoke about how establishing the Bosch Experience Center at Serenbe is aligned with the values of the company’s founder, Robert Bosch, and how the 127-year-old global company, with 300,000 employees worldwide and nearly 15,300 in the U.S., is dedicated to “providing technological answers to ecological questions.”
Bosch has been operating in the U.S. for 107 years, nearly all of that time as a somewhat quiet giant, providing a myriad of products for various industries. Many consumers have heard the name, but perhaps were not always quite sure what the company provided aside from automotive components. Mansuetti further explained that while most of the public is not aware of Bosch’s comprehensive product portfolio, a large number of people carry a Bosch product with them nearly around the clock. For example, a Bosch microelectromechanical (MEMS) sensor chip is installed in every second smartphone that was manufactured in 2012.
“I first visited Serenbe in January 2013. It is the true essence of community,” Mansuetti said. “Serenbe has a way of bringing us back to the simple. Bosch is fully committed to bringing technology to life, helping consumers to enhance the quality of their lives.”
Nygren, who founded Serenbe with his wife Marie and has been instrumental in its development ever since, was hailed as a visionary by the other speakers, who cited Serenbe as a model for sustainable development. Nygren, a successful restaurant developer earlier in his career, purchased 30 acres of farmland in 1991 and later opened the Serenbe Bed and Breakfast on the site. In subsequent years, with the help of investors, they opened up the 1,000 acres of Serenbe to residential living options with a build-out objective of no more than 30 percent of total acreage.
“To have a partner like Bosch has enabled us to help builders do the right thing. Often, they want to, but just don’t know how. Bosch’s leadership, and the Experience Center, will help many others learn about sustainable development,” said Nygren.
Serenbe is nestled in the mostly undeveloped area southwest of Atlanta. One person, who lived near Atlanta and was not aware of the existence of Serenbe, commented that if he had not personally driven himself to the event, he would have thought he was in the middle of nowhere.
Nygren’s vision, which ultimately became Serenbe, was perhaps best summarized by Congressman Scott, who said, “We believe that putting foremost the notion that we can create progress without damaging this earth is a most important value. We can improve our quality of life as we protect our environment.”
Nygren, who thanked Bosch for its commitment to Serenbe, accepted the keys to a 2013 VW Passat TDI clean diesel vehicle donated to Serenbe by Volkswagen Group of America. The car contains a Bosch-supplied clean diesel fuel-injection system, is 30 percent more fuel efficient than similar gasoline-powered vehicles, and EPA-rated Best in Class at 43 miles per gallon.
After the ribbon cutting, guests toured the Experience Center and explored Serenbe with tours conducted by Nygren. Lunch in the Hil Restaurant in the Selbourne hamlet of Serenbe concluded the event and featured Jack DiEnna, executive director of the Geothermal National & International Initiative (GEO-NII), who spoke about the market possibilities ahead for geothermal solutions.
Publication date: 7/8/2013