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Back to the Future: New Norris House Shows It’s Never Too Late to Go Green

2011 April 15

By Samuel Allen Mortimer

Over the past two years I’ve had the pleasure of working with a talented group of students in the design and construction of a model sustainable home called A New Norris House. The project is an interdisciplinary effort led by The College of Architecture and Design at the University of Tennessee, and takes its roots from the small town of Norris, Tennessee.

Norris was one of the United States’ first full examples of town planning and a key feature of this New Deal era development was the Norris House, an assembly of home designs built as models for modern and efficient living. Seventy-five years later, we are reinterpreting the Norris paradigm and creating a New Norris House—a sustainable home designed for the 21st century.

Not only is the home actually being built—it is being built by students! In the architecture world, this is what is known as design/build—when the same party tackles both design and construction. In the academic realm, this is beneficial for many reasons. Students directly see the principles, materials, and methodologies taught in school. They also gain a quick understanding of costs, scheduling, the implications of change orders, specifications, and building codes. These are invaluable lessons, especially when taught under the protective umbrella of academia.
Partnering with Clayton Homes to build the shell of the home, students have labored tirelessly over the past eight months to reach a point of near completion. Opening date is set for early summer and all parties involved are excited to see the conclusion.

Grants our team won through EPA’s P3 Student Competition for Sustainability were invaluable. The Phase II award provided funding for us to finish conceptualizion and bring our vision to reality. Having the EPA name alongside our project has given us immediate credibility and helped opened doors that may not have been possible otherwise. Beginning this adventure as a student and now seeing it’s completion as researcher and intern with the university has been a formative experience in my life and career. Check out the 2011 P3 projects at EPA’s Earth Day activities, including the National Sustainable Design Expo, this weekend on the National Mall! Click here for details.

About the Author: Samuel Mortimer, one of the original 2008 University of Tennessee P3 team members, is now a research specialist for the university’s College of Architecture and Design.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

10 Responses leave one →
  1. David L. Muecke permalink
    April 15, 2011

    I enjoyed the New Norris House issue. Only I have a whole new aspect in home construction for the Galveston Bay Area in South Texas. It would be just about impervious to any major storm and self sustaining. How does one get into this program to say build a concept such as mine? It uses materials that will be used once with little to no maintenance. Well you do have to tend to the yard if you wanted a yard. Only the home would use very little energy and very safe for the owner and the insurance company. Sure, down here in the coastal areas. Storm damage is a big issue for the insurance companies. My home would save money for all parties. David Muecke (Angel Boy)

  2. armansyahardanis permalink
    April 16, 2011

    Phase IV : The Feedback of A New Norris House.

    I won’t be patient to know that a brilliant students of University of Tennessee whose built a sustainable home, modern and efficient living. Congratulations to “The Green Students”….!!!

  3. warman permalink
    April 16, 2011

    I would like to have my own home like this.

    Thank you

  4. Jeff Anderson permalink
    April 16, 2011

    Great work guys.. This is one good example that if we will work as a team, we can achieve more than what we expected. Outstanding!

  5. Harshad permalink
    April 19, 2011

    Phase IV : The Feedback of A New Norris House.

    I won’t be patient to know that a brilliant students of University of Tennessee whose built a sustainable home, modern and efficient living. Congratulations to “The Green Students”….!!!

  6. Harris Mills permalink
    April 19, 2011

    Until the day when a student can build his own house, it might help to declare days of CARBON FAST. On a fast day, we walk to where we must go. We turn the furnace or air conditioner off and dress for the weather. We sit in the warmth of the sun or the cool of the shade. We cook with a solar stove, or eat only raw fruit, vegetables and nuts. We use no electrical power generated by fossil fuels. We arise at sunrise and rest at dark. Thus, we declare our unity with the poor and indigenous people of the world now suffering from the extremes of weather and the collective effect of our life styles. We change and begin to feel better one day at a time.

  7. Mark Schultz permalink
    April 22, 2011

    Our dependence on fossil fuels needs to be a major focus of our leaders during this decade and century. One green initiative is geothermal heating and cooling. Heating and cooling accounts for up to 2/3 of our home energy consumption, however, geothermal heat pumps reduce heating and cooling costs, energy usage and corresponding emissions by up to 72% according to the EPA. The United States Federal government has a 30% Federal Geothermal Tax Credit with no upper limit until 2016:

  8. Transparence permalink
    May 4, 2011

    Great initiative by students for a better future of human being. It is true that sustainable architectural design will save the world from futuristic problems of limited resources availability. We all should encourage and appreciate this kind of creativity in architecture…

  9. DonaldKiefer permalink
    June 16, 2011

    I like the effort that was done by this students. It is definitely right to say that because of this this students will be able to know the real issues like costing, specifications and all this stuff which is a vital concern about a design of when building. It is very practical and outstanding!

  10. sammy k permalink
    March 29, 2013

    It’s very interesting topic. Congratz for the students to won EPA’s competition. Green house is the best option to build house nowadays. I love how it really save cost in electricity, for example. My house get direct sunlight efficiently, and proper insulation. I tend to use woods alot, including my kitchen decoration. Love mywooden spice rack alot :)

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