New Norris House Seeks LEED Platinum

The University of Tennessee recently opened the New Norris House, a 21st-century home that revisits the old Norris community project.  As background, during the Great Depression, the Tennessee Valley Authority built a model community as part of a water works project in Tennessee.  According to the New Norris House site, the old Norris homes were innovative and included electricity and heating systems for the first time in the region.

The New Norris House builds on this history with a prefabricated home, solar hot water, rainwater collection, and all sorts of features that should reward the project team with LEED Platinum certification.

The project is a “living laboratory to measure energy efficiency, natural light, air quality and the effectiveness of an innovative water infiltration and treatment system. The system relies on gardens to treat rainwater and grey water,” according to a recent statement issued by the University.

UT landscape architecture professor Ken McCown and information science graduate student Mary Leverance will live in the 768 square-foot home during the next year to provide tours and help with monitoring efforts.  McCown and Leverance will blog here about their experience living in the home.

Clayton Homes, the company behind this net-zero i-House, assisted with the design and construction of a prefabricated base of the home.  New Norris also has Andersen windows/doors, reclaimed white oak floors, and a random pattern of white cedar board cladding.

The total project cost is guesstimated to be about $300,000 – $400,000, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel, which approximates over two years of work with salaries, transportation to and from the site, land costs, site work and installation, etc.

The legal footprint of the home is smaller than the average American home, yet it was designed to live larger with a storage loft, decks, a large outdoor patio space, and an extensive landscape effort. The design won an EPA award in 2009 and a 2011 Prize for Creative Integration of Practice and Education from the National Council of Architectural Registration Board.

[+] More info on the New Norris House from the University of Tennessee.

Credits: Ken McCown (#1, #4), UT (#3), Michael Patrick (#2).


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  • Thomas

    Very nice! Love the interior!

  • MrSteve007

    Wowie zowie an estimated cost of $390 to $520 a sq/ft . . . in Tennessee??Why not buy an original Norris house for $50,000 – and retrofit it for $200,000, save $50k, and you’d be reusing an entire existing building?

    Also, I noticed in the video that they placed the A/C above the bed. It’s a bad idea to place a mini-split A/C unit there. The very-chilly (~45 degree) air blows directly onto the sleeping area, and is quite uncomfortable, even at a low setting. Unless they’re used to living in the arctic, the indoor air handler should be placed at the opposite end of the room of the sleeping quarters, preferably not aimed towards the bed.

    • Samuel Mortimer

      Hi Steve,

      I have asked JetsonGreen to make this edit, but it has not been processed yet I suppose. 

      The price figure currently shown is a bit misleading, as it represents a 2.5 year total project development cost including salaries, transportation to/from remote site, land costs, site work and landscape, etc. The final cost of the home has not yet been determined, but it will be MUCH less. As mentioned, prototypes include atypical costs such up front equipment investments (the kind that pay off like solar, high efficiency heatpumps, rainwater, etc), putting in extra effort/investment to create a durable home, and honestly–making a few mistakes. Keep in mind this project was designed and built by students, who are not architects and professional builders yet.

      Regarding the squarefootage (used to calculate a price/sqft)….While the legal square footage is 768, the gross square footage is close to 1200 when you include mechanical spaces, the large storage loft, decks, etc. This is still disregarding large outdoor patio space and an extensive landscape effort– all which cost money to build/install, but will require little to maintain and enjoy for years to come.

      Hope this clears up some questions about the costs. Regarding the wall unit– these Mitsubishi units can be adjusted to blow air in a variety of directions, so I assume they have made this adjustment. 

      You can find more photos here… http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenmccown/sets/72157626956997343/

      Thanks for your interest!

      • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

        Samuel, we provided some updates to the article this morning based on your email with these same comments.

        • Samuel Mortimer

          Wow– I completely missed that. Sorry for the confusion!

          Thanks, Preston.

  • http://www.modabydesign.net m o daby design

    Great little house.  Love the simple “Scandi” inspired massing.

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