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KNOXVILLE — Two groups from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, are in Washington, D.C., to compete for a $75,000 grant at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Sustainable Design Expo, April 18-20.

In conjunction with the expo, EPA hosts the annual P3 Award Competition for college students. The competition focuses on benefiting people, promoting prosperity and protecting the planet (P3). The UT Knoxville groups were among 40 other teams that, last spring, won Phase I $10,000 grant awards from P3 to develop their design projects for the expo this weekend.

One interdisciplinary group is made up of students and faculty from architecture and planning. The students, under guidance from faculty, will present “The New Norris House: A Sustainable Home for the 21st Century.” The project is a contemporary interpretation of a historic home design featured in the Norris, Tenn., community in the early 1930s.

Last year was the 75th anniversary of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the agency’s first major undertaking. Called the Norris project, it was a model community constructed in 1933 as part of the Norris Dam construction. The centerpiece of the community was the Norris House, an innovative, affordable home that featured new technologies, locally produced materials and efficient vernacular design.

The community was considered one of the nation’s first planned sustainable communities, featuring innovative, affordable homes with new technologies and efficient designs.

“The original Norris House represented the sustainable home of the 1930s and survives as a symbol of innovation,” said Tim Ezzell, director of the Community Partnership Center, a division of UT’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment (ISSE). “The student team created a design for the next 75 years.”

Ezzell, a historian and planner, and Tricia Stuth, assistant professor in the School of Architecture, served as faculty mentors on the project. Catherine Wilt, policy director for ISSE’s Center for Clean Products, advised the project on green building materials and other sustainable design elements.

The New Norris House is designed to take advantage of natural ventilation and winter sunlight and summer shade. The house features a solar-powered hot-water heater, a high-efficiency heat pump, a system for collecting and storing rainwater, and an on-site system for treating gray water.

The house is designed, where possible, to be constructed of locally produced green building materials and complies with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) standards.

As with the original Norris House, the new design integrates the home into the surrounding community via pedestrian paths linking homes to community service nodes that provide for shopping, recreation, public gatherings and performances.

Undergraduate architecture students Levi Hooten, Daniel Luster, Joan Monaco and Samuel Mortimer developed the high-efficiency design for the New Norris House. Planning graduate students Bethany Wild, Ramune Morales and Thomas Herbert assisted with the P3 project and will travel to Washington, D.C., with the Norris House team.

TVA gave the Norris House team an additional grant to help finance the project and will coordinate and provide transportation of the team’s model to the national competition.

The architecture students’ interpretation of the historic home won top honors in the 2009 Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement (EURēCA) at UT Knoxville.

Another group of students led by Paul Frymier, an associate professor of chemical engineering, also will compete in the expo to demonstrate a new method for redirecting and reusing waste from the production of biodiesel fuel on a small scale. The team was inspired by the student-run UT Biodiesel Program, which uses waste oil from campus dining halls to create biodiesel fuel that is then used in campus vehicles.

Small-scale biodiesel producers like the UT Biodiesel Program produce a good deal of waste that typically enters the sewer system for treatment, but some of that waste is glycerol, a substance that has commercial uses. The team developed a process to harvest the glycerol and also performed an economic analysis of the cost of doing so. Their hope is that the project may create a method to reduce the overall cost of producing biodiesel on a small scale.

The design expo takes place on the Washington Mall, and the grant from the EPA will help the winning team move its design into the marketplace. The EPA will announce the teams who receive P3 awards and honorable mentions on Monday, April 20.


Tim Ezzell, (865-974-9036 or
Tricia Stuth, (865-974-5267 or
Kristi Hintz, (865-974-3993 or