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KNOXVILLE — A team from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, won top honors at the P3 Award Competition during the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Sustainable Design Expo held in Washington, D.C., this past weekend.

Students from UT’s Winning Team
The team of students and faculty from the College of Architecture and Design and UT’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment (ISSE) presented “The New Norris House: A Sustainable Home for the 21st Century.” The project was a contemporary interpretation of a historic home design featured in the Norris, Tenn., community in the early 1930s.

As its prize, the winning team has been awarded a grant of $75,000 from the EPA. The team hopes to use the money to construct an actual house based on the design in Norris.

A second UT Knoxville team — a group of students led Associate Professor Paul Frymier, Professor Robert Counce and Professor Emeritus Charles Moore, all of chemical engineering — received an honorable mention award for its project demonstrating a new method for redirecting and reusing waste from the production of biodiesel fuel on a small scale. Students on the team, all seniors, were: Jeff Clark, Matt Clark, Rebecca Empting, Molly Kersey, Ben Renner and Michael Spain.

The EPA competition focused on benefiting people, promoting prosperity and protecting the planet (P3). About 40 teams competed. UT’s teams were among the six teams winning top awards and the 11 receiving honorable mentions.

UT’s winning team consisted of undergraduate architecture students Levi Hooten, Daniel Luster, Joan Monaco and Samuel Mortimer, who developed the high-efficiency design for the New Norris House, and planning graduate students Bethany Wild, Ramune Morales and Thomas Herbert.

On Wednesday, the winning exhibit will be on display from noon to 5 p.m. on Humanities Plaza as part of the campus Earth Day celebration.

Tim Ezzell, director of the Community Partnership Center, a division of ISSE, and Tricia Stuth, assistant professor in the College of Architecture and Design, 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.

Stuth said the winning team “did an amazing job — representing the very best our college and profession are capable of envisioning, creating and relating — and the college can be extremely proud of their representation of us and their commitment to design excellence.”

Ezzell noted the team’s unique approach: “We often tend to look to the future in developing efficient and affordable design concepts. But in the case of the Norris House, the lessons come from our region’s past. The UT students did a great job of adapting the original design in creating a sustainable concept that will carry us forward over the next 75 years.”

Mortimer called the competition “empowering.”

“We were confident from the get-go that we had the idea and we thought our idea was the perfect match for the competition,” he said.

For more about the competition and the winners, see

Background on the winning project

The Norris project was a model community constructed by the Tennessee Valley Authority 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,” Ezzell said. “The student team created a design for the next 75 years.”

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.

TVA helped finance the project and provided transportation of the team’s model to the national competition.

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


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,