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New Norris House

Knoxville—With the cut of green ribbon, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, marked the opening of the New Norris House, a nationally recognized model for efficient and sustainable living.

The UT student-led team has worked for more than three years to bring the concept, first conceived in a classroom, to the modern and appealing 750-square-foot structure.

The original Norris houses, first built in 1933, are the centerpiece of the progressive, planned community. The affordable and efficient design is one of many innovations that stemmed from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Norris Dam project.

More than seventy-eight years later, many environmental and economic challenges make the need for affordable and sustainable housing even more vital to our nation, said Tricia Stuth, associate professor of architecture and project manager.

“The New Norris House is a prototype for green living and a twenty-first century take on the original homes, which were revolutionary for their time,” Stuth explained. “We are grateful for the continued support. It gave us the opportunity to integrate new materials and the latest developments in building systems, ventilation, electric and solar energy, plumbing, and lighting.”

Watch the video below for a guided tour of the house.


Last year, Clayton Homes worked with the team to design and manufacture a pre-fabricated base of the house. Many additional partners contributed their resources and knowledge.

“Throughout this entire process, we are gaining knowledge that will benefit everyone and get us closer to making sustainable homes more affordable and within the reach of the consumer,” Stuth said.

The project is led by the UT College of Architecture and Design, and its primary participants are the UT Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment, the College of Engineering, and the Department of Environmental Studies.

“One of the hallmarks of a contemporary research university is making an impact beyond its boundaries and the New Norris House is a shining example,” said Architecture and Design Dean Scott Poole. “The New Norris House bridges the sciences and the humanities. It is a laboratory equipped for scientific research, testing, and teaching, and at the same time it functions as a home for people to live, work, and flourish in.”

The house is now home to a UT couple: landscape architecture professor Ken McCown and information science graduate student Mary Leverance. For the next year, it is also 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 greywater. The couple will provide feedback about what it is like to live in the home and blog about their experiences at

The New Norris House will also be a source of education and information-sharing and will be used for tours and accreditation workshops for professionals and organizations, including the US Green Building Council.

Samuel Mortimer, a 2010 UT architecture graduate and now the project’s research associate, has invested many hours to ensure the house is a welcomed asset to the historic community.

“Our goal was to show how a piece of modern, sustainable architecture can be respectfully and successfully integrated into this sensitive historical fabric,” Mortimer said. “We are all very proud of the result and appreciative of everyone who helped.”

Loy Johnson, a member of the Norris City Council, said the house is a welcome addition to the town’s rich history.

“It has been a tremendous pleasure to have had the UT students and staff as part of our extended community for the past twenty-four months,” Johnson said. “It has certainly established a sense of cooperation and friendship with the UT community that we hope will continue beyond this single undertaking.”

The New Norris House will seek LEED-platinum certification from the United States Green Building Council, which will make it just the seventh LEED-platinum home in Tennessee and the first LEED-platinum project for UT Knoxville.

In addition to the Town of Norris and the Clayton Homes Foundation, many philanthropic, business, and industry partners contributed, including the UT Alliance for Women Philanthropists, Johnson & Gaylon Inc. contractors, General Shale Brick, TVA, and the EPA. Community members Jeff and Regina Merritt, who are active in renovating other historic Norris homes, helped facilitate the university’s acquisition of the home site.

The New Norris design won a top Environmental Protection Agency award in 2009. The National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) gave the project the 2011 Prize for Creative Integration of Practice and Education.

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