UPLOAD: The New Norris House – A Sustainable Home for the 21st Century

EPA Grant Number: SU834369
Title: UPLOAD: The New Norris House – A Sustainable Home for the 21st Century
Investigators: Stuth, Tricia , Ezzell, Tim , Wilt, Catherine
Institution: University of Tennessee - Knoxville
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: II
Project Period: August 15, 2009 through August 14, 2011
Project Amount: $75,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2009) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability


In 1933 the Tennessee Valley Authority constructed a model community, Norris, Tennessee, as part of the Norris Dam construction project. A key feature of this New Deal village was the Norris House, a series of home designs built as models for modern, efficient, and sustainable living.  In light of the 75th anniversary of the Norris Project, we are reinterpreting the Norris paradigm and creating a New Norris House - a sustainable home designed for the 21st century.

As with the original Norris designs, the home created in this project will use state of the art technologies and techniques. The structure incorporates green materials and involves off-site construction.  Yet the challenge goes beyond the creation of a model home design. The structure also addresses many of the community and legal constraints that currently deter sustainable home construction. The student design must be an affordable home buildable in the current city of Norris. To accomplish this, students will consult with community residents, work with local codes, and produce a structure that is compatible with the town’s National Register Historic District.  In doing so, the students will confront and resolve not only technological or scientific challenges; they will also have to resolve the legal, social, and aesthetic issues that currently restrict green construction.

Demonstration and education are central to the project. Following Phase I, a large-scale model and associated media will be displayed in a number of regional venues via university and TVA channels.  Key to the demonstration strategy is the construction of a home – for visitation by current and potential Norris residents and the greater public - that offers a model of how issues of growth and land and resource use might be addressed.  The project will provide potential homebuyers, homebuilders and developers with a case study for how the Town of Norris (and with modification, similar towns) might achieve the multiple goals of environmental, historical, cultural, and economic stewardship within this unique community.  

Participating students will gain skills and abilities that are acutely needed at this time – the ability to work in an interdisciplinary group, insights into how environmental and cultural strategies are embedded into design, in-depth knowledge of alternative construction delivery methods, and the challenges and constraints associated with sustainable development.  This will be a highly visible project that will engage university and community participants.  Students will promote the project and project progress through a website and interactive blog.  The project will be evaluated using a wide range of performance and project indicators through student analysis and evaluation and visitor comments.


The design and construction of a replicable, sustainable home based on original Norris concepts.


Students will refine the Phase I design in consultation with Norris residents and government bodies to ensure the project meets or exceeds local building standards, regulatory requirements, and spatial needs and aspirations.  Contemporary materials and methods of construction will be researched and applied to the design, detailing and construction of building, landscape and systems.  Passive and active systems will be researched, modeled and evaluated, and integrated in the final construction.

Expected Results:

The project will result in a built and replicable home design, compatible with community constraints and able to be visited by the public.  Due to the nature of the project, the quantifiable and qualitative benefits will be assessed following construction and inhabitation of the home.  The team anticipates conducting a study on the effectiveness of the design, its systems and the quality of the environment by allowing a graduate student to live in the home in exchange for documentation and data collection.

Supplemental Keywords:

Built environment, green building, architectural design, contemporary housing in historic communities, sustainable urban planning, environmental planning, environmental policy, decision making, energy efficiency,

Relevant Websites:

Phase 1 Abstract
Phase 1 Final Report

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2010
  • Final

  • P3 Phase I:

    The New Norris House: A Sustainable Home for the 21st Century  | Final Report