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Green Spotlight: A Dam, A City, And The New Norris House
by Olde Wood

Green Spotlight: A Dam, A City, And The New Norris House

New Deal, New Dam:

When the Great Depression finally began to subside not only had the Tennessee Valley been economically ravaged by the Great Depression, but severe and continual flooding had compounded depression with destruction.

The region finally received the attention it so desperately needed in 1933 when, urged by the tireless efforts of Senator George W. Norris, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act as part of his New Deal. The act created the TVA, and the mission to relieve and modernize the struggling area was underway.

The TVA's first major project was to construct a hydroelectric dam on the Clinch River with the dual purpose of controlling the flooding and generating electricity to modernize the Valley. To honor the efforts of Senator Norris, the dam was named Norris Dam, and an entire city was constructed to house the workers who built it and named Norris, Tennessee.

The City of Norris

The TVA planned, designed, and constructed the city of Norris to be a cooperative, cutting edge, and sustainable community for the workers building the dam. The city pioneered greenbelt design principles, and was built on the ideals of stewardship and innovation for the betterment of society.

The Norris Houses were the first all-electric homes constructed. They were also built with locally sourced stone and lumber, and the entire community was connected by walking paths. The city of Norris was an icon of the New Deal experiment.

The New Norris House

[caption id="attachment_278" align="alignright" width="168"]The completed New Norris House on a snowy Tennessee day. The New Norris House[/caption]

In 2010, under the auspices of the US EPA’s People, Prosperity, and Planet student competition, a multi-disciplinary group led by The College of Architecture and Design at The University of Tennessee decided to see what would happen if the Norris experiment were revisited, and the tenants of stewardship, innovation, and sustainability were re-applied to housing design today.

The result of this bold sustainable design experiment is the New Norris House. Sitting on the lot of an original Norris home, the house and its engineered ecosystem reduce energy consumption, carbon emission, and water use to a fraction of that of the average modern home.

In addition to being a masterpiece of compact design, the house features reclaimed building materials, a rain water collection system, and high-efficiency mechanical systems. The house has received the LEED Platinum Certification--the U.S. Green Building Council's highest level of sustainable achievement.

The New Norris House is a stunning example of how true green practice must go far beyond just doing our recycling. The building materials we use, the way we design our structures and their surrounding environments, and even the way we think about our interaction with the spaces we live in are all opportunities to make (or reduce) an impact.