But project managers wanted to allow homeowners to recreate this set-up for their own houses, so all materials that were used in construction are commercially available technologies. Furthermore, members of the project think that such investments are now more affordable for residents than ever before, lending credence to their hope of potential Norris community rebuilding. The New Norris project received a few donations and discounts for some of the equipment that was installed. Though they do not currently know the total cost of the project, researchers estimate that the cost for purchasing the donated equipment – such as the rain water system, solar hot-water equipment, and energy recovery ventilator – ranges from $8,000 to $15,000.
It should be noted, however, that this price range only takes into account the in-store price of purchasing these technologies, not the cost of labor or the other measures – increased insulation, for example – that were taken to make the New Norris House more efficient. While initial purchase of these technologies is quantifiable, we will have to wait until the project’s team gathers enough data on their building’s energy use, water flow rates, daylight and air quality, resource use, and other key factors before we can know what the overall operating costs of the house will look like.
The New Norris House is currently the home of a university couple that fit the target market for future Norris residents: families with active, involved lifestyles interested in living away from city lights. The wife, a distance-education MA student at UT, and the husband, Chair of the Landscape Architecture Program at UTK, have been able to make the switch from downtown living to rural homestead without sacrificing their previous lifestyles or professions.
These two residents are only consuming about 500 kWh a month, which, according to the US Energy Information Administration, is less than half of the 1,250 average kWh electricity consumption by residential utility customers in Tennessee. Though the house, at less than 800 square feet on the interior, is a third of the size of the average home in our area in East Tennessee, the small nature of the home is not the reason for their low energy usage. While a single occupant consumes, on average, about 12 kWh of residential electricity per day, each resident in this house is only using about 8 kWh a day, a 33% reduction.
Supporters of the New Norris House want to bring local economies together with global functioning, and believe that there can be “a middle ground where a new type of strengthened local economy becomes possible precisely because of the products and technologies resulting from the previously destructive forces of globalization”. Essentially, the hope is that other residents of the Knoxville and nearby areas will see the ease with which this couple has adapted, and realize that this house and this community can offer residents the ability to be active members of society and live normal and more sustainable lives in a smaller, more picturesque setting.
Special thanks to Samuel Mortimer, a post-master’s graduate from UT’s architecture program, who took the time to meet with me and share details about the project and the group’s success. Samuel has done a significant amount of work with this project over the last couple years, and has stayed on as Project Coordinator since graduation to finish the application process for LEED Certification. To learn more information, and to stay updated on the future of this project, you can contact members of the New Norris House project, or follow the couple’s New Norris blog.