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COMFORT ZONE | Smart Designs for Pleasure and Planet

Newer Deal

"I love being connected to how the day changes," Ken McCown says. "As the light moves, the house picks it up throughout the day. It's fantastic."

Boasting electricity, running water, and homes with modest square footage, the town of Norris was the pinnacle of efficiency when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) built it for its workers in 1933. Now, nearly 80 years later, the University of Tennessee has refined those innovations and added sustainable technologies in a contemporary Norris bungalow.

A student-led team designed and built the New Norris House in collaboration with modular-home builder Clayton Homes. They drew inspiration from the original New Deal-era residences, which were constructed of local stone and cedar and set in a community designed to be walkable and surrounded by open space.

"The TVA brought the new technology of its time to East Tennessee," says Ken McCown, a landscape architecture professor who lives in the house with his wife, Mary Leverance, a graduate student in information sciences. "We're basically re-creating that in the 21st century, except our new technologies are solar hot water, a graywater system, and a rainwater-collection system." The couple, who moved in last July, will live in the house for at least a year, testing out the ecofriendly features while the student team collects data. The house is on track to achieve a LEED platinum certificate.

"We're living with less stuff than before, and we like it, and we're living with less space than before, and we like that too."

The main floor is open and airy, with crisp white walls that highlight floors made of wood reclaimed from barns. It's flooded with natural light, thanks to a picture window in the kitchen, a row of skylights, and an elegant, narrow window between the kitchen counter and upper cabinets.

The couple have had to adapt to living in a 900-square-foot house, about three-quarters the size of their former residence, with a single small bathroom and a dorm-size fridge. They've adjusted their food-shopping habits, but they don't miss the belongings they sold on Craigslist before moving into the smaller space. "We're learning we can be adaptable," Leverance says. "Also, it doesn't take as long to clean."

ON THE WEB For more on the New Norris House, go to thenewnorrishouse.com.
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