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University of Tennessee project tests best and brightest ideas for future homes


Now here’s a project to get you excited about the future of home building.

Students at the University of Tennessee have paired with manufacturer Clayton Homes to build the New Norris House, a real-life testing ground for the next generation of builders. According to

…The project acts as a living lab for energy-efficient and green concepts and systems, employing everything from a super insulated shell to a multi-split heating and cooling system to see what it takes to build — as well as live in — a super-efficient home.

The building team has pulled out all the stops in creating the most energy efficient home possible. It’s not the cheapest prototype, but the New Norris House is all about experimentation and thinking big. Some of its features include 2×6 advanced framing, a 17 percent lumber reduction to reduce thermal breaks, an active rainwater system connected to the toilets, washing machine and external house and a solar energy system, which heats the water. Then there’s the Mitsubishi multi-split air-source heat pump that uses refrigerant lines throughout the house to heat and cool, meaning the New Norris House is completely free of ducts.

Beginning with a modular shell from Clayton Homes, which worked closely with the students to develop the design, the home is as highly insulated as you might expect such a project to be. Using 2×6 advanced framing, the team reduced lumber use by 17 percent to reduce thermal breaks and replaced the wood with a 17 percent increase in insulation. An active rainwater system is used to operate the toilets, washing machine, and an external hose. The home’s water is heated by a solar system, that is backed up by electricity. And the home is heated and cooled by a Mitsubishi multi-split air-source heat pump that uses refrigerant lines that run through the walls and under the house, but that does not require ducts.

Over the course of a year, the New Norris House is occupied by Ken McCown, chair of the Landscape Architecture program at Tennessee, and Mary Leverance, a graduate student who’s completing courses online while working part-time. The couple are keeping a blog of their experiences to capture life inside the futuristic home.

[photo by Ken McCown]