Monday, April 7, 2014

Norris Dam State Park Spring Wildflowers

One of the best aspects of living in Norris is being so close to Norris Dam State Park -- it takes less than ten minutes to drive to the dam from the New Norris House. And although I haven’t tried it, you can walk from the community path on our property to the community center and get on the Norris Watershed Trail System which links to the state park’s trails. 

Map from Outdoor Knoxville

I’ve spent many evenings exploring the meadows along the Song Bird Trail below the dam and hiking around the historic mill on Clear Creek. The Andrews Ridge trail system has views of the lake and is ideal for trail running, but my favorite place to explore is the River Bluff Trail on the west side of the Clinch River just below the dam. In just 3.1 miles, the trail passes through several plant communities as it climbs and descends the ridge across north, east, and south facing slopes. The many microclimates found along the trail are home to an impressive variety of spring wildflowers. The park even hosts wildflower walks every year around this time. 

Here are a few examples of the many wildflowers you can see along the River Bluff Trail this time of year:
Cutleaf Toothwort, Dentaria laciniata

Yellow Trillium, Trillium luteum 
Strange flowers of the Little Brown Jug plant, Hexastylis arifolia

Fernleaf Phacelia, Phacelia bipinnatifida

Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum
Not sure the species of this fern as its fronds were just unfurling from their winter sleep!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Olde Wood Limited Article

Check out coverage from our new friends at Olde Wood Limited below!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Greywater and Rain Water Systems Tour for State and Local Officials

Last month a group of state and local environmental officials visited the New Norris House to learn about the results of our ongoing data collection. Members of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the Norris Water Commission (NWC) attended the tour led by Profs. Tricia Stuth, Dr. John Buchanan, and Valerie Friedmann.

During the tour we highlighted several of the water quality and quantity benchmarks we have been able to achieve such as a 61% reduction in city water use compared to the average US home and the on-site infiltration of almost 24,000 gallons of greywater in one year. The members of TDEC and the NWC were particularly interested in the implications of the greywater infiltration bed. Dr. Buchanan of UT's College of Biosystems Engineering summarized the impacts of such on-site greywater treatment:

"We want to separate people from their waste water, and we've been doing a good job of that. But if we can be more sustainable by putting water back in the landscape so it can recharge the ground water and not focus so much water at a point discharge or waste water treatment plant, then it's much more sustainable. Much more doable over the long term."

Members from TDEC and the NWC were quick to point out that many communities in the region are experiencing strain on their waste water infrastructure due to aging pipes. Practices such as on-site infiltration at the individual or neighborhood scale could help alleviate these strains. However, there are many challenges to implementing distributed treatment facilities. One challenge is the region's topography. Many of our developed areas, including the site of the New Norris House, are located on hilly terrain. We used a terraced bed approach to provide a level area for infiltration.

Terraces were constructed to provide level areas on the existing 25% slope
Another challenge is the regulatory process. We worked with both State and City of Norris officials through the entire process of designing, building, and monitoring the greywater bed. At the state level we have a permit for an experimental greywater treatment bed that expires when we sell the home. To be permissible in the City of Norris, the NWC revised the water and sewer code to allow for greywater treatment for a trial period.
Groups involved in permitting and building the rainwater and greywater systems
Pages from the City of Norris Codes with revisions for the New Norris House experimental greywater bed
It will be interesting to see what happens to both the rainwater harvesting and greywater infiltration systems with the auction of the home in the coming months. Stay tuned for updates!

Monday, August 12, 2013

One year in Norris

This month marks one year for me as a resident at the New Norris House. As a previous resident of various apartments near the center of Knoxville, one of the most interesting aspects of living in Norris has been the increase in time I’ve spent outdoors and the animals I’ve happily encountered along the way.

One frequent visitor is the brown snake. I’ve seen several of these (or maybe it is the same one?) around the landscape this summer. They are friendly snakes and don’t mind to be picked up and relocated away from the main walkways to the terraced gardens.

Brown snake, Storeia dekayi
While weeding the perennial bed this nest of small eggs was discovered. I had noticed several dozen juvenile five-lined skinks in the area. A little online research indicates that these are five-lined skink eggs.
Five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) nest

A juvenile skink found nearby sunning on top of the retaining wall.
Everyday, hundreds of bees, flies, dragonflies, and butterflies visit the rainwater and greywater beds and the meadows and perennial beds. The black-eyed susan’s and purple coneflowers are a favorite as well as the nodding onions and the passionflower vines, which are frequented by big, buzzing bumblebees.

The animals seen on a regular basis in the New Norris House landscape are not rare or threatened in East Tennessee, but every time I see one of them it brings a sense of joy and wonder to my day. However, it seems that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find these animals in many urban and suburban residential yards. Additionally, there is a growing body of research indicating that humans, especially young people, are not spending enough time outside engaged with plants and animals.

Fortunately, landscape methods, such as pesticide-free gardening with native plants and establishing small patches of native grass meadows as a lawn alternative, can create habitat for these and other species in urban and suburban yards. Native plantings are easier to care for than many non-natives because natives have evolved defenses against local predators and adaptations to thrive under local weather patterns. The reason native plants attract so many beneficial species of wildlife is also because they evolved together – with the plants providing food and shelter in return for species-specific relationships with the animals that pollinate or spread their seeds.

The New Norris House landscape is an example of how alive a suburban residential yard can feel.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A New Norris House and Brooks+Scarpa

The New Norris House team is in Denver this week to receive the Committee on the Environment's Top-10 Green Award.

Saturday morning fellow Top-10 winners Brooks + Scarpa will sit down with the NNH team and representatives from the AIA to discuss their two winning residential projects. A part of this discussion, a brief article was published today giving a short background on both projects.

Check it out!

(image by Ken McCown)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top-10 Green Award

We are very excited to share that the New Norris House Project has been named by the AIA's Committee on the Environment (COTE) as one of the Top-10 Green projects of 2013! This award is one of the most prestigious in architecture in the US, and recognizes “exemplary and innovative built projects that establish a standard of  excellence in sustainable design, demonstrate its benefits, and educate both the profession and the public.”

This is enormous honor would not be possible without the tireless efforts all those involved!

Check out the variety of coverage below:

From Wired:
"These features are being seamlessly integrated into the design and not being treated like gizmos," says Hosey. "They don't jump out because they're being folded into the design." An example of that is the New Norris House which was constructed from wood reclaimed from a hundred-year-old barn and fitted out with super efficient heating systems, but just looks like a modern home, which might be the biggest win green design has enjoyed so far."

AIA COTE Jury Comments:
"One of the things we appreciate about this little house was that it was one of the few projects that really looked at the manufacturing process holistically and actually how a residence could be delivered on site in a really economical way and in a way that conserved energy. We appreciated the prefabrication dimension and also the historical references to the older Norris houses in the site that surrounds it. This type of residence could be replicable so it could have a far greater influence than just a single house."

"It’s a house that performs pretty well and is pretty affordable and solves some of the combinations of problems we are looking at with regard to affordable housing."

Thanks for your interest!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Auction of Home Approaching

The New Norris House was completed in August 2010 and since that time has been the site of a 2-year evaluation and research period. At the conclusion of this study during the Fall of 2013, the University of Tennessee will sell the New Norris House at auction. All proceeds from this process will feed directly back into the College of Architecture and Design’s Design Build Evaluate Initiative, providing seed-funding for future projects such as the New Norris House.

More information will be posted soon, but to indicate your interest in this process, please provide your contact information below, or shoot us an email at We would be happy to discuss these details further with any interested parties. Thanks for your interest!