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UT project explores realities of eco-conscious living

University of Tennessee students and faculty recently participated in two years of research that is taking shape in the form of a 750-square-foot bungalow on a small lot in Norris.

The research project, known as the New Norris House, combines historic sensibilities with market realities to produce what the university and its corporate partners believe could be a prototypical green home for the future, writes Larissa Brass in a recent News Sentinel piece.

The initiative has received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and endeavors to model not simply the energy efficiency, sustainable materials and reduced environmental footprint expected of green construction - although it features all those things - but also a more eco-conscious way of life, according to Tricia Stuth, assistant professor at UT's College of Architecture and Design and co-lead faculty for the project.

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The home is expected to be completed and ready for public view by next spring. After a year, the house will become a living laboratory for two UT research students who will occupy the home and monitor energy systems as well as the project's impact on the community.

The home is expected to qualify for LEED platinum, the top Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Features of the home include:
 a collection system that allows rainwater to be used for toilets, showers and clothes washing and then recovered and returned to the environment;
 a thermal solar water heater;
 a high-efficiency heat pump;
 ductless heating and cooling;
 and a ventilation system that uses a heat exchanger to recover the heat or cold from the air before releasing outdoors.

Estimates put the total cost of the project at $350,000 to $400,000. Reproducing a similar version of the house would be less costly than the research and development project, but the UT team still is putting together those numbers, Stuth said.

Students also chose to make certain lifestyle decisions such as living without a dishwasher and installing a smaller-than-normal refrigerator to take advantage of energy and space savings in tighter quarters, she said.

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