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GREEN SYSTEMS Revisiting ‘Homes of the Future’


Rainwater system prompts LEED Platinum certification


I 84


n 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) constructed a model community, Norris,


Tennessee, as part of the Norris Dam project. The series of small homes served as the archetype for modern and efficient living in that time period. Over the course of the last two-and-a-half years, 50 University of Tennessee-Knoxville students have been reviving the spirit of the old town by building the new Norris House. “The project began in fall of 2008


to commemorate the TVA’s 75th anniversary and is a 21st century reinterpretation of the original series of Norris homes,” said research specialist and UTK architectural alumnus, Samuel Mortimer. The Norris House is the largest


design/build project ever conducted by UTK students. The home aspires to become one of only seven certified LEED Platinum homes in Tennessee. To accomplish this rating, many factors come together, lending to the project’s resolved focus on sustainability. “As unique and ingenious as the


whole project is, the heart and soul is the Brae rainwater collection system,” said Scott Robinson, owner of Scott’s Plumbing in Knoxville. “About 80 percent of the roof’s


surface area is used to collect rainwater,” said Mortimer. From the roof, the water goes


through a series of pre-filters before entering an above- ground, 400- gallon storage tank. When the “house tank” reaches capacity, overflow runs into a 200-gallon tank below the garden. The garden tank is equipped with a hand pump to supply water to the landscape and a vegetable garden sized to grow enough produce for two people. The average annual rainfall on


campus is 54 inches per year. At that rate, and with the roof area that feeds the catchment tanks, the system collects nearly 21,000 gallons annually. With water saving fixtures, calculations show that, with two inhabitants, annual water use for the home is 16,500 gallons, well below the harvesting system’s capability. According to Robinson, the system


Over the last two-and-a-half years, 50 University of Tennessee-Knoxville students have been building the new Norris House, complete with a plumbing system, reverse osmosis system, greywater distribution system and solar domestic hot water system.


that was installed during the home’s construction — technology supplied by BRAE, a Watts Water Technologies subsidiary — harvests more rainwater than Norris House occupants typically use. Scott’s Plumbing, with the help of the UTK team, also installed portions of the home’s plumbing system, a domestic water solar thermal panel and a greywater distribution system. The way the system is set up, rainfall usually exceeds the use of stored rainwater and simply flows out onto a terraced spillway, watering the gardens. The spillway is made up of five


multilevel flower beds, each containing hearty local plant species.


“Landscape architecture majors helped design the overflow beds,” said Mortimer. “They carefully selected plant species that can not only handle being inundated with water but also thrive in a drought- like condition.” “It’s very important to keep the


greywater from entering the sterile city water,” said Robinson. “The students worked to shed light on the safety of using a greywater distribution system as well as a rain


collection system. The town of Norris was rightfully concerned about greywater entering the landscape.” Since the greywater system is


experimental, both the city of Norris and the design team wanted a fail- safe alternative so, with the flip of a valve, the system can be easily diverted to serve the city sewer. Norris House greywater is


collected from the bathroom sink, shower and washing machine. It is piped underground and enters the landscape through a perforated canister buried in a large bed of mulch and soil. The bed is sized to hold approximately 150 gallons of greywater before saturating and is also planted with native plants that were selected based on anticipated greywater volume. “The UTK team worked closely


with the Tennessee Department of Conservation and the Norris Water Commission to ensure health and safety,” said College of Architecture and Design assistant professor Tricia Stuth. “The city manager worked on ordinance revisions that were ultimately passed by the city council. The building permit allows systems


e Continued on p 86


phc december 2011 www.phcnews.com


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