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EPA's Sustainable Design Competition Winner - University of Tennessee Knoxville

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MUSIC: “Science Works” theme music

LACAPRA: Welcome to EPA’s “Science Works,” a podcast about how the EPA uses science to meet its mission to protect your health and environment. From “Science Works” at EPA, I’m Véronique LaCapra.

In this podcast, we’ll meet one of the winning teams from this year’s P3 student design competition. P3 stands for people, prosperity and the planet, and students from any U.S. college or university can participate. EPA sponsors the competition to challenge students to work together in interdisciplinary teams, to design and build sustainable technologies that improve quality of life, promote economic development, and protect the environment.

This team from the University of Tennessee - Knoxville based their project in the community of Norris, Tennessee. The Tennessee Valley Authority – or TVA - built Norris in 1933 to house the families of workers building the nearby Norris Dam. The town of Norris was intended to be a model “New Deal” community, including some of the first homes in the area with electricity. Team member Bethany Wild describes the TVA’s original plans for Norris:

WILD: “They wanted to make it a sustainable, energy-efficient town. The houses are really small, but they’re energy efficient, and they have walking paths throughout the community to encourage people to walk, and they have shared garages, which was kind of unique, because not that many people needed cars back then.”

LACAPRA: Taking their inspiration from the original Norris homes, the P3 team developed a design for a “New Norris House” – a sustainable home for the 21st century. The team says the house will be built from environmentally-friendly construction materials, and will include many state-of-the art environmental technologies. Graduate student Ramune Morales says it will also be adaptable:

MORALES: “The house incorporates three stages, you have a basic unit which is 450 square feet, that can be expanded over time, as your needs change […] So you start as a small home for one or two, and if your family grows you can add on, and it’s designed to be easily upgraded.”

LACAPRA: Team member Samuel Mortimer says the residents of Norris have expressed a lot of support for the sustainable housing plan.

MORTIMER: “One of the strongest aspects of the project is the community involvement that we’ve received and that we’ve really been actively participating in through physical, you know, kind of meetings face to face with them, touring their homes, we’ve been blogging and connected online […] We’ve developed a great working relationship, and they very much want to see this project move forward as much as we do.”

LACAPRA: I caught up with the University of Tennessee students again at the P3 awards ceremony, where EPA Acting Science Advisor Kevin Teichman announced the winning teams:

TEICHMAN: “Our fifth P3 award goes to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, for The New Norris House: A Sustainable Home for the 21st Century.” [APPLAUSE]

LACAPRA: Graduate student Tom Herbert expressed his reaction to receiving the award:

HERBERT: “I think it’s a – it’s an honor, it says a lot about the work we put in, it says a lot about the community involvement, and I think it’s – it’s just wonderful overall.”

LACAPRA: The team plans to use the award money to help build the first of their New Norris Homes. You can learn more about the project on our website, at epa.gov/P3.

MUSIC: “Science Works” theme music

LACAPRA: Thanks for listening to “Science Works,” a podcast series produced by EPA’s Office of Research and Development. Please check back again soon for our next program, at epa.gov/ncer.

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