They say that if you want to know your future, you have to look to your past. While that may seem like outdated advice in an age of technological advances and a housing market that is particularly off kilter, a team at the University of Tennessee and Clayton Homes is using a historical building concept to offer a glimpse of what’s to come.

Titled the New Norris House, 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 concept for the project harks back to 1933, when in the depths of the Great Depression, the Tennessee Valley Authority embarked on a New Deal program to build the first planned community in the U.S. Central to that plan was the Norris House, a series of home designs meant to be models for affordable, modern, and efficient living in an area plagued by poverty. At the time, the latest new technology in home building was electricity, and the Norris House project set out to use it to improve lives in the Tennessee Valley.

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