2012 Community Sustainability Award
Old North Knoxville Restoration, LLC: Laurence M. Eaton of ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division, Lauren T. Rider, and Ernie Roberts
ORNL’s Sustainable Campus Initiative emphasizes sustainability at work, home, and in the community. In that vein, we are pleased to present the third annual ORNL Community Sustainability Award. This award honors an ORNL-based individual or team who is making significant contribution to community sustainability at the local, regional, national, or global level. This year’s winners were selected because of their commitment to moving toward neighborhood sustainability and the success of the activity they initiated.
Specifically, this Community Sustainability Award goes to ORNL’s Laurence M. Eaton, who works in the Environmental Sciences Division, and his Old North Knoxville Restoration, LLC colleagues, Lauren T. Rider and Ernie Roberts, for their exceptional leadership in promoting and implementing the principles of sustainability in our community. Through this team’s initiative, a historical residential structure was renovated to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver specifications. The house became a home for its new owners and contributed to the sustainability of the Old North Knoxville neighborhood in which it is located. Armed with the experience and lessons learned from the project, the team is extending its work to other houses in the neighborhood.
A 2007 fire culminated in the owner's on-and-off efforts to restore the 1910 Victorian cottage in Old North Knoxville. Neighborhood residents had to face the burned out shell when they left in the morning. Asking the city to raze the structure was the next step.
Laurence Eaton, a homeowner in the same neighborhood and a member of the board of the neighborhood association, and four other residents decided to try to save the house. They formed a limited liability corporation, Old North Knoxville Restorations, LLC, found financing, and bought the property in February 2011. Eaton, Lauren Rider, and Ernie Roberts acted as the project managers. Two other neighborhood residents became financial partners in what became known as the "Cornelia Project."
Eaton's team had some admirable goals beyond just saving the house. They wanted to make the house energy efficient, maintain the historic feel, keep within the guidelines for the neighborhood historic overlay, and end up with a house they would be glad to live in and which would attract owners who would be of benefit to the neighborhood.
Eaton suggested restoring the house to meet LEED specifications, the first in the neighborhood. They secured the help of a home energy-efficiency expert and green rater and a construction contractor, who also lived in the neighborhood. There was a learning process, as neither the neighborhood team nor the contractor had experience working with LEED specifications. The house is well-insulated, sealed against infiltration, and equipped with an efficient HVAC system and Energy Star appliances. To be as sustainable as possible, maintain the period look, and deal with the limited budget, the team found many materials in salvage shops and on Craigslist. Stained glass windows and doors salvaged from the president's home at the former Morristown College found a second life as attactive features of the restored house. "Sweat equity" was frequently used to stretch the restoration budget and keep the process on track.
The house was completed in December 2011 and sold to a UT professor and her family. The team is currently completing the application for the LEED silver certification. The DIY television network decided to film part of the work (from insulation to completion) for a five-part series, speading the "historic preservation + sustainability" message beyond the local audience. The construction contractor has received additional work because of his experience with this project.
Eaton says they had three goals for the project: (1) save the house, (2) don't lose money, and (3) make some money. All three of those goals were met. Neighborhood benefits are harder to quantify, but all the residents and home owners benefited from having the burned-out property converted to an attactive, energy-efficient dwelling with new owners. Much of the profit went into improvements on the participants' own houses in the same neighborhood. Armed with the experience and lessons learned from the Cornelia Project, the team is starting work on another neighborhood house. Eaton and his neighbors plan to continue contributing to the sustainability of the neighborhood, one house at a time.