TOWNSEND, Tenn. (WATE) — A $250,000 award has been granted to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont to help them build a second campus.

The award came from the Tennessee Valley Authority‘s Connected Communities Pilot Program. Tremont said the funds will be used to complete an engineering design to redesign a house into “a regenerative education center.” This center is the first phase of its second campus project.

“Tremont’s new education center is going to be unlike anything that we’ve seen in our region,” said John Thurman, principal with McCarty Holsaple McCarty. “The net-positive energy systems and place-based, equitable design is going to make this a place where anyone feels invited to connect with nature and imagine a bright and beautiful future.”

TVA’s Connected Communities Pilot Program offers funds for solutions that create long-term improvements in expanding access to “services through broadband and online platforms, promoting economic empowerment for the Valley workforce, and/or advancing energy and environmental justice in communities throughout the Valley.”

“Connecting sustainable buildings to the natural world is a novel approach for addressing the inequities in energy and environment,” said Georgia Caruthers, senior program manager of the TVA Connected Communities initiative. “TVA is proud to help contribute to an education center that includes technology-driven solutions and honored to support experiential learning that will positively impact the economy, workforce development and education.”

Tremont shared that the second campus will be built to meet the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge. This is a framework of rigorous building standards that includes clean energy goals, sustainable building practices and a positive impact on the surrounding community. The education center is hoping to become the first retrofitted Living Building Challenge building in the TVA region.

Following a competitive selection process, Knoxville-based McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects was chosen by Tremont to be their partner firm for the first phase of the project. The firm will work closely with Hennebery Eddy, an architecture and planning firm with offices in Oregon and Montana. This firm has completed several projects that meet the Living Building Challenge standards, as well as several National Park Service projects.

“We’re so excited to kick off the first phase of our second campus,” said Catey McClary, president and CEO at Tremont. “This is a step toward a future we want to see for Tremont, for East Tennessee, and for our world.”

Tremont is an environmental education center located inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The nonprofit offers immersive programs for children and adults to help them connect with others and nature.

The second campus will allow more programs to be offered as well as demonstrate sustainability and equity efforts.