The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 27, 2012

Organization, donors to construct ‘green’ project

By Debby Woodin

JOPLIN, Mo. — A faith-based organization that was among the first to bring help to Joplin residents after the May 22 tornado is back at work, leading a project to build “green” homes for some storm survivors with donations in a public-private collaboration that might set the future direction of green building after disasters.

These will not be traditional frame houses, said Jeff Nene, senior director of public relations for Convoy of Hope. These houses will be built with insulated concrete forms, an energy-saving, wind-resistant building application. The project combines donations to the organization with corporate contributions and government resources to pay for construction.

Nene said it is a demonstration project, of sorts, for what is termed “resilient construction” that may guide future efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to encourage the construction of high-tech, low-energy building methods.

Convoy of Hope will start with six houses and intends to build at least 12 in Joplin. Nene said a number of donations are helping seed the project. Materials from TF Concrete Forming Systems will be used to build vertical insulated walls that are filled with concrete. Three of the houses will be paid for by Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton. Other resources will include corporate donations of drywall and siding. Those who are to receive the houses will provide any money they received from FEMA if they were not insured.

Expenses not covered by donations will be paid from a $1 million Extreme Hope fund that holds donations sent to Convoy of Hope to benefit tornado survivors as a result of the Joplin segment of the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” television show.

Convoy of Hope would like to build more than 12 houses if the resources stretch. “Every bit we get donated helps us to do that much more,” Nene said.

Helen Owen, a retired baby sitter, is more than ready to get a roof of her own back at 2528 S. Bird Ave., where a groundbreaking ceremony was held Monday to announce the project.

“I’m anxious,” said Owen, who has been staying with a friend since her house was destroyed by the tornado. She was driving home from the Joplin High School graduation ceremony the day of the twister or she would have been at ground zero of the devastating storm.

Her 51-year-old son, Mike, was at her house and ran to the bathroom to take cover.

She said she hopes that other tornado survivors, particularly young people with children who are living in cramped temporary quarters, will find help like she has been fortunate to receive. “I feel lucky. I really do,” she said. “I lost everything, but at least I didn’t lose my son.”

Owen, and the others, are to get houses of about 1,150 square feet on the lots where they lost their own houses.

Contractor George E. Van Hoesen of Global Green Building near Springfield will lead the construction work. He said the energy savings from the ICF construction will cut the homeowners’ utility bills in half.

That will be a help to Mary Hazelbaker, an 85-year-old retired nurse who said her natural gas bill on the level-pay program was costing $200 a month.

“I really will be glad when I get in my house,” Hazelbaker said. She is living now in a mobile home provided by FEMA and said a new house will be roomier than the mobile home where she is staying. She also would have been in the eye of the storm when it hit, but she had gone to church that evening.

Energy savings is one of the features that Doug Keeney, an unemployed construction worker, is looking forward to having. He said that in his former home at 24th Street and Virginia Avenue, his gas bill cost $85 a month, and that he kept it as low as he could by setting the thermostat at 60 degrees and wearing layers of clothes.

Van Hoesen said the construction cost of an ICF house is on average about 5 percent higher than that of a traditional building, about $78 a square foot versus $68 to $75 for traditional construction. “But for people on a fixed income, it makes a lot of sense for the energy savings,” which will make up for the increased construction cost, he said.

“Hopefully this assistance will help these families get back on their feet and return to a more normal life,” Mayor Mike Woolston said at Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the project.

Convoy of Hope

CONVOY OF HOPE says it formed in 1994 in response to a flood in Texas. It is a faith-based organization that provides food to children throughout the world as well as responding to disasters with supplies and other forms of assistance.

IT HAS HELPED more than 50 million people in 100 countries, and has given away $254 million worth of food and supplies.