The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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May 7, 2013

Eco-home: Future of building is in Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. — A design plan that incorporates a number of energy-wise and storm-resistant construction systems could put Joplin in the forefront of environmentally sound disaster rebuilding.

That was part of the discussion Tuesday night when volunteers with GreenTown Joplin, its partners and sponsors, city officials, residents and representatives of Springfield’s Drury University gathered for the unveiling of the design plan for the Monarch Eco-Home.

Ten architecture students and two professors from the Hammons School of Architecture at Drury University designed a demonstration house that GreenTown will build in the future. It will serve as a model for the different types of materials and building techniques that can be used to make a building a producer of energy rather than a consumer and at the same time be resistant to storms.

“We want to establish sustainability advocacy across the nation, and Joplin is the first” in the spread of that effort, said Daniel Wallach, executive director of GreenTown. GreenTown was founded in Greensburg, Kan., which was demolished in 2007 by an EF-5 tornado. City leaders decided to build back with green principles, and GreenTown grew out of that effort.

Several eco-homes have been built there to promote green construction, but officials say it’s been difficult to get the movement to take off from there because people hit by disasters want to build back quickly and often do not take the time to learn about sustainable and net-zero technology.

The time may be right to spread the movement because of the number of disasters that have hit the United States in recent years.

“Disaster recovery is a major industry now, and we have to weave sustainability into that,” Wallach said.

The Drury students made numerous trips to Joplin to study buildings and interview people. They also made a field trip to Greensburg as part of their work to learn and incorporate not just energy efficiency but net-zero energy use in a design for the Joplin project, said professor Traci Sooter.

The results?

A two-story modern commercial building with a gable roof that makes it resemble a house. It is designed as a demonstration home with a living room and kitchen in the front, a bed-and-breakfast in the back to entertain guests interested in learning about the construction, and office space for GreenTown on the second floor, said student John Pennekamp.

Little in its concept is traditional.

The building would use about 900 kilowatt-hours of electricity, but with photovoltaic solar panels on the roof it would generate 1,100 kWh, making it possible to sell the excess to the electric company.

Insulated concrete form walls and a concrete floor with radiant heat, combined with passive solar windows and a passive ventilation system to draw in cool air and release hot air, are intended to keep the house comfortable and at net zero in energy use, said student Joshua Warren. Those insulated concrete form walls also make the house storm resistant, able to withstand wind speeds of up to 280 mph, the audience was told.

A rainwater collection system on the roof that directs water into a storage tank underground takes care of flushing bathroom stools.

The cost of building the house has not been estimated yet, but the students said the building materials are all available in or near the Joplin area. A number of the sponsors will donate materials or provide them at cost. Several sponsors have signed on, and more partners are being sought.

“It looks like a great project,” said David McCartney of McCartney Remodeling, a builder who is incorporating some energy saving techniques and materials in a house he is constructing for a Joplin couple. “It’s doing triple duty as a meeting center, bed-and-breakfast, and a showcase of sustainable ideas. I’m very impressed with the students.”

Site discussions

A SITE FOR CONSTRUCTION has not been selected yet, though there are discussions about a lot near South Main Street.

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