In Christian County, Missouri, the nation’s largest single-family home is currently under construction. According to KSPR 33, the home — known as Pensmore — is being built by the relatives of a prominent defense contractor, and seeks to integrate cutting-edge green technologies with one of the world’s oldest building materials: concrete.
The home’s builders report that it encompasses 72,000 square feet, which makes it about a quarter larger than the Obama family’s little bungalow in Washington, D.C. How do you heat and cool such a monstrosity in an energy efficient way? By reportedly exploiting the “vast energy storage potential of its steel reinforced TransForm concrete shell,” of course. While most solar heat collectors can only use so much of the heat they harvest, according the Pensmore website, the home’s newly-developed technologies allow it to store millions of BTUs of thermal energy while the sun shines, and then slowly release this heat at night and during cloudy days.
In addition to its concrete shell, Pensmore will make use of solar thermal heat collectors, a geothermal ground source heat exchanger, radiant heating and cooling, advanced climate control software, rainwater collection, and helix steel fibers. Efforts will also be made to minimize total life-cycle costs through low and zero-maintenance materials and reduced use of non-renewable products during construction.
Inspired by Roman concrete structures over two thousand years old and still standing, Pensmore’s builders envision it enduring for centuries — with minimum impact on the environment, despite its gargantuan size — while other structures rise and fall. Still, can a house this big really be green, regardless of the technologies used in it? It is very hard to say, but the efforts underway here further underscore the idea that energy efficiency might be a status buy for many.