Back in May after a particularly destructive twister all but wiped the small Missouri town of Joplin off of the map, I blogged about the feasibility of tornado-proof homes. As it turns out, while not impossible to build, a home designed to deflect projectiles being hurled through the air at 250 miles per hour doesn’t come cheap, as fastidiously engineered dwellings with “missile-resistant” doors, walls, windows and roofs can bump construction costs up at least 20 percent compared to “normal” homes.


And then there’s Steven Huff. As reported by the Springfield News-Leader, the chairman of Wisconsin-based TF Concrete Forming Systems is erecting the storm shelter to end all storm shelters: Pensmore, a 72,000-square-foot aboveground concrete (natch) bunker located about 30 miles north of Ozarkian retiree magnet/dinner theatre hotspot Branson in rural Christian County, Mo.
At 72,000 square feet, Pensmore is about 15,000 square feet larger than Candy Spelling’s just-sold-for-$85 million shack in Holmby Hills. It's also larger than the White House (55,000 square feet), Hearst Castle (60,645 square feet), and Bill Gates' Lake Washington estate (66,000 square feet). 


Once you wrap your head around the sheer size of the Midwest concrete barron’s new digs — Gawker notes that the normally the only things “72,000 square feet in size, made primarily of concrete, and tucked away in a rural mountainous areas” are state penitentiaries — consider this: Huff is not only building his massive country estate to be tornado-proof — the home can “protect its inhabitants even in the midst of an F-5 tornado” according to the Pensmore website — but to be extremely eco-friendly as well.



Can a 72,000-square-foot “residential chateau” with a 4,000-square-foot garage, 13 bedrooms and two elevators even be eco-friendly? Huff seems to think so.
With rainwater collection systems, solar thermal heat collectors, “advanced climate control software,” a super-insulated energy-storing concrete shell, and other eco bells and whistles, Huff and the home’s designers fancy Pensmore “a modern, practical implementation of the Jeffersonian concept of independence and sustainability.” Additionally, the home is described as “a laboratory for exploring different methods of creating and storing usable energy that can be applied on a broad scale across commercial and residential structures.” 


Aside from the innovative sustainable technologies integrated into the concrete behemoth's design, Huff believes his home’s greenest attribute to be its durability. Reads the Pensmore website: “Designed to endure for centuries, the chateau will leave a minimum impact on the environment while other structures are built, demolished and built again and again.”


Head over to the Springfield News-Leader to see construction photos and to learn more about this massive project that, along with news of a dead body found in a Wal-Mart parking lot, is the talk of the town in the Springfield/Ozark/Branson region (probably much to the chagrin of overwhelmed-with-phone-calls Todd Wiesehan, the planning and zoning administrator for Christian County).


Although I can certainly appreciate Pensmore’s numerous green features as detailed on the project website, I’m unclear as to why the home has to be 72,000 square feet. I mean, really ... 72,000 square feet? And I know I’ve asked this question several times before but I’ll ask it again: Do you think a home of such substantial size can truly be labeled as green? 

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Colossal concrete eco-estate under construction in the Ozarks
A concrete kingpin is behind an energy-efficient 'residential chateau' in rural Missouri that's built to withstand an F-5 tornado. And then there's this not-so-