By Tara Muck, Springfield News-Leader
Highlandville, MO - At 72,000 square feet, a gigantic private residence being built south of Ozark is stirring plenty of talk -- at home and far way.
Todd Wiesehan, planning and zoning administrator for Christian County, is fielding calls from all over the U.S. about the massive home.
"It's got to the point where it's capturing national attention," he said.
The residence -- called Pensmore -- is being built by Steven Huff, chairman of Wisconsin-based TF Concrete Forming Systems. Huff has family ties in Missouri, Wiesehan said.
It's not clear why Huff is building such a large home -- messages left at his office were not returned -- but a website does try to explain its existence, much to the relief of Wiesehan.
"I'm really happy (about the website)," he said. "They had talked back in March about trying to create a website so they could put some factual information out there."
All the speculation over its sheer size -- once completed, it will be considered one of the largest residential homes in the U.S. -- and the fact that its being made of concrete has caused plenty of rumors to go around, Wiesehan said.
Blueprints submitted in 2007 show the two-story home to include a 23,020-square-foot basement. The main level of the home is said to be 22,882 square feet, while the second story is slightly smaller at 21, 759 square feet.
The home includes two elevators, 13 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, a billiard room, a home theater, a music room, a 1,600-square-foot library and a 4,000-square-foot garage. The master bedroom is 1,274 square feet, while the exercise room is 1,275 square feet, according to the plans.
A building permit shows the cost of materials to be about $6.89 million.
But what some people may not be aware of is that the home is also built to show off new technology created by Huff's company and the Helix corporation.
According to the website -- www.pensmore.com -- the house "represents what we believe will be a practical application of new technologies to bring to life a modern version of the Jeffersonian ideal of the self-sufficient sustainable estate."
Luke Pinkerton, founder of Michigan-based Helix, said his company partnered with Huff and his company to build the home just off Woods Fork Road east of U.S. 65 a few miles south of Christian County EE.
Huff used Pinkerton's steel reinforcement product in the insulated concrete, manufactured and distributed by TF Concrete Forming Systems, to build the concrete home.
The idea was to create a home that uses very low energy, as well as having strong resistance to tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, fire, flood and insect damage, Pinkerton said.
"What we're able to do is develop a home that has very, very good insulating properties for heating and cooling," he said. "It's very robust and strong."
According to the website, "Pensmore is built to protect its inhabitants even in the midst of an F-5 tornado."
Pinkerton said that's the focus of the Helix product.
"What Helix is able to do is provide reinforcement throughout the concrete ... so if a tornado were to hit it, it will keep that concrete together...," he said. "You're building a house that the whole house is in essence a storm shelter."
The partnership of TF Concrete Forming Systems and Helix is to show that a house can have that durability, yet look aesthetically pleasing.
"The beauty of this is that they've got this technology to the point where once the home is finished, you don't even know it's made of concrete," Pinkerton said.
According to the company's website, its new concrete-forming technology adds flexibility to pour super-insulated walls with a product that is lighter, lower in cost and more comprehensive than other forming systems.
"The perception is that wood-frame homes is the only way to build a residential home," Pinkerton said. "... If I was going to build a new home, I don't see any reason why I'd build a wood home. There's no reason to build a wood-frame home. A concrete home just makes sense."
Because the Helix product is poured into concrete, it costs less than using rebar, though it can be used along with rebar for additional reinforcement, he said.
As much attention as the Pensmore home is gaining for its size, the Helix product is also beginning to attract attention, especially after the Joplin tornado.
"We have customers that make storm shelters with Helix, and we've had a lot of increase in calls in that area where all the (storm) damage has been," Pinkerton said.
Pensmore, which is on 500 acres, has been in some stage of construction since 2007, Wiesehan said. He believes it will take another year or two to finish it.