- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - Ramona and Charles “Hugh” Shields were not the least bit reluctant on a recent Monday to open their new house in the tornado zone to a bunch of strangers who had a lot of questions.

“I used to live in a house where I had to wear two pairs of socks in the winter to keep my feet warm - not anymore,” said Ramona Shields. “This house is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer.”

They’re getting that comfort because they chose to use their insurance-settlement money from the tornado to build an energy-efficient home.

On May 12, their home and Advanced Orthotics and Prosthetics, located on the city’s south side, were showcased in a green rebuilding tour.

On hand for the tour were Joplin Mayor Michael Seibert and Mayor Bob Dixson, of Greensburg, Kansas, which was leveled by a tornado in May 2007. The tour was organized by GreenTown Joplin, a project of Greensburg GreenTown, a nonprofit organization that has helped Greensburg rebuild an energy-efficient community. GreenTown staff have been working in Joplin since August 2011.

“This is about relationships,” said Dixson. “In this relationship, we are about three to four years ahead of you in green rebuilding, but what Joplin has done, so far, is tremendous.

“You’re doing it by example. You can see what being green and energy efficient is like in this home. It’s wonderful.”

Said Seibert: “We’re sharing information about rebuilding green. The more information we can pass on to our residents the better it will be for them, especially if they are living on fixed incomes and we can show them how they can be in better control of their energy costs.”

The Shields home has R-60 insulation in the attic and R-35 insulation in the walls. Big windows have been placed on the south side of the house to capture sunlight for heating in the summer. The home is so energy efficient that the Shieldses rarely use their heating system. They have a small wood-burning stove to help out when things get really cold outside.

“The way this has been designed we get very little sunlight through those windows in the summer, but we get all of it in the winter,” Ramona Shields said.

The house is anchored by a concrete safe room that serves as a closet.

Their three-bedroom, 1,700-square-foot home cost about 5 to 15 percent extra upfront to build, but those costs will pay for themselves in short order, said Hugh Shields.

“We figure it’s about $2 a day in savings,” he said. “We think that within five years or so we will be able to make up what we spent upfront as expenses.”

Rain that falls on the house is captured in a cistern for use in their yard. Their water is preheated by a solar system. Their house has been wired for solar panels.

“We have all of the electrical set up,” Ramona Shields said. “It’s so cost effective. It is in our future. We just knew we wanted to live more efficiently. We have nine grandchildren. What kind of earth will they inherit?”

Russell Hopper, executive director of the MARET Center, Missouri’s renewable energy education center at Crowder College in Neosho, brought to the tour examples of the wood-covered polystyrene panels that were used to construct the house. He also brought an example of an efficient window design.

“What I like about this polystyrene is that, unlike Styrofoam, it is almost fireproof,” he said.

A different system that uses 6 inches of concrete and 5 inches of Styrofoam was used in the construction of Advanced Orthotics and Prosthetics, which is owned by Frank and Valerie Ikerd. The building attains an R-40 to R-50 insulation factor.

Their new office building is designed to withstand winds of 200 mph.

One energy-saving feature is a water heater that has a timer on it. It only heats water during business hours.

“We lost everything in the tornado,” Ikerd said. “For us, it was symbolic to come back bigger and better here at the focal point of the tornado. We wanted to build as green a building as we could.”

Ikerd said he thinks they can recover their green expenses in five to 10 years in energy savings, alone.

Like the Shields home, the business has been pre-wired for solar panels in the future.

A spokeswoman for GreenTown Joplin said the Shields home and Advanced Orthotics and Prosthetics are just two examples of Joplin residents “consciously deciding to build sustainably, both to withstand extreme weather events and significantly reduce their energy bills and reliance on fossil fuels.”

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Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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