With this Summer’s brutal heat (here and everywhere), Hurricane Irene, the Texas wildfires, and other weird weather events, your memory of the Good Friday tornado may already be sketchy. Marlon and Sharita Donald, and their two young sons, wake up to a reminder of it every day: they’ve been living with family members since the tornado destroyed their home in Bellefontaine Neighbors. If that weren’t stressful enough, the Donalds discovered afterwards that they were underinsured… so rebuilding the same home, in terms of either space, quality, or both, seemed impossible.
Up to this point, this isn’t a particularly unusual story; after Marlon connected with Kim Hibbs at custom homebuilder Hibbs Homes, though, the Donalds’ situation changed dramatically. Kim decided not to take the usual course of action in this situation – rebuild whatever he could with the insurance settlement. Rather, according the company blog, “he [pulled] together a group of local construction trade partners whom he has developed relationships with to provide materials and services at a bare-minimum cost so the family could rebuild without compromises and have a home that was made to last.” He further decided that the Donalds’ new home would be built to green standards: specifically, ENERGY STAR and the St. Louis Home Builder’s Association’s Green Building Initiative criteria.
I went to visit the building site, and to chat with Kim, on September 2nd. The project was already well underway: the contractors, along with volunteers from All Hands, had completed demolition, the foundation was complete, and I watched a bit as workers from DSD Construction measured and cut lumber for the beginning of the home’s frame. Kim told me a bit about how the project had mushroomed in terms of goodwill: not only had his partners in various trades willingly joined the project, but a few even went beyond the original vision. American Steel Fabricators of Pevely, for instance, donated all of the steel for the project. Henry Plumbing donated a solar water heating system. Kim even told me that Allstate, who held the policy on the Donald home, did everything they could to maximize their payout on the family’s loss, and worked quickly and efficiently with the contractor.
Kim also praised the owners themselves, noting that Marlon and Sharita made choices in line with the project’s aim of durability and eco-friendliness. When the choice came down to, say, energy-efficient Anderson 100 windows or granite countertops, the Donalds went with the windows.
During our conversation, Kim repeatedly noted that most of the choices made for this project involved “doing the right thing”… and that happened across the board with everyone involved. The Donalds won’t have all the cutting-edge features some might expect in a green home – no solar panels, for instance (though the home is pre-wired for them) – but they will have a home that meets some very basic (and sometimes overlooked) green criteria: it will use resources like energy and water very efficiently, it will provide a healthy indoor environment, and, perhaps most importantly, it will last for a long time.
The Donalds still have about three months to bunk with relatives before they can move into their new home, but it sounds like it’ll be worth the wait. You can keep an eye on the progress of the home at the Hibbs Homes blog;I plan to return to see the home when it’s finished (and take more pictures).
Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor at sustainablog. Come by and check out some of the stories we’ve covered recently, including a design competition focused on building with trash, and a web reality series focused on providing clean cook stoves for people in the developing world. Keep up with us on Twitter and Facebook.
Image credits: Jeff McIntire-Strasburg and Hibbs Homes