The Real Story Behind The Pensmore Mansion | Transform Systems Provides Durability and Energy Efficiency

Article James Hanson | Photography Misty Ezzo


A chateau is being constructed near Highlandville, Mo. As residents watch it rise above the hills, several have speculated and questioned why such a large building and why in the Ozarks?

Perhaps the biggest and more important question isn’t “Why here?” or “Why so large?” but rather, the type of technology used in constructing the home.

At 72,000 squarefeet, designed for 13 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms, the home is set to become one of the largest private residences in the United States. However, it is the construction method of the massive home that makes the project even more extraordinary.

The home is built using the latest in insulated concrete forming (ICF) systems known as the TransformTM System. Leaders in the ICF industry – TF FORMING SYSTEMS, INC., based out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, spearheaded the project. The company has offices in Kansas City and Ozark, Missouri.


Since 1994, TF has completed thousands of successful projects across America and Canada using this innovative technology for both commercial and residential structures.

The importance of this technology lies in its benefits. These solid concrete walls encased in rigid foam insulation offer durability, practicality, sustainability, energy efficiency and safety – a great deal more than what traditional construction can offer, says Mary Guccione, Marketing and Communications Director for TF.

Guccione says the man behind Pensmore—Steven Huff, a successful entrepreneur and engineer—invested in the company in 2008 with a vision for a new generation wall system; the TransformTM System. Until this point, many homes and commercial buildings had been built using ThermoFormTM System, a vertical ICF that also pro- vides energy efficiency, sustainability and security to the building.

Huff worked with lead product designer Jerry Spude to develop the TransForm System – the same system he would use to construct Pensmore.

Upon completion, the goal of Pensmore chateau is to achieve net-zero energy usage with the ability to withstand natural and man-made disasters.

Being in the Ozarks, where severe thunderstorms and tornadoes can come as quickly as they did in Joplin, Missouri in 2011, as well as being perhaps too close for comfort to the New Madrid fault line, means construction of this type could be necessary for anyone looking to build a home or a business.

Aside from a long curing process, making the concrete up to 50 percent stronger than traditional concrete walls is the addition of millions of tiny steel fibers called “Helix.” These fibers, twisted like cork screws, add tensile strength to the walls, making them stronger and resistant against high winds, impacts and the type of shaking that occurs in earthquakes.


“The pull strength on these is immense and it greatly reinforces the concrete,” Gucci- one says. “We recommend using this product in all of our TF System homes. It essentially allows the walls to resist but not break like they would in a traditionally built home.”

One of TF Forming Systems current projects includes a medical facility in Joplin destroyed by the tornado, using Helix in its concrete, which gives their walls 200 mph wind speed resistance.

“The longevity of this product isn’t decades,” Guccione says. “It is centuries. Mr. Huff wanted to prove that the applications he is putting into this building to dramatically reduce dependency on utilities and increase safety could be achieved in a hospital, in large buildings at universities or even large retail outlets. Why not provide greater safety, a comfortable and healthier environment and do it without having to spend money on high utility bills or constant maintenance?”


In a TF Forming System, like the one at the Pensmore, the thermal mass of concrete acts similar to a battery storing energy from natural resources. In the case of the Pensmore home, the energy stored in the concrete will be manipulated using PEX tubing encased in the concrete and filled with water that is heated or cooled using solar and geothermal energy.

The Pensmore also is a “green” home because of the Anderson StormWatchTM Windows, which blocks 95 percent of damaging ultraviolet rays and provide advanced weather resistance.

Guccione says building using the TF Forming Systems is excellent for the environment because all plastic components are made from 100 percent recycled materials; steel and aluminum used also contain significant amounts of recycled components; and the small amount of wood that is used for the temporary whalers is 100 percent reusable from job-to-job.

“Forests aren’t depleted and landfills aren’t overflowing using this system,” Guccione says. “It increases safety, security and durability of the structure. Not to mention, an average savings of 40 percent less in utility bills, due to its energy efficiency.”


The Pensmore Project isn’t the only example of TF Forming System’s work in the Ozarks. Many Joplin homes destroyed in the May 2011 tornado have been rebuilt using the ThermoForm system.

Aside from the safety aspects, there are other reasons to build with a TF Forming System.

“You don’t have to have the maintenance and upkeep you would on a traditional home,” Guccione says. “The forms are resistant to mold, mildew and termites. The homes act like tight envelopes, keeping out drafts and harmful allergens.”

“But the message of safety becomes important,” she added. “Energy efficiency is important across the country and across the globe. The more it begins to rise, the more people will start to pay attention.”

Guccione says TF Forming Systems believes they are true pioneers for this technology and that it is “the only way to build.”

“We believe that we will be able to continue to grow this industry,” she says. “We are trying to make sure what we manufacture doesn’t affect the planet adversely, but rather, positively.”