Sherry-Go-Round: Roberts’ new year is to bring a new home
by Sherry Kughn
Special to The Star
Dec 29, 2013 | 2178 views |  0 comments | 106 106 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sometimes, the joy of a New Year’s celebration is more special than others. Lineville’s Jim Roberts hopes to see the fulfillment of a long-delayed dream.

Roberts hopes to finish the bulk of necessary work on his dream home during 2014. However, he will live in his home much sooner, maybe by the end of January. He said the experience might be more like camping out.

Roberts, who is 67 years old, has been thinking for decades of the type of house he wanted to build. Around 2002, he received 70 acres of land in the Prairie Creek area of Lineville from his late father, Theron “T.L.” Roberts, the manager of Alabama Power Company in Lineville. Long before then, though, Roberts thought about his dream. He wanted a house that would prevent high power bills; provide a view of a pond, meadow, and forest; and survive a tornado.

Roberts is a retired military captain who flew armed helicopters during the Vietnam War. While serving in the military, he traveled the world. After retirement, he became a computer software expert and lived in Richmond, Va., and Atlanta. After a second retirement in 2008, he concentrated on his house.

Here are some present and proposed features of the house:

• Two years ago, Roberts dug a giant hole in the hillside to sink the house beneath the ground on three sides. The accomplishment will allow him to better control the temperatures and protect the house from high winds.

• He built the house with 12-foot cubes of laminated beams sitting on 12 tons of concrete. Each cube base is similar to an insulated bathtub and is partially filled with sand. Heated water then flows through PEX tubing and warms the sand, which heats the floor and then the house.

• Solar panels that are positioned nearby provide some of the electricity for heating the water.

• Three of the walls are made of concrete blocks. They are reinforced with concrete and re-bar. Soon he’ll cover the interior walls with a layer of thin bricks.

• The front wall is made of glass windows and a door to take advantage of the view.

• Roberts has plans to build thick shutters under the eaves located over the glass windows. The operation of the shutters will be tied into the weather-alert system. Whenever weather warnings are issued in Clay County or when the temperatures drop below a certain degree, the shutters will automatically move down and cover the glass.

“It will be sturdy and cozy,” said Roberts.

The design reminds him of an upscale restaurant – a lofty ceiling, lots of glass, and an open-kitchen design.

It is amazing that Roberts has done all of the work himself, his first experience in homebuilding. Many of his sources have been from the Internet, where he has researched numerous articles by innovative builders throughout the nation.

He has held two parties for friends to view his work, and he entertained his sons and grandchildren at the house during Thanksgiving. For the time being, Roberts lives in a trailer near the house.

“People ask me if I get overwhelmed by all that needs to be done,” he said as he climbed the unfinished, two-tiered set of stairs from the main floor to the exit at the back of the house. “I tell them no. I focus on one task at a time and move on to the next.”

Roberts said he will probably be needing to live in a nursing facility before he finishes all that he wants to add to the house, which includes guest bedrooms, a deck, a hot tub, a small pool for his numerous grandchildren, an underground parking garage, a storage room, and a workshop.

The work is different from anything else Roberts has ever done, he said.

“At the end of the day, I can touch what I have accomplished.”

Those interested in viewing the construction may visit www.prairiecreekelectricfarm.shutterfly.com.

Email sherry at sherrykug@hotmail.com.
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Sherry-Go-Round: Roberts’ new year is to bring a new home by Sherry Kughn
Special to The Star

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