Build for the environment, build for sustainability, build for your future.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Greensburg, a Town Reborn

On May 4, 2007 at 9:46pm, the town of Greensburg Kansas was devastated by an EF5 tornado (about 205mph.)  The twister was almost 2 miles wide and travelled nearly 22 miles before dissipating. The next day the town of 1400 found 11 people dead and countless more injured; 90% of their town was leveled and the majority of business’ laid in ruins. So what does a town do when it’s been destroyed?  Greensburg Kansas chose to become the first city in the U.S. to build green, with an eventual goal of becoming a sustainable community.

The first thing to happen, the city council approved a resolution requiring all city building projects with a square footage over 4,000 feet, to meet the highest rating of the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED Platinum, plus they must use 42% less energy than current building code standards allow.  The town plans to reach these goals by utilizing green technologies such as wind turbines, solar systems, geothermal heating/cooling units, while providing the public with walk friendly streets and neighborhoods. City officials hope the towns economic makeover will attract ‘clean’ industries.  One year later, 786 building permits have been issued, including 150 for new homes.  Plans for city hall call for solar panels to produce some of its electrical needs, and construction materials to partly come from recycled bricks.  The John Deer dealership is rebuilding its 26,000 square foot foundation with a geothermal heating/cooling system that uses recycled engine oil, a pond is being built to catch rainwater to supply landscaping projects and low flowing water faucets, and all construction electricity on site is provided by a wind turbine generating 5 kilowatts of power, with plans for another one to be added upon completion of construction, allowing them to sustain their own electrical needs.  The General Motors dealership, with help from GM Headquarters, want to become a model green dealership and have stated that their is the possibility that all electricity consumed on site could be provided by a solar powered system. 

A completely green Art and Community Center has already been built by Kansas University Architecture Grad Students, built using recycled wood, solar panels and wind turbines supply its electricity, and they built a system that collects rain water and diverts it into the ground rather than the sewer. Torsten Energy LLC of Wright Kansas plans to build a bio diesel plant in Greensburg, which could create at least 25 jobs.  The Carom Company, out of Australia donated 200 dual-flush toilets.  President Bush promised the town $62 million in aid, Frito Lay donated $1 million, and Leonardo DiCaprio reportedly gave $500,000.  But is all of this enough to bring back the half of Greensburgs population who left after the tornado?  Even though business’ are required to build green, home owners are not; homeowners insurance and FEMA typically limit rebuilding to replacement value, and the cost for green homes are around 3 to 5 percent more than traditionally built homes.  But it’s the rising cost of building traditional homes that seem to be the deterrent for Greensburg residents, homes valued at $30,000-$80,000 would cost $100,000-$200,000 to rebuild.  As of now, most of the displaced residents have not returned, but city officials still hope everyone who left will come back, and that the community’s efforts to become a green city will also attract new residents, as well as business’.



Posted by chris on 05/02 at 09:26 AM


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