Re-Building Greensburg

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Re-Building Greensburg
Greensburg, KS - A town that was devastated by a tornado in 2007, yet came back to be one of the Nation's most energy-efficient, sustainable communities. Civic leaders and entrepreneurs helped rally residents behind the idea of "greening" Greensburg, inspiring the construction of numerous energy-efficient buildings, some of which generate their own renewable power with solar panels and wind turbines.
Steve Hewitt, Daniel Wallach, Stephanie Peterson, Stacy Barnes
Energy Department Video

STEVE HEWITT:  In 2007 we had this massive tornado that came through Greensburg.

STACY BARNES:  Words can’t even begin to describe what it was like to just see everything flattened.

MR. HEWITT:  It measured nearly two miles wide.  It was an EF5 tornado, which is the strongest possible.  It took a path that basically destroyed 90 to 95 percent of the community.  You know, before the tornado Greensburg was a very rural town in western Kansas, you know, a small town, about 1,500 people.  We had to clean it up.  We’ve talked a lot about green, and green basically developed out of a – out of a sense of what do we do next.

DANIEL WALLACH:  This one we knew called for an organization that was just devoted to rebuilding the town back green.

MR. HEWITT:  And at that point in time we began to educate ourselves.  We brought in some green planners.  We brought in some green architects.  We’re going to put the “green” in Greensburg.  We’re going to do it right.

STEPHANIE PETERSON:  When the tornado came through town, through the middle of town, there was only three structures that remained standing, one of which was the grain elevator.  This is the Silo Eco-Home.  It pays homage a little bit to that structure, which, you know, remained a beacon of the town after everything else was flattened.  This home has a cast-in-place concrete structure, which gives it added stability.  It has extremely efficient windows.  It has many sustainable materials.  The flooring is bamboo, which is a rapidly renewable resource.

MR. WALLACH:  After this tragedy, when people had so much on their plates anyway, that – to get them to consider how they might build more energy efficiently or greener was a daunting task.  But these people were really up to it.  And in fact, they met the challenge with great enthusiasm.  There’s just been a remarkable number of model buildings built back:  of course, the city buildings, city hall; the business incubator.  Those are LEED Platinum buildings, which – again, a huge accomplishment in a little community like this.  They’re wonderful buildings.  They’re aesthetically very pleasing.  They function extremely well and are very energy efficient.

MS. PETERSON:  And this is 5.4.7 Arts Center in Greensburg, Kansas.  It has a lot of sustainable features, most notably the three wind turbines outside that produce energy for the building and also solar panels on the roof.

MS. BARNES:  Any extra energy we can sell back to the grid.  Even though the wind’s not blowing terribly hard today, we are making extra energy and selling it.  So we’re getting credit right now on our bill.  And there’s a lot of recycled materials that went into the construction of the building.  Most notably, all the wood siding on the outside is reclaimed lumber.  And also the glass on the outside – that glass blocks the UV rays from the sun and protects all the wood siding from sun damage.

MS. PETERSON:  The incubator building is a very similar case.  It has photovoltaic cells on the roof.  It has reclaimed brick, high-efficiency windows, motion-sensored LED lights throughout as well as an extremely efficient heating and ventilating system.

The wind farm is about five miles southwest of Greensburg, and there will be 10 turbines that are going up.  Those 10 wind turbines will have the capability to power up to 4,000 homes, which more than includes Greensburg.

MR. WALLACH:  It makes complete sense in Greensburg, where wind destroyed the town, to have wind help rebuild it.

MR. HEWITT:  My community is different.  It’s sustainable.  It’s green.  It has an opportunity unlike it had before so that we can truly thrive in the future.  Greensburg can come back stronger, bigger, better than ever.  And that’s pretty exciting.