Greensburg, KS on Track to Become "Greenest Town in America" One Year After Tornado
Kansas City, Mo. - Nearly one year has passed since a powerful EF-5 tornado leveled nearly all of the buildings in Greensburg, Kansas, leaving its 1,400 residents with the difficult task of starting over. With support from State and Federal government officials, the town decided to rebuild Greensburg under the banner of energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable design—creating the nation's first model green community from the ground up.
BNIM Architects has had a team of planners and architects on the ground in Greensburg since last summer, and this week BNIM's Tim Duggan and Mark O'Hara are in Greensburg all week to design and build an eco-friendly playground that will be donated to the community this Friday. The firm has worked closely with the City of Greensburg to develop a Master Plan that sets a new green standard for American cities. BNIM is designing the school, City Hall and business incubator to LEED Platinum green building standards. BNIM's Rachel Wedel and Stephen Hardy are leading the planning effort and will be in Greensburg this weekend when President Bush visits to deliver the high school commencement address.
"Rural Kansans think in terms of generations and harbor the sincere belief that our decisions should build strong communities for our children," said Rachel Wedel of BNIM Architects, who also grew up in a small community in central Kansas. "Understanding and stewarding natural resources, balancing fiscal responsibilities and fostering community independence are tenants that Greensburg was founded on and will also be the foundation for a new, sustainable rural model."
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who toured the city a few days after the disaster, invited BNIM Architects to work with the long-term recovery team from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, and offer guidance in design and sustainability objectives. This was the first step in the firm's leadership in Greensburg, working closely with City Administrator Steve Hewitt and the City of Greensburg, the State of Kansas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Energy through its National Renewable Energy Laboratory and other organizations on a variety of initiatives.
"Greensburg displayed enormous courage to turn a unbearable situation into an opportunity to embrace sustainability and do something different that is leading to a more robust economy," said Stephen Hardy, AICP, LEED AP, Associate, BNIM Architects. "Our firm is pleased to be a part of this historic transformation. Along with remarkable support from the town, its leaders, and public and private institutions, our team is executing a solution for Greensburg that promises to create a model sustainable community."
BNIM Architects has been influential in establishing national green building standards and completing high-profile sustainability projects, including ongoing projects in New Orleans and Kansas City. The firm's involvement in Greensburg since the May 4, 2007 tornado includes:
• Comprehensive Master Plan Phase I: In October 2007, the firm was selected formally by the City of Greensburg, with support from the USDA, to prepare the first phase of a comprehensive master plan to rebuild the city, which provides a framework for the rebuilding of Greensburg based around the principles of economic, social and environmental sustainability. On January 22, 2008, the City Council adopted the plan unanimously, and it now serves as the guiding document for the rebuilding efforts in Greensburg.
• LEED® Platinum Resolution: On December 17, 2007, the City Council adopted a resolution that all city buildings greater than 4,000 square feet must be certified LEED Platinum, making Greensburg the first city in the U.S. to pass such a resolution. BNIM Architects worked closely with the city to draft the resolution and to educate the community on the benefits of mandatory LEED Platinum certification. The resolution is aligned with the overall sustainable rebuilding objectives in the Comprehensive Master Plan.
• Greensburg School District Comprehensive Design: In October 2007, the Greensburg School District selected BNIM to design its new sustainable, high performance and progressive educational facilities. Embracing the spirit of its community, the school district seeks new educational and public use facilities that include a Pre-K Elementary; Middle and High schools; Media Center; Distance Learning Center; Science Labs; Main and Auxiliary Gymnasiums; Art/Music Wing; Weather Lab & Greenhouse; and Cafeteria & Kitchen. The school facilities are being designed to follow LEED criteria with a Platinum goal.
• Sustainable Comprehensive Master Plan II: Started this year, addresses detailed parks and open spaces, cultural resources, economic strategy and an implementation program. The plan is expected to be formally adopted later this month.
• Business Incubator: BNIM, the City of Greensburg and the USDA's Rural Development team are working together to create a new Business Incubator building that will provide affordable office space for small start-up businesses in Greensburg. This facility of approximately 9,300 square feet will be comprised of five street-level retail shops and nine second-level professional service offices. A storm shelter will also be constructed within the facility. The Incubator is tracking LEED Platinum certification by making use of key energy efficiency technologies and water reuse systems.
• Greensburg City Hall: The new City Hall project will represent the keystone of Greensburg's commitment to becoming a model sustainable community where social, environmental and economic concerns are held in equal balance. The building will house the City's administrative offices and council chambers, which will also serve as a public gathering place for town meetings and municipal court sessions. As the first LEED Platinum City Hall project in the United States, this building will incorporate a philosophy that will look to reduce consumption at every level, reuse, recycle and clean its waste, and generate clean power for this new community.
• Main Street Streetscape: The City of Greensburg, with BNIM, is developing a downtown environment that helps the town reach its community goals related to renewal, prosperity, environment, growth, water and health. All components, from planting and irrigation to seating, signage and materials, will be sustainable.
• Big Well and Weather Museum: The Big Well and Weather Museum will celebrate Greensburg, the Big Well and the weather of the area. The museum will serve to educate residents and visitors about conserving and cleaning water and how to conscientiously use water as a resource. In response to the well's history and the City's goal for stewarding the local water resource, the well water will interact with the building. As a LEED Platinum project, the museum will further define how the community can balance the needs of people, prosperity and the planet.
Hardy adds, "We expect Year 2 to be one of dramatic action and rebuilding after the planning that took place after the tornado. The road map is in place and Greensburg will now focus on implementing its collective vision."
For more information about the firm's work in rebuilding of a cleaner and greener Greensburg, seewww.deepdesigndeepgreen.com/go/greensburg.