In 2007, a massive F5 tornado ripped through the small town of Greensburg, Kansas destroying 95% of the town. What wasn't leveled was severely damaged and the mile and half plus wide tornado left the town completely devastated. In the wake of the disaster, the city amazingly enough voted to rebuild green and they drafted a resolution that all new buildings would be built to LEED Platinum standards, making them quite possibly the greenest city in the nation. May 4th marked the third anniversary of the deadly disaster and was celebrated with the opening of the new Eco Silo Home, which is not only environmentally friendly and energy efficient, it's also able to withstand 200 mph winds, making it practically tornado proof.
After the tornado, the community gathered together and drafted a plan to rebuild, which included the commitment to build up to LEED Platinum standards and become a model green town for the future. Maybe it was just fate that the name of the town was Greensburg, and maybe the community felt like they needed to live up to that name, but since 2007, the community has done an amazing job of resurrecting their town into one that is better, stronger and greener. Greensburg GreenTown, a non-profit started by Daniel Wallach and dedicated to helping the town grow green, has been at the center of the transformation – providing resources, technical assistance, educational programs, and help with the master plans for the city.
The town has a long list of accomplishments and a lot of new buildings since 2007 and would make most towns green with envy, including design competitions, green tours to showcase the town, the high school Green Club, a farmer’s market, reclaimed lumber project, a volunteer program and an educational series. The Greensburg Wind Farm of 10 turbines began generating power back in March and supplies enough power for 4,000 households, which is more than enough power for the entire town. The carbon neutral town is also working on the Chain of Eco Homes, which are twelve homes around the town dedicated to showcasing green building technologies and service as living laboratories. Once completed the Chain of Eco Homes will be available both as an informational center and as eco-lodging where people can experience green living first-hand. Otherwise, over 100 homes have been rebuilt with energy ratings performed on them that perform 40% better than code.
When the tornado ripped through the small town in Southwest Kansas, almost everything was destroyed – except for the grain silo, which stands as a testament to its construction and design that naturally allows wind to move around it rather than build up pressure on one side. Inspired by the strength of the silo, the Silo Eco Home, the first of the Chain of Eco-Homes, was designed with the cylindrical silo as its basis. The home is constructed of six inch thick reinforced concrete walls and can withstand 200 mph + winds, which is what the town of Greensburg experienced when the tornado came through on the fateful night. Amour Homes, who built the Eco Silo Home, even went so far as to drop a car on the top of the home to make sure it could withstand the average force of an F5 tornado.
But the Silo Eco Home isn’t just super strong, it’s also incredibly energy and water efficient. The two story building houses the headquarters for the Greensburg GreenTown non-profit organization that is helping green the town and also has a Guest Suite, which can be rented out to those wanting to experience green living first hand. The eco home includes a whole host of sustainable features like a permeable driveway, a solar system, a green roof, super efficient insulation and glazing, solar passive design, eco friendly finishings, LED lighting, low VOC paints and sealants, energy monitoring, water efficient fixtures, a bioswale, native landscaping, composter, and much much more.
It’s impressive really, what this little town of Greensburg has accomplished in the last three years. In fact, we could probably all learn a lot from their dedication, outreach and education programs.