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Putting the "Green" in Greensburg, KS

Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 10:29 am

The New York Times visits the small town of Greensburg, Kansas, and finds that the town, obliterated by a May 2007 tornado, is indeed on its way to becoming the “greenest town in rural America.”  

Spurred by the tornado’s destructive power, Greensburg’s civic leadership adopted an ethos of sustainability as a way of rebuilding their town responsibly, injecting economic dynamism into Greensburg’s economy while persuading the town’s younger residents that Greensburg, population 900, was worth keeping.

After approving an ordinance requiring that all municipal buildings above 4,000 square feet be built to LEED Platinum standards, the town has become both a laboratory for sustainability and a showcase of LEED-worthy projects. In fact, Greensburg features several new structures that incorporate sustainable energy sources, high-efficiency building materials and machinery, and other green moves. 

The first building to achieve LEED Platinum designation in the town, the Greensburg Arts Center, was designed by graduate students at the University of Kansas School of Architecture and is powered by a combination of windmills and photovoltaic panels. Additionally, the Arts Center is heated and cooled by a geothermal system. 

The new BTI John Deere dealership has also achieved LEED Platinum, too, incorporating extensive natural light, high efficiency plumbing fixtures, and wind turbines into its resource-saving design. 

In Greensburg, all municipal buildings above 4,000 square feet be built to LEED Platinum standards.Elsewhere in town, both the 1918 Kiowa County Courthouse (being renovated to LEED Gold standards), the new City Hall (set to achieve LEED Platinum), and the new, 48,500 square foot Kiowa County Memorial Hospital (aiming for Platinum as well; the first LEED Platinum critical-access operation, ever) exemplify Greensburg’s commitment to rebuilding in an earth-friendly way. All told, Greensburg will soon be home to seven projects that have achieved some level of LEED certification.  

Other green moves that Greensburg is making include the installation of the first system of high-efficiency LED street lamps in the country, which reduce light pollution; and the construction of a 12.5-megawatt wind farm, which will provide the entirety of the town’s energy needs. 

-The LEEDTeacher Team


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