Over the Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of returning to my alma mater and attending the Orange Bowl Champion University of Kansas Jayhawks’ opening game of the college football season.  While I was in Kansas, I remembered one of the more memorable recent green building developments:  after being decimated by a powerful tornado, the small town of Greensburg, Kansas announced it would rebuild the entire town “green.”  

Being from Kansas, it was devastating but not all that surprising to hear a Kansas town had been demolished by a tornado.  More surprising was Greensburg’s ambitious announcement.   Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was skeptical: 

"There was resistance to change," says Gene West, the county commissioner. "[Greensburg] is a rural area, and a conservative one."

Once the benefits of green building were explained to the Greensburg residents, opinions quickly changed:

"Our old church sometimes cost up to $1,000 a month to heat," says George, who plans to build back his church to the highest green standards. "Now, I’m not a tree-hugger by any means. But we have to be responsible for how we use natural resources, and be prepared for a future where energy costs are only going up."

Greensburg unveiled its first green building, the LEED Platinum 5.4.7 Arts Center (5.4.7 stands for the day the tornado struck), on May 4, 2008, the one year anniversary of the tornado.  Students in Studio 804, part of the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning, designed and constructed the building.  Others have taken notice of Greensburg’s remarkable pledge, as Planet Green and Leonardo DiCaprio teamed up to chronicle the rebuilding of a green Greensburg.  

GBLU is currently arranging to speak with members of Studio 84 and hopes to bring you information about the difficulties that arose during the Greensburg project.  Additionally, we are going to look at the Greensburg ordinance that requires green building.  Until then, Rock Chalk Jayhawk! 

Photo credit:  David McKinney / KU University Relations