Greensburg, Kansas, Goes Green to Rebuild From Tornado
Frame of the 5-4-7 Arts Center in Greensburg, KS
Glass, steel and wood are visible on the outside frame of the new 5-4-7 Arts Center in Greensburg, Kansas.
When May 4, 2007 dawned, Greensburg was a typical Kansas community. Just 24 hours later, 95 percent of the town was gone.
A powerful tornado leveled the community and left residents at a life-changing crossroads: was rebuilding an entire town worth the effort?
A small group of local business owners assembled the largest group they could muster from Greensburg's roughly 115 businesses, along with local officials, citizens and state and federal recovery workers.
"At that meeting, 66 of the businesses said they wanted to come back in some way or fashion," says Mike Estes, a leader in Greensburg's economic recovery, whose family company, BTI Greensburg, owns the local John Deere Dealership. "So we set about laying out plans as to how we were going to get that economic recovery going."
With a clean slate before them, leaders of Greensburg decided the circumstances gave them a unique opportunity to rebuild their community according to its name: it was time to go green in Greensburg.
The city and county committed to rebuilding all of their facilities according to the LEED Platinum and Gold standards, the two highest certification levels established by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The City of Greensburg is also partnering with John Deere Renewables and the Kansas Power Pool to build a wind farm of 10 1.25 megawatt turbines that will allow the city to run solely on renewable energy.
"Were we in the wrong place at the wrong time? Well, maybe we were in the right place at the right time," Estes says. "A tornado made us see the opportunity."