At PCA's Spring Meeting last month in Chicago, Joah Bussert, a project manager for Greensburg GreenTown, was on hand to describe the rebuilding efforts of Greensburg, Kansas, and Joplin, Missouri.
Greensburg is a sparsely populated town in south central Kansas. On May 4, 2007, an EF5 tornado destroyed 95% of the community: 961 homes, 110 businesses, and all municipal infrastructure.
Just days after the storm, the community came together and decided to rebuild sustainably, striving to become a model green town for the future.
Greensburg GreenTown, a grassroots community-based organization, has worked side-by-side with city and county officials, business owners, and local residents to incorporate sustainable principles into their rebuilding process. They chose sustainable approaches that included building systems, material, solar, wind/air, water, and vegetation.
Today, about half the community has been rebuilt. One such structure, the Silo Eco-Home, anchors the effort and offers a symbol of both resilient construction practices and the town's legacy.
On May 5th, 2007, the day after the tornado, Greensburg residents looked north and saw the grain elevator standing tall. Even though the tornado had flattened nearly everything else in town, the elevator remained unscathed. To honor the durability of this structure, GreenTown built the Silo Eco-Home using the same method and materials typically used to construct a traditional grain elevator or silo. Six-inch thick concrete walls can withstand the high winds of a tornado while a myriad of green features in the home showcase techniques for sustainable living. The home functions as a bed & breakfast, GreenTown’s administrative office, and Greensburg’s Green Visitors Center.
To date, insulating concrete forms or ICFs have been a major part of the reconstruction, used for about 18 of the buildings. ICF buildings include the community center, bank, shopping center, business incubator, city hall, scout cabin, and convenience store/gas station. Almost all of the Main Street buildings are ICFs. The convenience store was a test case for ICF use in small, rural communities.
Education is an important aspect of the program. GreenTown organized housing fairs with architects, product demonstrations, workshops, and public speaking engagements.
GreenTown hopes to repeat its success in Joplin, which lost 6 square miles when hit by its tornado, or about 6 times the amount as Greensburg. GreenTown Joplin is the second GreenTown affiliate to open, replicating the work done in Greensburg. They are just at the beginning stages of building a demo house, Monarch Eco-Home, with donations from PCA member company Monarch Cement supporting this work.
Two websites for more information: www.greensburggreentown.org and www.greentownjoplin.org