Explore Greensburg, Kansas: America’s First Green Town

We recently drove through Kansas and visited the town of Greensburg, which was leveled by a two mile tornado in 2007. But the city looked at that as an opportunity to rebuild a more sustainable city. So after the devastation, the city decided to rebuild its buildings to LEED platinum certified standards. It’s the first city in America to do so, making this the first green town , which we applaud, with power supplied from wind turbine.

greensburgsignA plaque outside city hall reads “…Although this storm was devasting, we are presented with the greensburgcityhallopportunity to show our strength and belief in sustainable design, by creating a better, greener future that will serve as a model for other communities. This City Hall is a tribute to our belief…Constructed 2010.”

If you recognize the town, that’s probably because of Leonardo DiCaprio’s show on Discovery’s Planet Green network.

So if you happen to drive through Greensburg like we did recently, stop by and spend a little time and money supporting this town (of 777 residents, as of the 2010 census) and its Greensburg2economy, and get inspired to live more environmentally-friendly.

This building was one of the oldest in town, one of the few that survived and instead of tearing it down, they built other retail spaces around it and in the same style but much more sustainable. One thing that saved it – it has a concrete roof.

greensburg11Same street where the old building with the concrete roof is located. If you panned left from this shot, you’d see the old building.

The old building was built with thick concrete walls and roof because it was built to be a bank, the thick concrete would prevent robbers from getting into the bank, and more specifically, into the safe.

This John Deere dealership in Greensburg is one of the largest in the country, in terms of annual greensburg3sales. The tornado hit just as farmers were getting ready to plant for the upcoming season, so the dealership had probably a dozen or so combines from area farmers who had brought them in for maintenance. They cost close to $250,000 new and that doesn’t count the thing that goes on the front that cuts the corn, bean, or wheat stalks, suck them in and strip the grain from them, which can cost another $100,000 depending on size and specs.

Virtually every one of the combines on the lot was damaged, to the tune of more than $12 million. A couple of them were picked up and dropped a few thousand feet away. They weigh several tons each.
This dealership is now the first LEED Platinum certified Deere dealership in the world.
It even has piping that runs throughout the concrete floor inside, circulating heated water in the winter and cooled water in the summer.
greensburg4There are several wind-driven electrical generators. The plan was to have enough of them to make their electric meter run backwards, meaning they feed electricity back to the power company.
There’s also a rain collection system which is used to water the grass during dry times of year.

The high school was wiped out completely, so they replaced it with a LEED Platinum certified facility.Greensburg5 It’s an amazingly modern looking campus, which uses solar and wind-generated power and lots of south-facing windows to maximize warmth from the sun in the winter, but minimize it in the summer.

Before the tornado, Greensburg’s claim to fame was it was the deepest hand-dug well in the country, if not the world. The tornado deposited tons of building piece, car parts, personal items and anything else you can imagine. The old water tower near the well also came down during the tornado.

greensburg6Now they’ve built this sustainable LEED Platinum museum around the well, enclosing it and protecting it from the elements. It’s interesting seeing this little town in the middle of nowhere, where practically all of the buildings are brand new, as well as very architectural greensburg7in design.




greensburg10hospitalThe new LEED Platinum certified hospital, the Kiowa County Memorial Hospital since the old hospital was wiped out as well, although fortunately the staff had time to move patients to the basement before the giant tornado leveled it.  There were nogreensburg9hospital serious injuries there, but there were 13 people killed in the tornado. This is the first LEED Platinum certified critical access hospital in America.