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Rebuilding in Greensburg, Kansas

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Spring 2017   


Rebuilding in Greensburg, Kansas

Photo shows two men, one operating a backhoe, with homes under construction in the background.
Many of the homes constructed in Greensburg, Kansas, after a tornado devastated the town feature energy-saving lighting and appliances, including tankless water heaters. FEMA Photo by John Shea

In May 2007, a tornado devastated the small town of Greensburg, Kansas, destroying or damaging 90 percent of the structures in town. The town was declared a disaster area, but many Greensburg citizens saw the devastation as an opportunity to rebuild using strategies for sustainable living.

Although no mandates required residents to rebuild in a particular way, about 150 of the 300 newly constructed homes adopted energy-efficient and sustainable building strategies. Throughout the reconstruction process, developers and builders emphasized the importance of constructing homes with several sustainable and resilient design features such as bolting the walls of the homes to the concrete foundation, increasing the chances of a structure’s survival during high wind events.

The Meadowlark House incorporates a toxin-free wall system that consists of wood blocks from sustainable resources. The wall system is highly insulated to reduce energy costs and can withstand winds of up to 195 miles per hour.

The Commercial Group, a Kansas-based company focusing on low-income housing development, built affordable single-family homes in Greensburg. These homes were financed by the Kansas Housing Resource Corporation (KHRC) through tax credits and grants. As part of the construction process, KHRC followed specific guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Energy. The new construction adhered to specific guidelines for energy efficiency and withstanding high winds. To ensure resident safety during another natural disaster, the affordable housing units also include storm shelters built under the front porch and separated from the rest of the basement by a steel door.

Source: John McIlwain, Molly Simpson, and Sara Hammerschmidt. 2014. “Housing in America: Integrating Housing, Health, and Resilience in a Changing Environment,” Urban Land Institute, 12–6.


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