Bring Green

Have you ever heard of Greenberg, Kansas?


Greenberg, Kansas wiped off the face of the earth

It may come as a surprise that Greenberg, Kansas population of less than 1000 residents happens to be the greenest city in America – how did this come to pass?

On May 4, 2007, a F5 tornado, the highest classification possible, swept through virtually destroying the entire town. The tornado destroyed 95% of the structures in the town with remaining 5% received serious damage.

The green choice and its aftermath

In the aftermath of the disaster 50% of the residents who did not move away decided to rebuild the town. Many of the residents lived close to the land before the tornado and understood the value of wind turbines, solar panels and using water efficiently.

After much debate the town passed a resolution which required all large public buildings exceeding 4,000 square feet in area to be built to the United Stated Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED platinum standards and utilize renewable energy sources.  LEED is the USGBC’s green building certification program. One of the requirements was to reduce the energy consumption of the new buildings by 42% as compared to standard buildings.  Even though, this caused the cost of reconstruction to increase by 20% versus rebuilding to standard designs Greenberg decided to move forward.

The result

By 2013 Greenberg became the world’s leading community in LEED buildings per capita. The City Hall and the memorial hospital were among the LEED certified buildings. The K12 school achieved platinum status which is the highest that is achievable under LEED certification.  Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps are used for its street lighting and renewable energy powers the entire community which include photo voltaic solar panels and Wind turbines.

If any future town is destroyed by a tornado….

Once Greenberg finished rebuilding the town has emerged as a leader for sustainable development. When Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama experienced catastrophic tornados in 2011 and 2013 respectively the residents of these towns reached out to Greenberg’s residents for guidance on how to recover their towns.

Here’s an idea: why not mandate by legislation for any future tornado which may strike any large community that the community’s infrastructure be rebuilt to the highest of green building standards. I difficult a hard time thinking of a better way to create a positive out of a natural disaster and I would hope our politicians who could make this vision reality would agree.