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Re-Building Greensburg

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Greensburg, Kansas - A town that was devastated by a tornado in 2007, yet came back to be one of the Nation's most energy-efficient, sustainable communities. Civic leaders and entrepreneurs rallied residents behind the idea of "greening" Greensburg, inspiring the construction of energy-efficient buildings, some of which generate their own renewable power with solar panels and wind turbines. Greensburg has demonstrated that any city can reach its energy efficiency and renewable energy goals today.

Text Version

Below is the text version for the Re-Building Greensburg Disaster video.

Steve Hewitt: In 2007, we had this massive tornado that came through Greensburg.

The video opens with a shot of the city of Greensburg after the tornado. The buildings are flattened, the trees are bare, and debris lays sprawled across the city. The video cuts out occasionally to show the speakers talking.

Stacy Barnes: Words can't even begin to describe what it was like to just see everything flattened.

Steve Hewitt: It measured nearly 2 miles wide. It was an EF5 tornado, which is the strongest possible. It took a path that basically destroyed about 90%-95% of the community.

Steve Hewitt: You know before the tornado, Greensburg was a very typical rural town in western Kansas. You know, small town of about 1,500 people. We had to clean it up.

An image appears of the state of Kansas, showing Greensburg in the southwestern corner. The city of Greensburg scrolls in the background.

Steve Hewitt: We've talked a lot about green, and green basically developed out of a sense of "what do we do next?"

Caption: Steve Hewitt, City Administrator, Greensburg, Kansas

Steve Hewitt and Stacy Barnes are in an office, flipping through large sheets of blueprints.

Daniel Wallach: This one we knew called for an organization that was just devoted to rebuilding the town back—green.

Steve Hewitt: And at that point in time, we began to educate ourselves, we brought in some green planners, some green architects.

Caption: Daniel Wallach, Executive Director, Greensburg GreenTown

Steve Hewitt: We are going to put the "Green" in Greensburg. We're gonna do it right.

The video shows people driving heavy machinery and using shovels working in the town.

Caption: Stephanie Peterson, Project Manager, Greensburg GreenTown

Stephanie Peterson: When the tornado came through town, through the middle of town, there were only three structures that remained standing. One of which is the grain elevator. This is the Silo Eco-Home. It pays homage a little bit to that structure which remained, you know, a beacon of the town after everything else was flattened. This home has a cast-in-place concrete structure which gives it added stability, has extremely efficient windows, it has many sustainable materials, and the flooring is bamboo, which is a rapidly renewable resource.

The video pans through several shots of the grain elevator, a large cylindrical structure with an arched entryway.

Daniel Wallach: After this tragedy, people had so much on their plates anyway that to help them consider how they might build more energy efficiently or greener was a daunting task. But these people were really up to it; in fact they met the challenge with great enthusiasm. There has just been a remarkable number of model buildings built back. Of course the city buildings, City Hall, the Business Incubator, those are LEED platinum buildings which was again a huge accomplishment in a little community like this. They are wonderful buildings which are aesthetically pleasing. They function extremely well and are very energy efficient.

The video shows people pouring and laying concrete. Then it cuts to shots of different buildings in town, including the solar panels that power some of them.

Stacy Barnes: This is the 5.4.7. Arts Center in Greensburg, Kansas. It has a lot of sustainability features, most notably the three wind turbines outside that produce energy for the building and also solar panels on the roof. Any extra energy we can sell back to the grid. Even though the wind is not blowing terribly hard today, we are making extra energy and selling it so we are getting credit right now on our bill.

The Arts Center is displayed, with wind turbines outside, solar panels on the roof, and a large, glass front.

Caption: Stacy Barnes, Director.5.4.7. Arts Center.

Stacy Barnes There is a lot of recycled materials that went into the construction of the building. Most notably, all the wood siding on the outside is reclaimed lumber and also the glass on the outside. That glass blocks UV rays from the sun and protects the wood siding from sun damage.

Stephanie Peterson: The Incubator Building is a very similar case. It has photovoltaic cells on the roof. It has reclaimed brick, high efficiency windows, motion-sensor LED lights throughout, as well as a very efficient heating and ventilation system.

Caption: The U.S. Department of Energy and its National Renewable Energy Lab provided technical assistance for the redevelopment of Greensburg.

Stephanie Peterson: The wind farm is about 5 miles to the west of Greensburg, and there will be 10 turbines that will be going up. Those 10 wind turbines will have the ability to power up to 4,000 homes, which more than includes Greensburg.

The video shows shots of wind turbines in an open field.

Daniel Wallach: Makes complete sense that Greensburg, where wind destroyed the town, to have wind help rebuild it.

Steve Hewitt: My community is different. It is sustainable. It's green. It has an opportunity unlike it had before so that we can truly thrive in the future. Greensburg can come back stronger and better than ever. And that's pretty exciting.

Caption: About 800 people have returned to Greensburg since the tornado. For more information visit eere.energy.gov.
Caption: facebook.com/stevenchu.