Call it fate. After all, what is a better name for a city to have than Greensburg when your city leaders decide to commit to the highest green building standards?

After an EF5 (Enhanced Fujita Scale) tornado tore through the southwest Kansas city of Greensburg on May 4, 2007, 95% of the town was reduced to rubble. In the wake of the catastrophe, Greensburg’s leaders decided that their rebuilding efforts would take the city of roughly 1,500 people to a new historic level.

On Dec. 17, the Greensburg City Council passed a resolution that all city buildings greater than 4,000 square feet will be certified LEED Platinum, the highest level of certification for the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system, and would be required to operate with 42% less energy usage over current building code requirements. The unanimous resolution makes Greensburg the first U.S. city to require such standards.

LEED certification requires independent, third-party verification that a project meets the highest green building and performance measures in site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

So far, 10 proposed commercial and public buildings in Greensburg have committed to obtaining LEED certification, including the new City Hall.

According to Stacy Barnes, an administrative assistant to city administrator Steve Hewitt, public buildings aren’t going to be the only sustainable additions to Greensburg. “We are encouraging residents in town to build as green as possible with their new homes,” Barnes says. “This is a responsible way to go about rebuilding and look out for our future generations--not just now.”

As the city strives to rebuild, Greensburg, which is home to the world’s largest hand-dug well, will partner with the USGBC, BNIM Architects of Kansas City, Mo. (which helped draft the master plan for the rebuild), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
“Greensburg is charting a course for the future of rural America," says Sebelius. "It is there, on the plains, where communities have thrived for generations by utilizing their natural resources and being good stewards of the land. Greensburg’s commitment to going green is the next step in this important heritage, and I’m proud of their efforts.”

Greensburg’s move to LEED Platinum certification came as no surprise to Ashley Katz, USGBC’s communication coordinator. She tells Green Products and Technology that over the past few years she has seen an influx of resolutions and initiatives proposed and passed by cities, towns, and counties that require one of the four levels (Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum) of LEED standards.

“We are very excited and very supportive of the effort,” comments Katz. “[After Greensburg’s City Council passed the measure], we quickly touched base to see what we could do to help.”

The city’s facelift won’t go off without fanfare: The Discovery Channel will follow the city's transformation from debris to green in a series called "Eco-Town." Set to air next year on Discovery's new network,

And it didn’t take long for another region to follow Greensburg’s lead. Just days after Greensburg’s announcement, the New York town of Monroe, which is located in the Hudson Valley region, announced a proposed measure that would require all new residential and commercial construction meet unspecified LEED building standards.

For additional information, go to:
The Official Web site of Greensburg Kansas

Aerial photos of the Greensburg tornado damage

USGBC: LEED Rating Systems

Greensburg Sustainable Rebuilding

Editor’s note: Green Products and Technology will continue to follow the rebuilding of Greensburg in our online exclusive series “The Greening of Greensburg.”