This is the second installment of an ongoing series following the rebuilding of Greensburg, Kan. Click here to read part 1.

As Daniel Wallach lay in bed the night after a devastating EF5 tornado razed the southwest Kansas city of Greensburg , he felt fortunate–the twister missed his Stafford County home 35 miles northeast of Greensburg by 2 miles.

It would have been easy for Wallach to just be grateful he didn’t lose his home and move on. But fortunately for the people of Greensburg, Wallach isn’t taking the easy way out.

“All I could think about is ‘How can we help this devastated community,’” Wallach told Green Products and Technology. “And then it hit me like a shot.”

Artist’s rendering of the Greensburg House X, which will be one of 12 green model homes to be built in Greensburg, Kan., geared toward educating the tornado-ravaged town about high-performance housing.
McLaughlin Design Associates Artist’s rendering of the Greensburg House X, which will be one of 12 green model homes to be built in Greensburg, Kan., geared toward educating the tornado-ravaged town about high-performance housing.

It was all in the name.

Wallach decided to present a plan to city leaders that would spell out how the town could rebuild as a model green community. One week later, he presented his idea to Greensburg’s mayor, council president, and city administrator.

Turns out, city leaders were thinking along the same lines. On Dec. 17, the Greensburg City Council passed a resolution that all public 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 (LEED) green building rating system, and would be required to operate with 42% less energy usage over current building code requirements.

The council resolution only covers public buildings, but Wallach saw a need for more. In order to become a truly green community, the city leaders would need to convince the townspeople to rebuild their homes green, as well. And therein, according to Wallach, is the real challenge.

“It would be easy to just rebuild now and move on with their lives,” Wallach said. “I thought that this issue would be something that would repel them.”

But once again, Wallach was pleasantly surprised: The concept was met with open arms. He predicts that at least 50% of the rebuilt homes will be more energy efficient than traditional homes. (Whether the homes will be built to a green building certification is still to be determined.)

Next, Wallach, who has been involved in the development of several nonprofit movements, including the Colorado Association of Nonprofit Organizations, co-founded Greensburg GreenTown, an organization dedicated to educating the community about high-performance homes. In addition to providing education, Wallach’s group will build eco-friendly show homes. So far, 12 models, priced between $100,000 and $400,000, have been proposed.

“They will be freestanding exhibits that will demonstrate the latest in energy-efficient technologies,” Wallach says. “They will be adaptable and upgradeable.”

One proposed model, which is being created by McLaughlin Design Associates of Shawnee Mission, Kan., will show how green can be affordable. Robert McLaughlin, who is part of the project team, is also a Greensburg native.

“I, for one, am very happy to see that they are trying to build back green,” said McLaughlin, whose project is dubbed Greensburg House X.

Greensburg House X will feature a rainwater collection system, passive solar design, a radiant floor heating system, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and Energy Star-rated lighting fixtures, appliances, and electronics.

Details, sketches, and proposals for other model homes are being crafted by other design groups. One thing Wallach stressed about the homes is that they will each be architecturally different and will feature wall systems like straw bale, insulated concrete forms (ICFs), or structural insulated panels (SIPs).

McLaughlin says the models should help residents see the benefits of high-performance construction.

Although Kansas isn’t perceived as a burgeoning hotbed for the green movement, Wallach points out that the roots of green have always been there. If you visit any farm in the Midwest, you will find a recycle pile. If an old barn was torn down, the usable parts were saved for a future project. And this wasn’t consciously being green; according to Wallach, it was just a way of life.

“The farmers and ranchers are the original recyclers,” he explained. “They are the green stewards. Waste is just not part of their makeup.”

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of an ongoing series.