Over the past two years, the people of Greensburg, Kan., have demonstrated amazing strength and resilience, as well as a move toward eco-conscious forward thinking.
After a massive tornado with swirling winds peaking at 205 mph destroyed 95 percent of their town in May 2007, citizens regrouped and immediately made plans for a new Greensburg.
Using the inspiration of its own name, the town of about 1,500 set out to construct sustainable new buildings and homes out of the rubble and create a more eco-conscious community for future generations of Greensburg residents. In addition, the town hoped to set a national example for community-wide green living and inspire other small towns to make similar improvements. For this massive undertaking, the City of Greensburg hired architectural firm BNIM Architects, of Kansas City, Mo., and construction manager Orr Construction Management, of Raytown, Mo., and got to work.
Due to its civic function, the 4,700-square-foot Greensburg City Hall, located in the heart of town, was one of the most important buildings of the project.
“Greensburg City Hall is the symbol of the town’s vitality and leadership in becoming a model sustainable community, where social, environmental and economic concerns are held in balance,” says James Pfeiffer, of BNIM Architects. “The building occupies a prominent site on Main Street in the middle of the downtown area, within walking distance to shops, amenities and many residences and will provide an appropriate civic presence and visual continuity along the new streetscape. It was important for this building to be a showpiece of sustainable design.”
BNIM Architects designed Greensburg City Hall to achieve LEED Platinum, the highest level of LEED certification. To meet LEED Platinum requirements, they incorporated various sustainable design components, such as a uniquely sloped standing-seam metal roof with a photovoltaic coating to reduce the heat island effect, harness solar energy and collect and harvest rainwater for reuse on site. They also included reflective interior surfaces to maximize daylighting and specified an appropriate, meaningful and durable palette of exterior and interior finishes. These finishes included reclaimed brick cladding on floors and walls and reclaimed wood from a source in Southwest Kansas. With these components, the building is expected to meet its LEED Platinum certification goal.
As part of the architects’ interior design strategy for Greensburg City Hall, they used a variety of gypsum board products and expertise contributed by CertainTeed to provide extra moisture and fire resistance for interior walls in areas throughout the buildings. The design team also used the company’s Ecophon fiberglass ceiling panels for their high sound absorption. In addition to the products’ sustainable functions, their makeup, too, was a drawing factor.
“CertainTeed wall and ceiling products incorporate large amounts of recycled material, ultimately reducing the impacts placed upon the earth and contributing to the mandate of the project to achieve a LEED Platinum certification,” Pfeiffer says.
After meeting the design requirements of LEED Platinum certification, BNIM Architects and Orr Construction Management ran into their next challenge-the remote, rural location of Greensburg.
“From the outset, we anticipated that the location could present a challenge,” says Hans Nettelbad, of BNIM Architects. “For example, very little of the labor force from the required trades to construct this project came from within a 100-mile radius. The significant distance of Greensburg from building product manufacturers and distributors also had an impact on freight and delivery of materials. We researched the reuse of salvaged building materials to save on material costs, only to find the savings were mostly offset by delivery charges. But, the constraints were some of the most interesting aspects of the project.”
Construction of Greensburg City Hall began last year and by this summer, the crews were ready to tackle the interior. Orr Construction Management supplied the labor for the drywall installation, with a crew of four. The crew installed ProRoc throughout the building and moisture and mold resistant gypsum board in areas with potential for moisture exposure. In the restrooms of the building, the crew installed GlasRoc Tile Backer Type X as a moisture-resistant and extra fire-resistant backing for the tile walls. Working with the product for the first time, Orr Construction Management project superintendent Jon Ryman was impressed by it.
“The Tile Backer sheets have uniform thickness and requires a lot less prep time for the surface, making it easier to install and helping us to move a lot faster,” Ryman says.
Following the wall installation, Darrell Hemmert, owner of Hemmert Acoustics, Garden City, Kan., installed 1,100 square feet of Ecophon ceiling panels in suspension grid systems throughout the building. Greensburg City Hall was turned over to the City of Greensburg government in October. City leaders were pleased with the finished product and appreciative of the donations from CertainTeed and other building product manufacturers for the project.
“Greensburg is a living laboratory for eco-friendly and sustainable building,” says Bob Dixson, mayor of Greensburg. “It is great to partner with companies that have an interest in green building and we appreciate the donations they have sent us toward rebuilding our town. Our sustainable rebuilding efforts are coming along wonderfully, and our new City Hall is an excellent example of this.”
The project team from BNIM Architects, too, is happy with the final results of the city hall project and enjoyed working amongst the vision and determination of Greensburg’s citizens.
“In the wake of the disaster little more than two years ago, the people of Greensburg have remained resilient and still believe that out of crisis emerges opportunity,” Nettelbad says. “This has been a source of inspiration for our team, and we’ve been proud to be a part of this project.”
The progress of the sustainable reconstruction of Greensburg can be tracked on the television program Greensburg, now in its third season on the Planet Green network. W&C