On the night of May 4, 2007, an EF5 tornado nearly two miles wide ravaged the town of Greensburg, Kansas, resulting in a tragic loss of life, displacing more than 1,500 people and destroying 95 percent of the town’s homes and businesses, and, of course, the town’s school buildings. Recognizing the disaster as an opportunity to transform their struggling economy, the residents set out to rebuild a prosperous future by making Greensburg a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable city. The Greensburg City Council approved a resolution that all city building projects will be built to LEED Platinum standards, the highest level of sustainable certification offered by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Design Concept In direct alignment with the goals that emerged from the town’s Comprehensive Sustainable Master Plan, which was developed in the wake of the disaster, the leadership of the school district joined the town’s unprecedented initiative to rebuild as a model sustainable ‘‘eco-community.” As one of the first public buildings in Greensburg to be constructed to meet LEED Platinum standards, the new school serves as a major community focal point, a catalyst for future buildings and a tool to promote student health, productivity and enhanced learning.
The parti was based on the idea that, as a K-12 school, the building should provide separate zones for prekindergarten and kindergarten, elementary (grades 1-5), middle (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-12) students to provide for the unique learning and social needs that each age group requires; yet, the school was also carefully designed to integrate the students at key times and places to build a sense of community, encourage mentorship and instill a desire for achievement and progression through the school.
From the project’s inception, two overarching factors guided all design decisions: 1. Designing for the Future: The vision for the new Greensburg School was that it should serve as a lasting tool for the students and faculty, a steward of the town’s resources—both environmental and financial, and a symbol of renewal and perpetuity long into the future. Like all new civic buildings in the rebuilt town, the new school was designed to achieve LEED Platinum, a commitment that will bring financial returns to the school district year after year.
2. Focus on the Students: Throughout the design process, every decision was weighed against a single question: How does this benefit the students? The Greensburg student was at the heart of all design strategies, each material selection, every project meeting and all allocations of funds. The result is a new Greensburg School that truly responds to the needs of each student and exemplifies the spirit of the student community.
The new school was sited and designed as part of an initiative to strengthen Greensburg’s density and the fabric of development along Main Street. Engaging the community, students and faculty in the full design process through large-scale workshops meant that there was buy-in to the design from the very beginning. The entire collaborative process produced a building that meets the needs of the children, faculty, staff and community, but furthermore, is a huge source of pride and is the heartbeat of the community.
In 2011, the Kiowa County Schools became the first LEED Platinum K-12 school facility in the U.S. As such, the school’s design incorporates innovative sustainable strategies, particularly related to daylighting, building envelope, site, resource use, energy production, rainwater harvesting, FF&E and building materials. In particular, the new school features design strategies and integrated systems to achieve net zero energy and water. Also, the school promotes a unique relationship with the larger community by integrating a variety of community-use spaces to encourage social involvement.