Rebuilding the Town of Greensburg

Last summer, an F-5 tornado ripped through the City of Greensburg, Kansas and destroyed much of the City. Officials there have made a commitment to rebuild their city using green technologies. As it stands now, they plan to use conventional construction methods and simply add green features. I would like to see something bigger. I would like to see the City embrace a whole new style of construction for their rebuild: straw bale construction.

Can you imagine how cool it would be to have an entire City’s residential and commercial structures built with this amazing technology? Think of how efficient the City would be and what a role model for change they could be. I often hear the question: “Why isn’t straw bale construction more in the mainstream?” Usually it is because people don’t know enough about it. A project like this could change all of that.

My hope is to see this idea grow and grow quickly. If you have any ideas about how to make this a reality, please share them here. I am available to teach a workshop in the area to officials and local contractors, but need some “inside help!” I have a couple contact names and numbers I plan to check out next week. In the meantime, if you think this could work and you want to be part of something big, please chime in!

13 Responses to Rebuilding the Town of Greensburg

  1. Janine Fri, January 25, 2008 at 11:42 pm #

    Andrew, would you be willing to conduct a workshop for building officials and interested parties in other areas of the country? I have similar ideas, but I live in CT and would really love to see some movement here as well.
    Thank you,

  2. Rex Willis Sat, January 26, 2008 at 6:55 am #

    It would be awesome. Partly, because I’m from Ks. Let me know if anything gets started.


  3. Andrew
    Andrew Sat, January 26, 2008 at 7:56 am #

    I love the idea of working with officials, anywhere they are interested in learning! Let me know if you have specific thoughts on this idea in your area. I am not adding new workshops for 2008 right now, but may be willing to add something special like that!

  4. Donald Sat, January 26, 2008 at 12:30 pm #

    I just learned yesterday that the Habitat for humanities is comitted to build 2 green homes in Richland ,wa. and they have a sight in Kennewick, wa where they plan several cottage style homes. Habitat is comitted to ICF type construction for one of thier homes in Richland, with the other open for ideas. Wouldn’t it be great if it was a straw baled home.

  5. John Sat, January 26, 2008 at 5:58 pm #

    I grew up 6 miles from Greensburg, and now live in eastern Kansas. My parents still live on the homestead. I toured the town in early January and saw a few modular homes being constructed here and there. The path of destruction is hard to fathom. I could possibly provide some assistance since I also have a very strong interest in strawbale construction. Contact me.

  6. Adrien Sat, January 26, 2008 at 9:10 pm #

    I think it would take the commitment of a straw bale professional to start an insititute in the area. A straw bale contractor who could trim the costs of construction by employing tuition-paying student labor would probably be competitive in the re-construction market. The market is the only way to get this going and it needs to be economically viable.

    If a contractor can make money by competing for this reconstruction, it will show the world that this works. This is how economics works. Someone has to be seen making money. . . not to be confused with saving money via energy bills and some obscure comparison of quality. The world needs to see a builder make money on a large scalewith this technology before investors, the public, will buy into it on a massive level. Until it is evidently economically viable, the financial world and the world of consumers will write this off as some crazy idea.

  7. Daniel Wallach Sat, January 26, 2008 at 11:30 pm #

    I run the nonprofit, “Greensburg GreenTown”, which is working with the city to aid it in rebuilding the town as a model green community. Yes, there are buildings being built with conventional systems but we truly want to be a demonstration site of what is possible in building sustainably/green and hope to have one of our demonstration homes built from straw bales. Our dream is to have all different technologies (including wall systems) on display in our town. Check out our website and if anybody here is interested in supporting the construction of the straw bale home we’d love to hear from you! We also would be interested in having info for business owners that are considering their rebuilding options. Thank you!

  8. Andrew
    Andrew Sun, January 27, 2008 at 10:03 am #

    This is very exciting. I am so happy to hear the details of what is happening there. I am not in a position to spearhead a straw bale project out there, but I would love to be a part of a project if needed. It sounds like things are already in motion to create a fantastic community of green structures. Way to go! For those of you who have commented on this blog post and have an interest in helping out, please continue to connect with each other either here or directly. I am happy that this blog can be a catalyst for connection.

  9. Joyce Coppinger Sun, January 27, 2008 at 10:13 am #

    Hi Andrew,

    Many of us in this region have been in discussions and are helping to guide the reconstruction of this and other communities using renewables and sustainable approaches whenever this type of weather event occurs. Tornadoes are a regular occurrence in this region with many communities of all sizes taking hits and having to rebuild – it happened in May of 2004 just 20 miles south of Lincoln where I live when a F4 tornado hit a 25-mile long, 5-mile
    wide strip leveling a small town and destroying many rural homes and farmsteads including my nephew’s home and outbuildings.

    A group of professionals from Colorado are working with the town (population at the time of the tornado was less than 1,400 people – not enough for designation as a city). Their plan is to rebuild the community as a green town using many different types of approaches, products, and systems, including straw bale. We’ll be including information about their progress in future issues of The Last Straw.

    There are qualified people in Kansas and surrounding states who can advise people who are interested in strawbale and natural building how to build for their local conditions, codes and other considerations – and who provide workshops as well. Would be great if you would refer people who live in this region to us, and do the same for other regions of the country as well. Your well-placed web site is a magnet for contacts and I’m sure everyone involved in straw-bale design and construction and in natural building approaches would appreciate having referrals so that they can continue their work in their region. For example, I’ve been doing workshops and consulting on projects (have been involved in nearly 40 straw-bale projects including homes, commercial and other types of buildings) in this region for over 10 years now and plan to continue to do in the future. I’ve been networking with architects, builders, homeowners, developers and those with the finances since 1997 and find that they are well-qualified to find solutions and approaches applicable to their project, their community and the area.

    While I believe that straw-bale construction and natural building, renewable energy systems, water conservation and waste management are all key and critical components in sustainable design and construction and hope that the
    continued efforts of the straw-bale and natural building community will bring these to the marketplace in greater numbers, I also believe that it is important that those who are involved in these approaches understand the local conditions, codes and regulations (for example, we don’t use welded wire and it’s not in any building codes that I know of), materials, techniques and methods, and other factors so that the projects are truly sustainable.

    I haven’t heard or read anything recently about your subdivision project. Do you want to do an update for a future issue of The Last Straw journal? Always glad to share information from you.

    Joyce Coppinger, Managing Editor
    The Last Straw journal

  10. Janine Holstein Sun, January 27, 2008 at 10:23 am #

    Thanx Andrew! I will keep you posted. We are about to move to another town, and I really want to be involved in creating a green/straw-bale community where I live, so as soon as we get settled in, I will be contacting town building officials to get things going. Just to give you a little background about me-I have taken some workshops at Yestermorrow in Vermont in several green hands-on techniques of building and have served on the Board of Directors for the Green Building Institute when I lived in Maryland– I am really passionate about green building and am planning to start my own green development company soon. CT is an interesting state– (where I live) we are considered a “green” state, but haven’t made as much movement in green building as is all the hype. So I agree with much of what you’ve said in your articles. I believe that there would be a lot of receptive folks in CT to this type of building, and there is also the potential for a lot of money and influence to support it in certain areas of the state. So having someone like you, who has created green communities and teaches, and is a green / straw bale contractor to educate folks here I think presents an enormous opportunity! Thank you for being open to this! I will keep you posted.


  11. Jocelin Jasa Tue, January 29, 2008 at 2:58 pm #

    As a Kansas resident, I would be more than willing to travel there and give up a week or more to help — I could provide some cooking and food help, but if the workshop was at reduced cost, you may be able to get a lot more help! This is a great opportunity for straw bale to show it’s stuff.

  12. Steffi Rausch Fri, February 15, 2008 at 9:34 am #

    I would contact the Steen’s (Bill and Athena) – they hold many workshops and are one of the most versed and experienced I believe in strawbale building. Perhaps they could help.

  13. Steffi Rausch Fri, February 15, 2008 at 9:34 am #

    Also, let me know if something comes about. I might be interested in helping.

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