(Re)Building a Better Town

When a tornado leveled Greensburg, Kansas a class of college students took it on to help rebuild the town - with an eye on the environment

Ice Cube
The water-delivery station uses a filtered-rainwater mister.Greensburg Cubed

On May 4, 2007, a two-mile-wide F5 tornado destroyed 95 percent of Greensburg, Kansas, leaving two thirds of the town's 1,500 inhabitants homeless. Many thought the town was finished. But in fact, the townspeople decided to rebuild using the greenest, most forward-thinking materials and construction methods possible.

Kansas State University professor Larry Bowne's architecture class responded to the disaster with Greensburg Cubed, a collection of modular 1,000-cubic-foot buildings. The project does double duty by meeting the immediate needs of the community and showcasing green technology, ranging from wind power and solar power to reclaimed construction materials, which will eventually be used to rebuild the rest of the city.

So far, Bowne's students have shipped four finished cubes to Greensburg, including Ice Cube, a water-delivery and cooling station for residents complete with a rainwater-filtered cooling mister, and Green Haus, a miniature model of environmentally friendly home construction built with straw-bale insulation and glass-bottle windows.

WHAT'S NEXT This fall, a local nonprofit will begin construction on four full-scale demo homes using designs and technologies from Greensburg Cubed.