Community Devastated by Tornado Considers Green Design Rebirth

When Greensville, Kan., was hit by a tornado on May 4, the town was devastated. The downtown area suffered significant damage. Conditions were so bad that residents were evacuated the next day, and estimates published months after the storm estimated that the 1,450-person city was 95 percent destroyed.

But now, Greensville may turn a tragedy into an ecological triumph. As the town now begins to rebuild, it is considering using green design to restructure the entire area, the Hays Daily News reports.

Going green would make Greensville the first fully sustainable town in the U.S., a potential model for other communities who, whether destroyed unexpectedly by a force of nature or just seeking change, could base their green reconstruction projects on.

Installing solar and wind power systems, redesigning neighborhoods to include walking paths — the opportunities are endless. Greensville has already committed to rebuilding its city hall using as much green design as possible and will encourage the schools and hospitals to use sustainable construction practices. There’s even been talk of urging homeowners to rebuild using green design. But the town’s final reconstruction plans remain undetermined.

So why hasn’t Greensville greenlighted rebuilding the area with green design? Two simple reasons: Politics (some view sustainable design as a liberal principle), and money.

It’s true, green design can have some initial upfront costs. And to an area devastated by storms, sustainability’s long-term payoff may not be the immediate goal. These people need housing, community buildings, structure — and fast. But taking the time to consider the advantages green design can bring — socially, financially and ecologically — to their community is important.

Luckily, Greensville is doing that. Concerned citizens have even made an effort to consider creative outside payment sources, including an "Eco Town" reality show Discovery might film in the area about the rebirth.

Federal money coming into the town will help rebuild the basics — power lines, roads, etc. True, they won’t cover the extra green design costs; but if the town can use the Fed money as a base and find creative financing to make up the difference, the town has the unique chance to become a model for U.S. cities — and Greensville will become truly green, indeed.