Communities around the world struggling to deal with the aftermath of a natural calamity would do well to take a lead from the residents of Greensburg in Kansas. After the entire town was nearly wiped out by a tornado, Greensburg residents have found renewed hope in the possibilities offered by sustainable building design.
In fact, much of the construction work currently taking place in the community shows an increased focus on energy efficiency. The result of the shift toward “green” building construction is quite dramatic, with a recent Department of Energy estimate placing the amount of money saved in energy costs at $200,000 every year for thirteen buildings.
Proponents of green building design are quick to quell critics who downplay its benefits. In answer to naysayers who claim that much of the benefits of green design are overstated, Shanti Pless of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado said that Greensburg “proves the benefits of sustainable design”.
Other experts point to the large carbon footprints of most typical buildings, claiming that they extract a much heavier toll on the environment than the oft-blamed automobile industry. In another Department of Energy report, it was estimated that buildings account for over 40% of the total energy consumption in the United States. Paul Torcellini, who is the principal engineer at NREL, said that most people are unaware of the heavy burden that buildings place on the environment. Torcellini also said that buildings account for more than 70% of the electrical consumption in the country, and more than 50% of the of natural gas consumption.
Many of the green methods implemented in Greensburg are fairly rudimentary, and include design features such as day lighting, more efficient window design, and heat pumps fitted with a ground source. As simple as they are, such features point the lead that similarly affected communities would do well to follow.