On May 4, 2007, a tornado tore through Greensburg, Kansas, wreaking almost complete destruction of this 1,574-person town located two hours west of Wichita. Measuring EF-5 in intensity, indicating wind speeds of more than 200 miles per hour, the twister swept up Greensburg’s main commercial street, leaving nothing standing in its wake but for one corner bank. Reports tallied nine deaths from the storm, as well as property damage in excess of $150 million.
As early as the summer of 2007 municipal authorities determined to reconstruct Greensburg using sustainable design principles and techniques. The latest milestones in this effort came in December, when the city passed a first-ever resolution to certify all public buildings larger than 4,000 square feet as LEED Platinum. Just days later the city council adopted the first phase of a sustainable comprehensive master plan conceived by Kansas City, Missouri–based Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell Architects; Greensburg had retained BNIM and environmental consultant John Picard in October 2007 to guide the rebuilding process.