On May 4, 2007, Greensburg, Kan., was hit by a devastating tornado that leveled 39 blocks and destroyed 95 percent of the community with winds of more than 200 mph. The tornado was classified as an EF5, the highest rating on the Enhanced Fujita tornado damage scale.
Contemplating the rebuilding effort, City Administrator Steve Hewitt and other town leaders faced a harsh reality: Greensburg had been struggling for many years before the tornado because of a lack of economic opportunity. The city's population had steadily declined since 1960, and, according to the 2000 Census, the median age of Greensburg residents was 45.6, more than 10 years older than the overall median age in the U.S. The town's leaders and residents decided to treat the tragedy as an opportunity to reinvent Greensburg.
To live up to their city's name, Greensburg residents decided to rebuild a more sustainable, eco-friendly town that could serve as a model green community for the future. The city council passed a policy resolution stating all new city buildings would be constructed to meet U.S. Green Building Council LEED® Platinum standards; it was the first city in the U.S. to pass such a resolution.
Among the new buildings to be constructed was Kiowa County Commons, which was intended to replace the decimated Kiowa County Library and Historical Museum. The building also was to house a Community Media Center and Kansas State Extension Service. GLMV Architecture Inc., Wichita, Kan., was hired as the project's architect, and Compton Construction Corp., Wichita, was hired as general contractor.