A KU architecture class creates the greenest building in Kansas for a devastated town
On a January afternoon in northeastern Kansas, 22 aspiring architects are deconstructing a World War II-era building that, until a few decades ago, was used to produce ammunition magazines. Surrounding them is the 9,000-acre emptiness of the retired Sunflower Ammunition Plant — a military-industrial wasteland now undergoing an explosives decontamination process.
Courtesy Studio 804
KU students work to dismantle the truss of the roof. They will build the new structure in Greensburg out of materials salvaged from the abandoned building. | Click here for the gallery
Welcome to Studio 804, the senior graduate design/build studio at the University of Kansas’ School of Architecture and Urban Planning. This class is a final challenge for third-year graduate students pursuing a professional master’s degree in architecture.
This teardown is merely a beginning. For these young men and women, the task ahead represents one of the most formidable experiences of their lives. Over the course of the next five months, they aspire to design and build a LEED-certified building for Greensburg, the western Kansas community that was leveled by an F5 tornado last spring.
While friends and classmates enjoy the waning days of winter break, these KU architecture students instead are spending their vacation perched atop roof beams, sporting hardhats and steel-toe boots, as they meticulously pry planks of Douglas fir from the abandoned structure.
“This is such a great opportunity with all this lumber that is perfectly structurally sound, and so we thought ‘why not?’, says Sarah Boedeker, a Studio 804 student from Edwardsville, Ill. “Plus it’s free. And we have free labor with 22 students. We figured we could get the lumber down and reuse it, and not let it go to waste.”
As the winter sun fades on a backdrop of desolate factory buildings, the students begin to load their reclaimed lumber into pickups and trailers for the half-hour drive back to Lawrence.
“We’re going to take the wood and recycle it and use it for structural lumber and also for design elements,” says Jennifer Kivett, an architecture student from Victoria. “We seek out anything we can use that is recycled or that is environmentally friendly or that supports sustainable design. We found out about this (building) and jumped on the opportunity.”
Indeed, by May these architects-in-the-making plan to construct in Greensburg the most environmentally friendly building in Kansas since the sod house era.
“I think there’s an opportunity here to lead by example,” says Dan Rockhill, the acclaimed architect who leads Studio 804. “Greensburg will hopefully see Studio 804 as providing leadership and an example that, you know, ‘If students can do it we can certainly do it.’ Meaning the community as well as people they bring into town to do development.”
Rockhill, the J.L. Constant Distinguished Professor of Architecture at KU, has guided the nationally recognized design/build program for a dozen years, instructing successive classes in socially responsible, sustainable architecture. Recently, his classes have built affordable housing in conjunction with a community group in Kansas City, Kan.
But the F5 tornado that destroyed much of Greensburg last May transformed the plan for 2008.
“Obviously, what has happened at Greensburg is hard to imagine,” says Rockhill. “We went down there and there’s just nothing left. It’s completely obliterated. So you can’t help but feel like if you have skills in building and you have eager students — and Greensburg having embraced an agenda of green building — all pointed us in the direction of trying to help them out and do a little something for the community.”
In December, Greensburg’s city council passed a one-of-a-kind decree that all new city-owned buildings conform to LEED-certified Platinum standards. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most rigorous certification process in the nation for sustainable buildings. The U.S. Green Building Council runs the benchmark program.
Talking with Dan Rockhill
Listen to Prof. Rockhill | 12:58 (6 MB) | MP3
Dan Rockhill leads Studio 804 in what he calls “complex problem solving.” In this audio clip, he talks about the ins and outs of the Greensburg project, the complexities of designing to LEED standards and the meaning of contemporary design.
For the students of Studio 804, designing and building what should become the greenest building in Kansas means incorporating solar panels, shading louvers, 30-foot-tall wind turbines, a green roof, as well as gray water and geothermal systems into their structure — a feat that would challenge even veteran architects and builders.
And then, of course, there’s the recycled wood.
As today’s deconstruction work wraps up, the students haul the used lumber from Sunflower Ammunition back to the Studio 804 warehouse at Farmland Industries, an industrial complex on the outskirts in Lawrence. There they will inventory the recycled planks and begin to prep the wood for use in the new structure.
Nails and other metal must be yanked out with pliers, cat’s paws and hammers; the lumber must be planed and weatherproofed. To some, this work could seem tedious. But for the students of Studio 804, there seems to be a lesson to learn from every piece of wood.
“Usually as architecture students, we’re used to building things,” says Simon Mance, a student from Milwaukee. “So trying to learn to deconstruct as well is build is absolutely, incredibly interesting.”
Throughout the spring semester, writer Brendan M. Lynch and video producer Heather Attig will follow this group of graduate architecture students at KU as they complete a sustainable prototype for the tornado-torn city of Greensburg. Check back each month for a new installment. By May 4, the anniversary of the tornado tragedy, the new structure will be finished.
A KU architecture class creates the greenest building in Kansas for a devastated town
With the hard-won lumber from Sunflower Ammunition at last piled in their warehouse, the students of Studio 804 have no moment for rest -- they now must plan to recycle the wood into their building for Greensburg.
Take a virtual tour of Studio 804's warehouse
Nothing can be left to chance or overlooked if their ambitious project is to be completed by the tornado's anniversary, May 4. Throughout January, the students gather six days a week to complete the design of the building in a half-lit room in Marvin Hall on KU's Lawrence campus. They eat take-out food at their workstations. Often, they don't go home until midnight.
"This is our lives right now, this is just what we do," says Abby Henson, a student from Bloomington, Ind.
Each morning, illuminated in the blue glow of their laptops, surrounded by sketches, empty soda cans, materials samples and tomes with titles like "Gypsum Construction Handbook," the denizens of Studio 804 engage in a detailed back-and-forth review of the structure's plans and schematics. Collectively, they fret over donations of building materials; they parse their budget; and they share updates of on-the-ground politicking and fundraising in Greensburg.
"In the first two or three weeks everyone has these lofty ideas," says Boyd Johnson, a student from Boulder, Colo. "But you've got to build what you're drawing. So all of a sudden, things kind of get chopped down. Sooner or later, you're going to be standing there either in the warehouse or out in Greensburg with a tool belt on, materials and tools in your hand, saying, 'I've got to put this thing together.' You can't be so cavalier as to design something that you can't build."
Today, the students are presenting their ideas, problems and computer-generated drawings to Dan Rockhill, the J. L. Constant Distinguished Professor of Architecture at KU. Rockhill leads Studio 804 as mentor architect and expert in the nuts and bolts details of rapid building construction. He operates the group as one part democracy and one part dictatorship.
"Is the drywall local material?" Rockhill asks, addressing the whole room. "It's got to come from within 500 miles of Lawrence!"
Rockhill sits with his feet propped up in a chair and cross-examines a succession of Studio 804 students about their project's innumerable challenges: meeting building codes; making certain that donations are sent by wire transfer; and, above all, the need to make sure the project scores enough points to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council's Platinum LEED certification.
"There are no shortages of ideas," says Rockhill. "Generally speaking, most of us suffer from an inability to execute. Our goal is to use materials and techniques in manners that enable us to push the envelope of what would be seen more as traditional design. Our buildings always look different than people expect. That has a lot to do with the new materials that are available to us, and the way in which we make them perform environmentally -- as well as [the needs of] the community."
For now, Studio 804 has dubbed its building for Greensburg the "sustainable prototype." It will be a clean, elongated box shape with 10-foot ceilings inside and ample natural light. The design's signature feature is an extended translucent outer wall that houses a skin they refer to as "wood wallpaper" made from Douglas fir reclaimed from Sunflower Ammunition. Above all, Studio 804's building will be adaptable.
Courtesy Studio 804
"In Greensburg right now, they're meeting in double-wide trailers," Johnson explains. "Our building will be one of the first there, so we're tying to keep it flexible so people can gather, have a cup of coffee, talk about things, maybe have small City Council meetings. As Greensburg gets redeveloped and grows, it probably will turn into more of a prototype or possibly an arts center."
Besides its usefulness as community function space, Studio 804's building also will be a wonder of sustainability.
"It's imperative to get LEED platinum status," says Jenny Kivett, a student from Victoria. "Studio 804 has always done thermal massing, which is concrete in the floor that absorbs heat and later on releases heat. But we also have active systems that we're working on that are new to Studio 804 -- things like wind turbines and a geothermal system that basically retrieves heat from the Earth and uses that to heat the house. The other active system we're working on is photovoltaic sun panels which retrieve energy from the sun."
Though Rockhill authoritatively guides the classroom process, ultimately these KU students must take responsibility for the innumerable facets of the design process and materials acquisition.
"Decisions are made as a group," Kivett says. "For instance, the color of the finish that we're going to put on the wood -- that kind of thing is normally researched by someone, and they come in with different examples of things we could use, how much it would cost, and everyone as a group weighs the pros and cons and decides what would be best. It becomes a teaching process that's done by our peers where the education comes from within, from each other."
This collective spirit soon could mean the difference between success and failure for Studio 804.
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Now, each student must pivot from their role as a designer to a new job as a member of a fast-working construction crew as the class begins to implement its complex building plan. Studio 804 is putting together the structure as seven prefabricated modules that later will be hauled by truck across Kansas and reassembled upon a concrete foundation at the Greensburg building site. Then the building will be fitted with energy systems, hooked up to utilities and given a thousand finishing touches.
Nothing can come between the students and their dream of finishing the building on time.
They show the drive and enthusiasm of designers bringing their own long-imagined first building into being. One day early in the building process when heavy snowfall outside results in cancelled classes for friends back on campus, the members of Studio 804 keep working through the storm.
Krissy Buck, a student from St. Louis who helped to calculate dead loads during the design process, runs a loud chop saw inside the frigid warehouse. Although she plans on becoming a licensed architect after graduation from KU, she explains that she loves the building process.
"Constructing a building is too fun to do only once," says Buck. "I hope to do this kind of hands-on work again, if not professionally, then as a volunteer."
Buck also has taken charge of recycling the group's unused materials during construction. Each scrap of surplus wood and metal will be collected and salvaged for processing into products that will be resold. Even sawdust is collected and recycled here in Studio 804.
"I was really exited when the recycling dumpster came yesterday," Buck says.
The warehouse is a hive of action, despite the near-arctic temperatures inside. Bundled in knit hats, heavy sweaters and thick work gloves, Studio 804's students pound together framing elements, run electrical wires, wrestle with giant sheets of vapor barrier and hoist plywood boards through a skylight to the roof.
Because of the cold, it's best to keep busy.
"You kind of get a system going, and everybody has a hand in everything," says Abby Henson. Henson is planing smooth the recycled lumber that will form the exterior "skin" of the structure. "Whatever you take responsibility for, just try and see the job through to the end."
With somewhat startling speed, the "sustainable prototype" takes shape. By mid-February the rectangular wood framework of the building fills Studio 804's warehouse, assuming broad dimension. In the building's simplicity and roominess, it is easy to perceive the kind of useful space the KU students have in mind for the people of Greensburg.
"We push as hard as we can everyday because you'd like to be ahead of schedule," says Josh Somes, a student from Memphis. "Right now we have the framing complete, the sheathing is on, the decking is going on. Some of the secondary components that will protect the building, like the EPDM roof, will go in shortly. I'm actually doing the wiring inside now. After rough-in and inspections, we hope to pull out of here in less than a month."Throughout the spring semester, writer Brendan M. Lynch and video producer Heather Attig will follow this group of graduate architecture students at KU as they complete a sustainable prototype for the tornado-torn city of Greensburg. Check back each month for a new installment. By May 4, the anniversary of the tornado tragedy, the new structure will be finished.
A KU architecture class creates the greenest building in Kansas for a devastated town
In the pre-dawn gloom of a Monday morning, a convoy of snorting semis rolls through the gates of a vacant fertilizer plant outside Lawrence. In a warehouse here, Studio 804's students have been working incessantly to assemble their structure for Greenburg.
Take a virtual tour of the Greensburg site
Today is St. Patrick's Day, and it is also moving day. Seven modular units comprising Studio 804's Earth-friendly building will be hauled to Greensburg by these rigs from Kansas City, Mo.-based Belger Cartage Service Inc. They will follow a route that will carry the structure about 325 miles across Kansas.
The prefabrication phase is over. With its building, the entire class now is moving to complete the job at the Greensburg construction site. It seems apt that these KU students will spend St. Patrick's Day moving a "green" building to Greensburg.
"I was too excited to sleep last night," confesses Studio 804 student Jenny Kivett. Other students look similarly sleepy, yet joyful, as the trucks arrive.
The weekend before was enough to make anyone bone tired. These KU students spent Friday and Saturday moving the seven "mods" -- which weigh about 7,000 pounds each -- from inside the warehouse to the lot outside. This Herculean chore was accomplished by disassembling part of the warehouse wall and shoving each mod outside, the way people might push a gigantic stalled car.
Then, in the parking lot, a 70-ton crane performed a maneuver dubbed the "pick-and-drop," in which each unit was lifted and set upon a flatbed trailer -- all in anticipation of this morning's coming of the big rigs.
Courtesy Studio 804
But as the seven semis rumble up to the Studio 804 warehouse, so do morning storms from the west, bringing lightning, thunder and hard winds.
By 6 a.m., the trucks are lined up outside the warehouse and the rain is beginning to fall in sheets. The architecture students huddle around their leader, Dan Rockhill, the J.L. Constant Distinguished Professor of Architecture at KU.
"The weather that's been animating the radar should miss Greensburg," Rockhill reassures them. "But if the clay out there gets wet, this is going to be harder. Now, let's get on this."
Ignoring the downpour, the 22 students spring into action around the mods outside. They lash tarps to roofs, affix protective plywood to exteriors and stow tools and other equipment that will be needed in Greensburg.
One by one, the trucks hook to the trailers and rumble through the rain back toward the front gates.
As the semi trailers move out to Kansas Highway 10, a few well-wishers waiting in the rain are happy to see the convoy heading westward.
Longtime Greensburg resident Ruth Hiss, who now lives and works in Lawrence, cheers the line of trucks merging into the early morning traffic.
"It's a very moving sight to see these trucks come out to the highway," says Hiss. "It's so exciting to see what's going on out there."
Indeed, Studio 804's building will play a big role in Greensburg's comeback. In collaboration with a community-minded arts group in that town, Studio 804 students have decided that their building will serve as an arts facility for the tornado-ravaged community. It will be known as the "5.4.7 Arts Center" to commemorate the date of the storm.
Studio 804's arts center will be the first LEED-certified structure in Greensburg. It also will help to train children from around the region in the arts and showcase the creative energies of area artists -- as well as drive vital tourism dollars to Greensburg.
The tractor-trailers make their way through Lawrence traffic and then head south on Highway 50, picking up speed. A carload of Studio 804 students chases along, anxiously eyeing the hulking building segments -- the result of months of their creative and manual work -- as the mods are whipped by wind and rain, barely clearing overpasses and bridge overhangs.
"We're all sort of asking each other, 'What are we going to do if one falls off or if something happens?' " says Sarah Boedecker, a Studio 804 student in one of the vehicles in the convoy. "We're sort of like, 'Will we laugh? Will we cry?' "
Over the next hours, the trucks transit Kansas' glaciated regions, Flint Hills and Arkansas River lowlands. They pass communities including Ottawa, Burlingame, Osage City, Council Grove, Herington, Marion, McPherson, Lyons, Chase, Ellinwood, Great Bend, St. John, Iuka and Pratt.
A few times during the journey, the convoy must pull to the shoulder so students can scramble up the trailers in the rainstorm to secure tarps, plywood and loose roofing materials atop the mods. As the convoy reaches the High Plains, the rain finally stops and gives way to a sunny late afternoon.
By now, most of the Studio 804 students are waiting eagerly with their professor in Greensburg, assessing the construction site in the wake of the storm. The ground is wet but not the impossibly muddy mess that had been feared.
Courtesy CBS Early Show
A view of Studio 804's soon-to-be completed building in Greensburg. | Click here to read CBS' coverage
The building's basement already has been excavated and poured, and a few dust-covered students now are working with concrete planers and a surveyor's transit to ensure the foundation is level for placement of the mods.
Around the building site, little remains from before May 4, 2007. But there are signs of rebuilding: A convenience store and the community's beloved Care-'N'-Share thrift store are open. A new water tower also has been erected. And renovation is under way just across the street at Greensburg's most famous pre-tornado claim-to-fame -- the Big Well.
In another hour, the trucks arrive with the structure that will, after its long journey, permanently inhabit this site. The Studio 804 crowd jumps and claps their hands.
"Seeing these mods actually come to town is a big step for everybody that's been a part of this program," says student Simon Mance. "It's been a long day. But seeing the mods roll in ... as nervous as we are, it's definitely a celebration in our heart."
Rockhill eyes the building sections as the semis detach themselves from the trailers.
"Everything came though great," says Rockhill. "There are a couple of loose pieces here and there. And considering the thousands of pieces that get secured, they had to stop a couple of times and re-secure a couple of things. No problems really."
But as the semis pull away, the sun already is setting on Studio 804's building site. Now the Studio 804 students find their way to their temporary home: dorms at the community college in nearby Pratt.
Early the next morning, along with the KU students, a black 70-ton crane arrives at the building site. After some time setting up, the crane is attached to the westernmost mod. It effortlessly lifts the 7,000-lb. piece of building from its trailer, swings the mod around a tornado-damaged tree and places it on the west end of the building's foundation. The arts center begins to take shape.
Around the building site, Greensburg residents and officials, along with news media, watch the spectacle of a building flying through the air at the end of a crane.
"It's really going to be one of the first public spaces in town and a great symbol for people to see a new thing happening," says Stacy Barnes, president of the 5.4.7 Arts Center, as she watches her arts center come together piece-by-piece. "This building is going to be very unique, unlike anything anybody here has seen before. It's a great opportunity for western Kansas and rural Kansas. We're going to host exhibitions and have gallery space and try to kick off this summer with some classes. The building is really going to be a work of art that draws people in."
With each passing hour, more mods are swung into place, then rolled and pushed along the foundation by the students and Rockhill. Gradually, several mods are lined up on the concrete basement.
"It's exciting -- another piece!" says Robert Kilgore, a resident in Greensburg for the past 50 years, watching the show from the roadside. "We happen to be Jayhawk fans! I can't imagine how many hours the students have put into this."
Each mod is lined up roughly, with fine-tuning of the placement to come in the following days, when each segment will be permanently affixed to the foundation with Simpson clips and epoxy.
"Things are going pretty well," says Sarah Boedeker. "Seeing the building in its context, and having people drive by and honking at us and everyone bringing us hot chocolate and snacks and just really supporting us -- it's just really exciting for everyone."
Until early May, when Studio 804 plans to finish its work on the new arts center, this site will be a hub of activity in Greensburg. These KU students will labor here from sunup to sundown, installing sustainable energy systems, cabinets, plumbing, HVAC, electrical wires, fixtures and fittings. Furthermore, the exterior of the structure will be encased in translucent glass. Finally, the site will be landscaped.
Throughout all this, the students and arts center directors must raise desperately needed funds.
But for now -- for Greensburg -- the 5.4.7 Arts Center represents a huge leap in the recovery process and an inspiration for others to rebuild using materials and systems that are Earth-friendly.
"Studio 804 is trying to do something special," says Steve Hewitt, Greensburg's city manager, as he watches the last mod being lowered into place. "It brings hope, and it meets the needs of our future. First you have Studio 804 constructing a LEED-certified building. And now, you have churches and hospitals talking about building green, too. It's an opportunity for Greensburg not to just survive but to thrive."Throughout the spring semester, writer Brendan M. Lynch and video producer Heather Attig will follow this group of graduate architecture students at KU as they complete a sustainable prototype for the tornado-torn city of Greensburg. Check back each month for a new installment. By May 4, the anniversary of the tornado tragedy, the new structure will be finished.
A KU architecture class creates the greenest building in Kansas for a devastated town
Studio 804’s Earth-friendly arts center for Greensburg is nearly complete. But for a few last panes of glass, some daubs of paint and a missing fixture or two, the large-scale project that has trained and tested 22 KU architecture students for the past nine months now is finished.
A letter from the Governor: Gov. Kathleen Sebelius commends the Studio 804 students.
Take a virtual tour of Greensburg's skyline
Today, Studio 804 is celebrating its success with an open house. Family, friends and city residents gather in the sun-lit gallery space of the new 5.4.7 Arts Center on the one-year anniversary of the tornado that ripped apart Greensburg.
“This beautiful, marvelous building that is so complex, but appears to be so simple and straightforward, will belong to you guys forever,” Greensburg resident Chris Ballard tells the KU students in an emotional speech. “Just like great artists, your artistic ownership of this building will go on. I’m here to tell you that you’ve made a difference to this community.”
David McKinney / University Relations
Then, standing before the visitors, Dan Rockhill, the J.L. Constant Distinguished Professor of Architecture at KU, introduces each of the Studio 804 students to the gallery crowd, praising the students’ work ethic. “They were here 24 hours a day,” says Rockhill. “When I’d leave at 8 p.m., they were still here working. They slept downstairs on sheets of the rigid board insulation.”
As for the students of Studio 804 themselves, surrounded by loved ones and appreciative Greensburg residents, they exude satisfaction in their architectural endeavor.
“It’s actually better than I ever thought it would look,” says Josh Sommes, a Studio 804 student. “I always thought it would be amazing, but it’s just off the charts. The glass, the proportions, seeing this building in the landscape — I really think we hit a home run. Everybody seems to appreciate it.”
But the students show the physical and psychological exhaustion of work crew of an around-the-clock construction project. Laboring in the High Plains’ ample sunlight and wind, many of Studio 804’s students sport deep suntans and peeling noses.
“For me, it has been hard enduring the physical labor and long days,” says Studio 804 student Jessica Buechler. “You’re overwhelmed by the amount of work. But today is to celebrate the work that has been done.”
“The experience we’ve gotten from this has so many facets,” says Lindsay Evans, another Studio 804 student. “Not just in construction but in life in general — it’s a lot of knowledge. For construction, to know what goes into it — just the physical work done by contractors and subcontractors — the understanding that concrete work will take time, and that you can’t do some kinds of work in inclement weather.”
Yet the students’ exertion has paid off richly. The Studio 804 building is simply brilliant. Like a sculpture, the arts center changes in appearance from different angles. At various times of the day, the light alters the green color of the glass façade housing the “wood wallpaper” that was reclaimed from the building at Sunflower Ammunition. From far away, the exterior resembles a basic glass box, but the translucence of the glass separates from the wood and steel framing underneath as one gets nearer to the building, catching the eye with layers of complexity.
“Everything changes on a daily basis and so does architecture,” says Rockhill. “Interest in transparency and layering is something that we’ve been involved in for maybe the last five to 10 years. The first time you read certain text in literature that’s been garbled in some way that speaks to a language – things don’t always have to be linear. There’s a parallel to that in all of the arts. The ability to take a building that’s 50 years old and to reconstitute that into a new wardrobe on the outside of our building, and to protect that with technology, which is what the glass is doing — and to be able to show that history in a very semi transparent way — is all very seductive to me.”
What’s more, a third of the southern exterior wall mounts to a hydraulic system built by HydroSwing that smoothly lifts the wall section overhead at the push of a button, creating a shady gathering area just outside a series of sliding glass doors. “The south wall, which is really the operating wall of the building, is pulled away a little further than the other walls, and that enables the HydroSwing, which moves up and down, to operate,” explains Rockhill. The HydroSwing is a device mainly used on aircraft hangars — but here is used by Studio 804 to mingle the art center’s gallery space with the world outside.
Along with its beauty, the building will be important to the tornado-ravaged community’s hoped-for future as an “eco-town” because of the green ethos that guided the students: The arts center’s active and passive sustainable systems create more energy than the building will use ordinarily.
“When the building produces excess energy, it goes back into the grid,” says Tim Overstreet, a student who oversaw much of the work behind the power systems. “We will create more than we use.”
A trip down to the art center’s basement brings visitors to the hub of the active systems, a suite of equipment that Rockhill compares to “the control room of the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant.” Along the wall are lined service panels for the wind turbines, hybrid inverter-charger and solar charge controller, along with a main panel, system control panel and power distribution panel. Nearby, a rack with a dozen 48-volt gel-filled batteries stores energy generated from the three 35-foot-tall wind turbines outside and eight 175-watt photovoltaic panels on the roof.
“There’s a big difference between talking about building green and creating renderings and actually doing it,” says Buechler. “It’s a different level of understanding.”
Indeed, hopes are high that Studio 804’s building will qualify for the highly demanding LEED Platinum certification issued by the U.S. Green Building Council. If it does, the structure will be the “greenest” building in Kansas — no other in the Sunflower State has met the exacting Platinum standard for sustainability. Studio 804 soon will send USGBC the documentation detailing the art center’s energy systems and other green features, such as the living roof and recycled-wood exterior.
Moreover, as the city of Greensburg establishes an electrical cooperative, the surplus energy generated by the structure’s turbines and PV panels could generate revenue for the 5.4.7 Arts Center organization. Meanwhile, for Greensburg the new building could kick start the town’s effort to come back as a tourist destination.
“It’s a good location to fit with the tourist draw of the Big Well just across the street,” says Greensburg resident Steve Kirk, referring to one of the city’s pre-tornado claims-to-fame. “This really helps the process of rebuilding.”
“A year ago, we never thought we would have had such an interesting, modern building,” adds Erica Goodman, who also lives in Greensburg. “These students worked so hard and had such rough weather conditions.”
In decades to come, as the 5.4.7. Arts Center will make more power than it uses –— and as the building also will give energy to Greensburg’s recovery — the structure also will empower the 22 students of Studio 804 in their future careers and lives.
“I feel so much more confidence in myself going forward, and in going and finding a job,” says Simon Mance, Studio 804 student. “It’s just prepared us for real life. It’ s been a real project, with real money and real lessons.”
“I’ve really learned a lot from this,” says Studio 804 student Sarah Boedeker. “One thing I’ve learned is how interested I am in sustainability. After collecting everything I’ve learned from going through this experience, I know I’ll apply it in my future jobs. Getting a job in a firm that’s really focused on sustainability is something that I definitely want to do. I don’t know if I’ll ever get another opportunity like this. I mean this is something really special.”
Studio 804 student Jenny Kivett says that ultimately credit must go to instructor Rockhill for providing everyone in the class with a professional advantage as well as a challenging personal accomplishment.
“Just as we have made a difference here in Greensburg, Dan has made a difference to us,” says Kivett. “We were really lucky to have been a part of this — and we’ve crossed many boundaries. He’s taught us a lot about architecture and also a lot about life.”