Built to be sustainable and strong, the Silo home boasts R-values of 28 for the walls and 60 for the roof, and can withstand winds of more than 200 mph. 
Built to be sustainable and strong, the Silo home boasts R-values of 28 for the walls and 60 for the roof, and can withstand winds of more than 200 mph. 

With completion of Greensburg’s first “Eco-Home” expected next week, the tiny town in Kansas once ravaged by a tornado is drawing eco-tourists from all over the world.

After an EF5 tornado tore through southwest Kansas in May 2007, 95% of the town was reduced to rubble. In the wake of the catastrophe, Greensburg’s leaders and many residents embraced the idea of rebuilding as a green community.

That vision is slowly becoming reality with the completion of the community’s first Eco-Home, inspired by the local co-op’s grain elevator that was left standing after most homes and buildings were destroyed.

A news photo of the silo resonated with David Moffitt, a Florida builder who was preparing to market his ultra-hurricane-resistant home, under development since 2004. He realized his sustainable, durable Silo home was a perfect fit for tornado-prone Greensburg. “After the tornado went through Greensburg, we were impressed that the only thing left standing was the town’s silo,” says Moffitt, owner of Bushnell, Fla.-based Armour Homes. “We decided we could help out in Greensburg and work to market our product, not just to build back green, but also tornado-resistant.”

After meeting with Greensburg GreenTown founder Daniel Wallach, Moffitt decided to be the first builder to participate in the organization’s Chain of Eco-Homes project. Groudbreaking on the Silo home was in December; it is expected to be complete just after Labor Day.

Armour Homes’ demonstration silo-style home in Bushnell has been tested in winds as high as 240 mph, Moffitt says; its high level of durability comes from its design and materials, including precast concrete walls and roof and a cylindrical form.

Along with its high level of durability, the $300,000 Greensburg Silo home features a green roof, a water collection system, a stack ventilation system, a solar array, native vegetation, light shelves, and a system of outdoor rooms. The airtight home carries an R-value of 26 in the walls and 60 in the roof.

“This house really demonstrates how much you can do for relatively little amount of money, including a solar system,” Wallach says.

The 2,000-square-foot home will act as a “living laboratory” where visitors can learn about its passive ventilation, rooftop vegetable garden, cistern for water catchment, photovoltaic cells for solar-powered electricity, and dual-flush toilets and other water-saving features. It also features a guest suite for overnight lodging, at a price of about $80 a night, Wallach says.

“It is a show home and destination for eco-tourism,” he says. “For most people this demystifies what a green home is. They realize it’s not so complicated, it’s just common sense.”

For example, tourists might find Ecoloblue’s donated atmospheric water generators, which take humidity out of the air and convert it into drinking water, futuristic. “It’s an intriguing concept to most visitors,” says Wallach. “People can see how the equipment works and taste the water, made out of thin air. That’s really exciting for them.”

Eco-conscious tourists have already descended on the town, from as far away as Europe. In the last two months, Wallach estimates Greensburg has hosted 400 visitors on 60 tours. “The town’s story has really struck a chord,” Wallach says. “What happened here and the comeback elements of it all is a great dramatic story.”

The Silo house is the first of the town’s demonstration homes, each of which will showcase a particular kind of green building technique. Wallach says GreenTown organizers had hoped to have several of the homes under way by now but that plan has been derailed by the economic recession.

“The market that we had anticipated would be the funding source for this component of our project was the construction industry, and since the recession, what we’ve heard time and again is ‘We’re laying people off, we can’t justify investing in a project like that right now,’” Wallach says. “So we’ve pulled in the reins and focused on the completion of this first home.”

Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor Online for EcoHome.