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Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.

Greensburg Schools / Kiowa County Schools in Kansas by BNIM

May 7th, 2013 by Sanjay Gangal

Article source: BNIM

Following the devastating tornado that destroyed its town and schools, Unified School District (USD) 422 chose a bold strategy to combine its schools into a single K–12 facility that would retain a distinct identity for each school function: elementary, middle and high school. The design utilizes a highly flexible, sustainable approach that constantly maintains a student-centered focus.The design reinforces this rural community’s sustainable comprehensive master plan by placing the school’s front door along Main Street.

Image Courtesy BNIM

  • Architects: BNIM
  • Project: Greensburg Schools/Kiowa County Schools
  • Location: Greensburg, Kansas, USA
  • Project Owner: Kiowa County USD 422
  • Project Completion Date: July, 2010
  • Project Site: Previously Developed Land
  • Project Type: Education – K-12 School
  • Project Site Context/Setting: Rural
  • Building Gross Floor Area: 132,000 square feet
  • Other Building Description: New
  • Total project cost at time of completion, land excluded: $45,200,000.00

Image Courtesy BNIM

The building is organized around a courtyard gathering space for all ages. The north wing houses the high school and gymnasiums. The south wing houses the lower-school curricula, which are zoned to identify their unique characteristics. The plan maximizes daylight and natural ventilation to positively impact student performance. The new school serves as a major community focal point, a catalyst for future buildings, and a tool to promote student health, productivity and enhanced learning. The school itself serves as an active teaching tool and has been integrated into the curriculum. The school is targeting a LEED Platinum rating.

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Design & Innovation

In direct alignment with the town’s Sustainable Comprehensive Master Plan, the USD decided to rebuild to LEED Platinum. This decision led the way for the city, which later mandated that all public buildings attain a Platinum rating. This K–12 facility combines the resources of three rural community school districts into a single facility, thereby right-sizing at a regional scale.The USD understood the importance of daylighting for increasing student academic performance and focus, so the design optimizes daylighting and natural ventilation in all classrooms.

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Separate zones for kindergarten and elementary, middle, and high school grades allow students the unique learning and social opportunities that each age group requires. The design also integrates the students in key ways in order to build a sense of community, encourage mentoring, and instill a desire for achievement.The school has a variety of community-use spaces to encourage social involvement. Fitness and athletic spaces meet the larger community’s social and recreational needs. Spaces that accommodate adult education and senior citizens’ activities are included as well. The program is fully optimized beyond school hours because it connects this small rural community by serving as a centralized community meeting place.

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Regional/Community Design

Anyone who visits this small town sees the tremendous connections that the town residents share. Friday night football games bring the whole town together. High school graduation affects nearly everyone in the community. This school is more than just a place for students to learn. It is a community hub where the youth interact, a backdrop for community-wide celebrations and activities, and a symbol of the hopes and dreams of the entire community.The library serves all citizens, and the cafeteria doubles as a gathering space for large-scale events like ball games. Just as the school invites the community inside, the town shares venues like the town auditorium with the school to encourage density, connection, and consolidation.Responding to the comprehensive master plan, the school was sited in a new location along Main Street to encourage density and walkability between the town’s most critical facilities and functions and to create a destination along Main Street. The town itself does not have public transportation, but the school district developed a unique arrangement with surrounding towns that shares the school’s amenities with surrounding communities in a way that consolidates resources and unites nearby communities.

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Land use & Site Ecology

The design for the school utilizes an integrated approach to create a sustainable and restorative project that contributes significantly to the overall vitality of the community. The building and site’s integrated sustainable strategies and technology will reduce operating costs and add vitality to the grounds.The site design for the school combines restoration of habitat with an infusion of native landscaping. A series of bioswales, constructed wetlands, restored wetlands, and walking trails re-create natural areas that also process storm water. This environment reconnects students, staff, and visitors with vital ecosystems while protecting the land from erosion. It also creates a natural habitat for native species.These bio-filtration areas contain deep-rooted native plants that improve the soil’s ability to absorb and store water while they naturally filter stormwater runoff.The site and building design reduce the urban heat island effect on Greensburg through open area allocation and diverse landscaping. Native shade-providing trees that can withstand local climate extremes and require less water also limit heat retention in the parking areas.

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Bioclimatic Design

The team used a site master planning process to determine the best location for proper building orientation to maximize passive solar and wind opportunities for the school building, minimize site impact by maintaining the existing storm drainage flood path through the site, emphasize connection to the community, and provide a prominent location to support the shared use of the school facilities.Daylighting and ventilation strategies shaped the building sections through placement of operable windows, sun shading protection, and orientation to take advantage of passive lighting and air movement. The building’s longest facades face the north and south to maximize daylighting and reduce heat gain from the western sun. The gymnasiums, with sawtooth skylit roofs, are placed north of the classroom and administration areas to avoid blocking sun and air access to these areas. The classroom roofs are sloped, in part to provide for the future placement of solar panels.Native trees and landscaping shade the south face of the building in the summer and limit heat retention in the parking areas. The site and building design reduce the urban heat-island effect on the town and and school through reduction of pavement, allocation of open areas, and diverse landscaping.

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Light & Air

Since daylighting optimization, ventilation, and indoor air quality have a great impact on student academic performance and the health and comfort of building occupants, these ideas became a central focus of the design. Daylighting and controls, operable windows, maximized views, classroom controls, outdoor classrooms and lunch areas, a courtyard playground, and shared learning spaces are all employed in the creation of a comfortable learning environment with a strong connection to the outdoors.The team used the sectional form to harness daylighting and ventilation and reduce the need for mechanical systems. Optimal lighting and window design for the school’s interior spaces were achieved using a series of daylighting models.Expansive windows in the classrooms offer views of the surroundings and can be entirely daylit during schools hours. Exterior sun shading devices reduce glare and heat gain. North-facing clerestories balance the light throughout the room and provide a path for natural ventilation that takes advantage of natural stratification and prevailing southwesterly breezes. Operable windows at the user level employ natural ventilation. Individual user temperature controls and supplemental task lighting are also used in the classrooms.

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Water Cycle

With Greensburg’s low annual rainfall amounts, increasing the building’s water efficiency safeguards resources as water becomes more costly and scarce. The City of Greensburg has no stormwater collection system, and the school site is bisected by a floodplain, so it became crucial to conserve and reuse whatever rainwater falls within school boundaries.A variety of strategies mean that long-term water-saving goals will be met while helping to reduce the burden on municipal waste water systems and reducing potable water demand. The building uses many efficiency strategies, such as low-flow plumbing fixtures, dual-flush valves, and waterless urinals. All lavatories are 0.5 GPM and have sensor controls to limit time of use. The showers use low-flow showerheads. Dishwashers, pre-rinse spray valves, clothes washers, and ice machines are all compliant with LEED requirements.To reduce potable water use, captured rainwater is stored in 6 cisterns to meet irrigation needs during dry months for the native, low-maintenance landscape. An onsite constructed wetland treats wastewater and returns it to the water table. The facility also captures condensation from HVAC equipment for reuse as make-up water in cooling towers.

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Energy Flows & Energy Future

100% of Greensburg School’s purchased electricity is from renewable energy sources. A 50-kilowatt wind turbine provides a portion of electricity needs, while the remaining power is generated at the wind farm located outside of town.HVAC (closed-loop ground-source heat pump) systems isolate unavoidable sources of pollution, provide for adequate supply and filtering of fresh air and return air, and maintain the building and its equipment in clean condition. Controllability of systems, both temperature and supplemental task lighting, improve the comfort levels of the interior environment, promoting productivity and well-being.The building envelope, orientation, lighting, and sun-control systems for the school buildings minimize heating and air-conditioning loads.

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Structural insulated panels (SIPs) were used to reduce thermal loading and create a high-performing building envelope. A rainscreen cladding system improves resistance to moisture infiltration and reduces thermal loading. White and metallic silver roof finishes reduce thermal loading. In conjunction with high-efficiency chillers and modular air handlers, these strategies will reap substantial savings over an ASHRAE 90.1, 2004 baseline building.Beyond the design, continuous monitoring equipment tracks performance of the systems and equipment in order to verify performance throughout the life of the building.

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Materials & Construction

To avoid harvesting raw materials, products with recycled content were used throughout. Durable Kansas limestone, zinc, and reclaimed cypress were used on the exterior. Inside, raw materials, such as polished concrete floors and concrete block, were used in high-traffic areas, while reclaimed wood was used in tactile areas. Preference was given to materials manufactured within 500 miles, which conserved transportation energy while supporting local industry.

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An innovative limestone “shingle” skin came from a regional quarry 120 miles from the site.The school utilizes materials that contribute to the creation of healthy environments for workers and users. Paints, adhesives, and carpets do not contain VOCs.To mitigate construction waste flow, the team incorporated reclaimed materials, from interior wood furring and paneling reclaimed from deconstructed warehouses to exterior furring, siding, and exterior bridges from cypress salvaged from Hurricane Katrina. Through early sourcing, material options were located, coordinated, and shipped to the site when needed by the contractors, for a savings to the project while diverting materials from the landfill.The construction waste management plan diverted 95% of the construction waste from landfills to recycling. The school has an ongoing waste-recycling plan, including a plan to compost kitchen waste for use in gardens.

Image Courtesy BNIM

Image Courtesy BNIM

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