On the night of May 4, 2007 an EF5 tornado 1.7 miles wide ravaged Greensburg, Kansas, destroying 95% of the city's homes and businesses. In the wake of the disaster, it became apparent that changes would need to occur to sustain the town for future generations. The Greensburg School District selected BNIM Architects to provide comprehensive design services for new school facilities.
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. 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.