December 19, 2008

Abstract: 

Following the almost complete destruction of Greensburg, Kansas by a tornado in May, 2007, Building Science Corporation (BSC) was contracted to provide example house plans, support for the reconstruction of energy efficient houses and training for builders and trades. This report describes the planning, execution, and results of BSC’s builder training program in Greensburg. The end result of BSC’s efforts in co-operation with NREL, IBACOS and other organizations resulted in the exposure of dozens of builders and homeowners to energy efficient, affordable, durable and healthy construction techniques.

Executive Summary

1. Overview

Following the initial emergency response to the destruction of Greensburg, Kansas by a direct hit
by a massive tornado, the Department of Energy joined other federal agencies, including FEMA
and the EPA, in providing long-term recovery support for Greensburg residents. The DOE's
effort included support for power generation and distribution planning, advice for energy efficient
building construction, and assistance for builders and homeowners.
Building Science Corporation (BSC), a research team working with DOE's Building America
program, was contracted to provide example house plans, support for the reconstruction of energy
efficient houses and training for builders and trades. This report describes the planning, execution,
and results of BSC's builder training program in Greensburg.

2. Key Results

The end result of BSC's efforts in co-operation with NREL, IBACOS and other organizations resulted in the exposure of dozens of builders and homeowners to energy efficient, affordable, durable and healthy construction techniques. Beyond this person-to-person contact, we have documentation of several thousand downloads of training information posted on our website (of which a good percentage may have been referrals from our efforts in Greensburg).

Concrete evidence of the success of the training efforts are the more than 20 houses built to the high performance technology specification outlined by the Demonstration Home Incentive Program. The construction of these houses involved many volunteers (many who were professional trades people in other areas of the country), as well as local trades people and residents, all of whom received information about the benefits of energy efficient housing.

3. Next Steps

BSC found that a slower than anticipated start to reconstruction limited the number of builders who could have been involved in the program. Some of the reasons for this slow start were outside of the control of BSC, NREL or the Department of Energy generally. However, some issues—such as the lack of interagency communication and co-ordination and the difficulty in packaging understandable and timely support—could be addressed in similar situations in the future.

BSC recommends that for matters relating to the re-construction of energy efficient, affordable and durable housing, DOE working groups prepare emergency response plans that incorporate lessons learned in the Greenburg experience and develop a "stock" technology approach that can be implemented in any area of the United States.

1. Introduction

1.1 Task Description

This task provides technical support for energy efficient reconstruction of the residential areas affected in the aftermath of the recent natural disaster in Greensburg, Kansas. In coordination with NREL, the Subcontractor shall develop plans and other documents in support of the construction of new energy-efficient homes in this region. The subcontractor shall develop one example set of floor plans, and provide technical support for communications materials being prepared by NREL for upcoming events in Greensburg. In addition, five sets of standardized construction documents (adapted to various foundation types and lot characteristics) shall be developed for the community, and additional direct technical assistance shall be provided to ten residents or builders that act as early adopters of the standard floor plans. The subcontractor shall also develop and distribute overview booklets describing the energy efficiency features of the proposed plans, design and construct a sample wall section to illustrate the recommended building techniques, and conduct eight half-day training sessions in Greensburg to teach local builders and contractors about advanced energy efficient construction techniques, foundation details, and mechanical and electrical system details.

Deliverable:

The Subcontractor shall document the curriculum that will be used for the eight building science training sessions conducted in Greensburg. The report shall also include documentation of the attendance at each session, organizations represented, and actions known to be taken by participants as a result of the training.

1.2 Background

On May 4, 2007, the city of Greensburg, Kansas was almost completely destroyed by a large tornado.1

Following the initial emergency response, the Department of Energy joined other federal agencies, including FEMA and the EPA, in providing long-term recovery support for Greensburg residents. The DOE’s effort included support for power generation and distribution planning, advice for energy efficient building construction, and assistance for builders and homeowners.

Figure 1.1: Aerial photograph of tornado damage at Greensburg, KS (source: Jaime Oppenheimer/The Wichita Eagle)

Building Science Corporation (BSC), a research team working with DOE’s Building America program, was contracted to provide example house plans, support for the reconstruction of energy efficient houses and training for builders and trades.

This report describes the planning, execution, and results of BSC’s builder training program in Greensburg.

2. Training Curriculum

2.1 Proposed Curriculum

Training for builders and trades was planned to correspond to the construction schedule of energy efficient housing projects supported by BSC and other DOE contractors. Topics chosen covered a full range of high performance building topics (see Table 2.1 below). The intent was to provide builders with a complete understanding of changes to typical construction practices they would need to make in order to construct buildings to meet the specifications outlined by the BSC Demonstration Home Incentive Program and Specification (see Appendix 1). The Demonstration Home Incentive program was designed with the help of BSC Industry Partners to “jump start” the adoption of the technology package and provide physical examples of high performance house construction for the training.

A key parallel objective was to provide a competitive advantage to participating builders by providing them with information and skills that could be applied to all future building projects. For this reason, information about the benefits of high performance home ownership was included in the proposed schedule to encourage builders’ marketing efforts.

The training was planned as a series of workshops, each divided into classroom modules and onsite construction walkthroughs. From past experience training builders and trades, BSC has had success with a similar mix of classroom and “hands-on” field training. . .

Download complete report here.

Footnotes:

  1. For more information on the Greensburg tornado event, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greensburg,_Kansas