On May 4, 2007 a tornado struck Greenburg Kansas and destroyed 95% of the town. At the time it had a population of approximately 1400 people and was the Kiowa County seat. Like most rural Kanas towns, Greensburg had been losing population for decades and it was easy to wonder if the town should be rebuilt at all. Those who wanted to rebuild knew they had to come up with a way to generate economic growth as well as create a sense of excitement and pride in Greensburg that would keep the young from continuing to move away.  In tents set up on the courthouse lawn it was decided that Greensburg could distinguish itself from other rural towns, save operating money and spark economic growth by embracing “green design” with their publicly funded buildings.

Although it was developed with private funds, Studio 804 felt compelled to make sure the 5.4.7. Arts Center was a prototype for sustainable design. It was prefabricated in Lawrence, Kansas and transported through a pouring rain to Greensburg.  One year after the tornado (hence the name) it opened and became the first LEED Platinum building in the state as well as the first ever built by students. It initially served as a much needed community gathering place as well as a symbol for its ambitious rebuilding effort. Later it became the art gallery and community living room that it is today.

Hanger door technology was used to create a flexible, manually controllable way to open and close the south wall with the push of a button.  When the door is closed it acts as louvers to control the sun.  When it is open it becomes a large awning that not only shades the interior but creates a way for events to spill out to an expansive buffalo grass lawn and the rest of Greensburg.

The wood siding was salvaged from the decommissioned WWII Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant in eastern Kansas.  Studio 804 was allowed to disassemble and salvage materials from structures the army deemed expendable and safe from the risk of contaminates or explosives. This was just one of many sustainable features. During 2010-11 a U.S. Department of Energy study of Greensburg’s “green” buildings found that the 5.4.7 Arts Center was saving 70% in energy cost compared to the typical building of its type. The study highlighted the use of daylighting, the well-insulated and sealed envelope, the wind turbines, the PV’s on the roof and ground source heat pump used for heating and cooling.

Images and Plans

Technical Description

With a very few exceptions all of this work is built by the students. From the moment a Studio 804 class gathers in August the work is hands-on.  Even the design phase includes working on mock ups.  We do everything ourselves; the students are on site every day working on the excavation, pouring concrete, framing walls, welding steel, laying masonry, installing roofing, folding flashings, and setting windows and doors. We run plumbing lines and set fixtures, and we even do work on the mechanical systems and as electricians.   In short, there is little about building the students won’t have a chance to experience during a Studio 804 project.


  • LEED Platinum Certified
  • The floors are a concrete solar mass to store the heat that passes through the glazing of the long south elevation.
  • The building’s orientation and the locations of the openings promote cross ventilation for cooling.
  • The green roof insulates the building, reduces the heat island effect and the storm water runoff that has to be managed.
  • All the rainwater from the roof is harvested, stored in an underground cistern and used to flush the toilets.
  • The PV’s on the roof and the three wind turbines were designed to provide for 80 to 120% of building energy loads, depending on the season and wind speed.
  • The Geothermal Heat Pump uses three 200’ wells to condition the space when passive strategies are not enough.
  • The landscaping uses native grasses.
  • The roofing not covered by the green roof is a highly reflective white single-ply membrane to reduce the heat island effect.
  • The framing is done using FSC lumber.
  • The exterior siding is reclaimed wood from a dismantled building.
  • All of the materials, paints, flooring, sealants and adhesives used inside the addition emit low or no volatile organic compounds
  • All of the lighting fixtures were of the highest performance standard of the time.
  • The envelope is insulated and sealed beyond code compliance



5.4.7. Arts Commission
5.4.7. Arts Commission

Academic Discipline(s)
20 Students
Academic Facts
Project Context
Community / Culture
Construction Methods/Techniques