GREENSBURG, Kan. -- On May 4, 2007, an EF-5 tornado -- the largest measured in the US in years -- flattened this small town, destroying 95 percent of its buildings.
In the aftermath, the people of Greensburg decided to rebuild with an emphasis on green building principles, and in the years since has become a model for how to develop a sustainable community. It now boasts the highest per-capita percentage of LEED-certified buildings in the United States.
As part of CNET Road Trip 2014, I visited Greensburg to see what "Green Town U.S.A." looked like. This is an aerial view, taken using a DJI Phantom 2 Vision-plus, of Greensburg's Silo Eco-Home, a bed and breakfast and live-in sustainable model home.
In this photo, taken using a DJI Phantom 2 Vision-plus, it's possible to see the Silo Eco-Home (left) as well as a former home site (lower right) that has yet to be rebuilt on. It's possible to see the outline of the original house located on the property, still visible in the overgrown grass.
In this aerial photo, shot using a DJI Phantom 2 Vision-plus, the roofs of Greensburg's City Hall (left) and County Commons are visible. Both buildings were build using green principles, and are LEED-certified.
The 5.4.7 Arts Center -- named for the date of the tornado -- is a LEED-certified building in Greensburg built with reclaimed wood, and featuring many other green elements. Greensburg has 11 LEED-certified buildings.
The all-new Kiowa County Schools, in Greensburg, is a sustainable building complex housing the county's entire school system. It features a wide variety of sustainable elements, such as large windows that let in lots of natural light, bleachers made from recycled milk and water jugs, rainwater catchment systems, and much more.
A map showing the tornado's wind speeds as it rolled through Greensburg. The strongest winds -- more than 200 miles an hour -- hit the center of town. All told, the tornado was measured at 1.7 miles wide.
Although nearly all of Greensburg's buildings were destroyed by the tornado, the town's grain silo was still standing when the storm passed. It became a model for the type of structure that could survive an EF-5 tornado.
The locker room inside the County Schools complex was partially funded with federal money intended for building storm shelters. By placing the locker room inside the shelter, the school board was able to take advantage of "creative financing."