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Sources: Gary Coates, 785-532-1105,;
Photos available. Contact or 785-532-6415.
News release prepared by: Diane Potts, 785-532-6415,

Friday, April 17, 2009


MANHATTAN -- Tornado-devastated Greensburg might seem at first to be a blank canvas for design professionals.

But not to fifth-year architecture students in professor Gary Coates' studio at Kansas State University, who took on the challenge of designing sturdy, sustainable homes for Greensburg.

The students knew that their work would have to accommodate not only existing lot sizes, but also the traditional tastes that town residents expressed in early consultations. Add the goals of designing affordable, efficient homes that could meet much of their own energy needs in the varying weather of south-central Kansas, and the project became a semester-long tussle between creativity, costs and client needs.

"Personally, it was a huge eye-opener on how difficult residential design is," said K-State architecture student Rebekah Udall, Colorado Springs, Colo. "Spending an entire semester on 1,400 square feet was quite intense."

Udall believes that she and her partner, Adam Wagoner, McPherson, and the other team who designed homes for the smallest lots gained one advantage in being confined to a 25-by-140-foot lot, the narrowest of the three sizes considered.

"After 5-foot setbacks, that left only a 15-foot width to deal with," Udall said. "It's extremely restrictive, but our two teams developed fastest, because there's only so much you can do. Other teams really struggled with a wider variety of choices."

Udall and Wagoner's design, "Wrap House," is named for the standing-seam metal roofing they applied to the entire north elevation before bringing the material up and over the roofline.

Common to the seven designs developed from Coates' studio is the extensive use of insulated concrete foundations and walls of structural insulated panels. Ground-source heat pumps and building-integrated photovoltaics complement passive heating and ventilation.

"All designs have full basements for moral, ethical and space reasons," said Coates, a professor of architecture. "All basements could be converted into any combination of living spaces."

"Greening Greensburg," Coates' title for the accompanying book and CD of the studio's designs, grew from a partnership with Greensburg GreenTown, which aims to provide sustainable housing in a town where most of the rebuilding energy so far has focused on civic and commercial structures.

Emily Schlickman, a project manager for Greensburg GreenTown, hopes that at least one of the K-State designs will be built as part of the nonprofit's "Chain of Eco-Homes." It envisions a dozen houses built around Greensburg as demonstrations of sustainable technologies. Two "eco-homes" should be in place in time for the second anniversary of the tornado, which struck May 4, 2007.

"We wanted one of the K-State designs to be built, but like everyone else we're having issues with the economy," Schlickman said. Progress will depend on donations of material and money.

For Coates, the process begins and ends with meeting the requirements of Greensburg residents in a sustainable fashion.

"In some senses, it is fundamental Kansas values," he said. "In an unpretentious way, you try to preserve the world for your children."

The other designs from Coates' fifth-year architecture studio included "A Place to Live," "Shifty-Home," "Four Square," "Abbi House," "Accessible Home," "Solar Bungalow" and "A Family Home."

Along with Udall and Wagoner, other K-State fifth-year architecture students participating in the project and their home design included:

Matthew Griswold, Overland Park, "A Place to Live."

From out of state:

Trent Gareis, Sterling, Colo., "Solar Bungalow"; Alice Christner, Rochester, Minn., "Accessible Home."

From Missouri: Joseph Schlag, Bridgeton, "A Place to Live"; James O'Mara, Florissant, "Four Square"; T.J. Siemons, Harrisonville, "Abbi House"; LeCretia Morrison, Kansas City, "Shift-y Home"; and Chris Chamberlin, Macks Creek, "A Family Home."

From Nebraska: Andrew Robertson, Fremont, "Shifty Home"; and Jill Eckloff, Kearney, "Abbi House."